It did not take long after the opening of the 14th Parliament of Singapore for disagreement to abound between the dominant Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) members of parliament (MP) and newly elected Workers’ Party (WP) MPs. As MPs debated the President’s address, WP MP, Dennis Tan questioned the PAP over its “petty” and “bad politics” during July’s General Election.
It would appear that the PAP had complained to the Elections Department (ELD) about WP’s placement of posters in Hougang Single Member Constituency (SMC) despite the PAP having itself planted its flags in front of WP’s banners in Hougang.
Given that the PAP has been reported to have breached quite a number of election rules, this appears to be a very fair comment on the part of Tan.
However, instead of calmly and objectively answering Tan’s questions, the PAP’s Murali Pillai appears to have completely over reacted. If Murali did not agree with Tan’s summation, all he needed to do was to point out why he did not agree. But instead of doing that, Murali launched into a heated and over the top attack, accusing Tan of suggesting that the incumbent PAP was using its “power of incumbency” against opposition in an unfair manner.
That certainly seemed like an unnecessary escalation on the part of Murali – akin to a teenager accusing a passer by who happened to look his way of staring at him and thereby starting a fight. It is noteworthy that Murali’s response comes after Speaker of Parliament, Tan Chuan Jin had urged MPs not to be fractious. Who is being fractious here?
Besides, the PAP has 83 out of 93 seats! Why the need to be so point scoring?
Appearing to be spoiling for a pointless fight, Murali pushed the point asking if Tan thought that the ELD had answered his complaints in an even-handed manner. This does sound like a loaded question given that there are certain apparent breaches of election rules that the ELD had yet to deal with. How can Tan answer this question when some of the issues have not even been dealt with yet?
Unbelievably though, instead of taking Murali to task for seemingly escalating the situation, the Speaker appeared to validate Murali’s seeming overreaction by insisting that Tan provide an answer. In this way, it would seem that Tan had no choice but to agree that ELD was even-handed in dealing with the complaints. Unwittingly, this may seem like a coerced answer?
Is this exchange a harbinger for things to come in Parliament? Is the PAP going to over react every time a question is asked or a comment is made?