As the country starts to grapple with the future of Singapore’s leadership after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s announcement on stepping down as the leader of the People’s Action Party (PAP)’s fourth-generation team to pave the way for a younger replacement, potential successors have been floated.
In an article by The Straits Times, published on the same day as DPM Heng’s announcement, the four potential successors to Mr Heng include Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education Lawrence Wong, Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung, and Minister for National Development Desmond Lee.
While some netizens are critical of the four potential candidates as the future Prime Minister, poised to take over from PM Lee Hsien Loong after he steps down, none received as much criticism as Mr Chan did.
As public discussions on the matter rage on, one Facebook post, published in July last year, is making the rounds on social media again, including in WhatsApp groups, listing the various stumbles Mr Chan has made in 2020.
The post, published on the SG Opposition Facebook group after the last general election, criticised Mr Chan for mocking Singaporeans from his “elitist ivory tower with the rich affluent towkays”.
The post was referring specifically to an incident near the beginning of the pandemic when panic-buying was becoming a problem as people in Singapore tried to stock up in fear of an extended lockdown.
In a leaked audio of a closed-door dialogue Mr Chan had with the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI), the minister can be heard describing the panic buying as as “xia suay” or “disgraceful”, adding that he was “ashamed” by these people who gave into panic and rush to stockpile essential items due to fear of the outbreak, calling them idiots.
The Facebook post asked if this is “acceptable conduct”.
It said scathingly, “You are one of the 4G leaders designated to helm and run the government and take care of the people. See the words, you were designated to TAKE CARE of the people, but what did you do?
“You laughed at us, and mocked us from your elitist ivory tower with the rich affluent towkays.”
The person who wrote the post went on to make several points regarding Mr Chan’s conduct, starting with his “arrogance” and “lack of compassion and empathy for the people”.
It noted, “You know very well in February 2020 that the pandemic was starting to spread and it was a super contagious one.”
“And when people started to buy more food to stock up, did you at your end pause to understand why? Did you ask, eh, how come so many of them are buying things to stock up at home?”
“No, You Never stop to think.”
The netizen went on to provide an explanation behind the panic buying, such as worries that imported supplies from Malaysia and other countries might be affected due to widespread border closures, and that some people buy in bulk for the purposes of cooking for low-income groups.
The post compared this response of panic buying to other incidents in Singapore’s history such as the 1951 Emergency and the racial riots in 1960s.
They noted, “The Lockdown was like an emergency, no ah? And older people having gone through The Emergency of 1951 and racial riots and curfews of the 1960s will naturally begin to build up defence supplies of household goods, items and food at home.”
The netizen went on write that Mr Chan should have learned to listen to people in the ground, empathise and have compassion about what was happening and the concerns they had.
“The fact that you labelled us with hurtful terms as “idiots” & “xia suay”, shows your lack of introspection and lack of humility,” they slammed.
The netizen also called Mr Chan out for making these comments in a closed-door meeting as opposed to speaking his mind in public.
They noted that it was “fortunate” that the audio of the meeting was leaked, otherwise people wouldn’t know his “true character”
The post then went on to question Mr Chan’s “disrespect” of opposition leaders in Parliament.
It noted, “In Jan 2020, Mr Pritam Singh was merely asking for data on the number of jobs created for both Singaporeans and PRs.”
“But look at the pathetic way you replied to him. You mocked Mr Singh in a sarcastic manner using theatrical tactics, you think I wouldn’t know?”
“You refused to look Mr Singh in the eye, and instead, chose to look around the room, and sneered at him with the rest.”
The netizen called out Mr Chan’s “sheer arrogance” and “lack of manners”, pointing out that the minister did not debate the matter raised by Mr Pritam but only “came up with motherhood statements about teamwork” to “deflect and detract” from the questions asked by the Worker’s Party (WP).
The netizen also briefly condemned Mr Chan’s comment on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam at the time, which they noted was “uncalled for and disdainful”, showing a “total lack of respect for other leaders”.
“Are you a 4G Minister I looked up to? You Laughed at Your Own People in the midst of a serious crushing pandemic. That is what I see about you,” the netizen noted, adding, “If we have politicians like you who mocked your own people, then we do not need enemies at all.”
The netizen then went on to say that Mr Chan only won his seat in Parliament as an MP for the Tanjong Pagar GRC because he was in the “safe hands” of his teammates, Ms Indranee Rajah and Ms Joan Pereira.
“They carried you and you were shielded”, said the netizen, who theorised that if had contested in East Coast GRC, he likely would have lost.
“I have no idea why the PM chose you as a 4G leader? You can’t speak well, you lack charisma, you cannot even enunciate English words properly, you have a face that annoys people (that haughty smirk), you are arrogant, rude and condescending in the way you talk and conduct yourself,” said the netizen.
“Why In the World Would I Vote for a Party that has candidates like yourself? And why are you the PM’s blue-eyed boy? I cannot understand,” the post read. “I only know that I wouldn’t want to vote for a Cabinet Minister who looks down on his own people in a disdainful way with contempt and scorn.”