Image by Joshua Chiang

by Augustine Low

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister Chan Chun Sing mocked the wearing of masks.

The Trade and Industry Minister had a reason for doing so – he was denying and deflecting a problem he was saddled with. The country was caught totally off guard because it had no mask stockpile, so denigrating mask wearing became the solution to the problem.

He could have got away with it – except for the fact that the pandemic got the better of him and his colleagues.

The latest example of Minister Chan denying a problem is his incredulous claim – without head or tail – that the country will not run out of jobs because there are 3.5 million jobs for a 2.5 million working population.

Just like that, with his sweeping claim, Minister Chan turned the tables and deflected the problem to the job seekers and the jobless. The inference could be that with so many jobs available, anyone who remains jobless must be choosy or lazy.

The trick can be used in Parliament too. Early this year, when asked for more clarity on employment statistics by the Workers’ Party’s Pritam Singh, Minister Chan shot back: “We can get you the numbers. But let me say this. What is the point behind the question?”

Not only is the issue deflected, the questioner comes under question. A classic turning of the tables!

Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran has also picked up the trick.

Earlier this month, he took issue with Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai for expressing disappointment on DBS Bank not having a “homegrown” chief executive officer.

The Minister said he was “troubled” by the NCMP’s comments and went so far as to state that he was “not sure” what was meant by “homegrown”.

He turned the tables on the questioner and deflected the issue. Problem solved without a solution!

It is no surprise that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong himself is a practitioner of the art of denial and deflection.

Instead of addressing the root causes of the People’s Action Party losing 10 seats and a significant vote share in GE2020, he labelled opposition voters “free riders”.

The problem is deflected to the opposition. The opposition’s election strategy is to be blamed. And the voters are to be blamed for free riding on the PAP government.

Now, people are awaiting the outcome of the promised review on the Parti Liyani–Liew Mun Leong case.

Would it come as a surprise if the system is not to be blamed? Fixing the system requires a dismantling of decades old elitism and entitlement.

So it could all be attributed to “human errors” – as with previous government lapses – because “human errors” can be explained and fixed.

But the underlying systemic failures would not be acknowledged and addressed. This is the PAP way of denial and deflection.

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