The Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) has long reminded Singaporeans of its tried and tested track record. A few examples of the PAP’s oft cited refrain of such a track record would include:
- In the lead up to the 2015 General Election where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made reference to the PAP’s “report card” of its work for the people while criticising the Opposition’s apparent lack thereof. Notably he said “Where is their (Opposition) report card? Everyone needs a report card. Otherwise it is not fair”
- In the lead up to the 2020 General Elections, Lee said “do not undermine a system that has served you well…..People appear to have a choice, but often the more things change, the more they remain the same… These countries have not done better than Singapore.”
These are just two examples of the fabled consistency in good performance that the PAP is alluding to. There are many more.
It is clear however that the PAP believes that its undeviating positive performance as a long standing government is a strong selling point. In other words, the PAP is drawing public attention to its consistency as a reason to vote for its politicians.
While long standing reliance is indeed an advantage, the PAP may be looking at consistency in very narrow terms.
Even as its governments can perhaps claim policy continuity, it does not appear to have treated different people the same way. For example, there have been marked inconsistencies between how it treats PAP detractors and how it treats PAP supporters.
Let’s look at the recent example of socio-political website New Naratif and its founder historian Thum Ping Tjin.
A few days ago, news broke that the NN (and by extension, Thum) was accused by the Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) of breaching election rules over the period of the General Elections (GE) in July 2020. The NN had apparently ran five paid advertisements that constituted “election activity” without the requisite agreement of either an election candidate or an election agent.
As a result of these accusations, the NN and Thum are currently being investigated with Thum’s mobile phone and laptops seized to boot.
Yet, even as authorities investigates NN and Thum, it has been revealed (based on the Ad Library by Facebook – which offers a searchable collection of all ads running across Facebook apps and services, including Instagram) that AsiaOne had published a total of 240 paid advertisements related to social issues, elections and politics on Facebook between 30 June to 11 July. Of those, 148 ads were related to the elections in Singapore.
Curiously, there have been no reports on AsiaOne being investigated. For those unaware, it is noteworthy that AsiaOne is owned by mm2 Asia and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).
AsiaOne has a much wider audience than the NN. In addition to this, let’s put this into context. The NN is under investigation for 5 paid advertisements while AsiaOne has run 148 paid advertisements. Does it make sense to investigate the NN without investigating AsiaOne?
Surely, this unequal treatment is not in line with the PAP’s prized consistency?