Friday, 22 September 2023

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How do you take the PAP out of the PAP man?

by Augustine Low

Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam resigns from the party and from his positions in government to stand for the presidential election.

And in the next instant, he is supposed to be free of the People’s Action Party (PAP), free to be his own man, and ready to be an Elected President with no political baggage.

Sounds so simple but we know that’s not how it works.

SM Tharman has been a PAP man through and through for a few decades. He can stop wearing PAP colours and stop carrying his PAP membership card.

But the umbilical cord is not cut – you can’t suddenly take the PAP out of the PAP man.

The PAP knows it too well. Otherwise, why would they go through such great trouble to make sure that the Elected President is always a PAP person? Why is it so important to the PAP that their endorsed candidate takes the seat at the Istana?

It goes without saying that the PAP asked SM Tharman to resign and stand for the presidential election, in the same way they asked Mdm Halimah Yacob to step down as Speaker of Parliament and contest the presidency.

Still, they have to play the game they always play.

The script calls for SM Tharman to write a resignation letter and declare his intention to contest the presidency.

In line with the script, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong then regretfully accepts his resignation – it is a “heavy loss” to him and his team but he understands the “sense of duty” to serve the country.

PM Lee also expresses his confidence that when SM Tharman becomes President Tharman, he will exercise his duties “with the independence of mind.”

There’s that word again – independence. They seem to have a fascination with it.

Like when PM Lee said he asked Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean to do an “independent review” of ministers’ controversial occupation of Ridout bungalows.

This is the same SM Teo tasked to lead the 38 Oxley Road ministerial committee, the same SM Teo who is a close associate, colleague and comrade of the Ridout ministers.

Does PM Lee really want to get to the bottom of things, leaving no stone unturned?

Or did he pick SM Teo for an “independent review” because he is someone who has never let him and the party down, who has deputised for him as acting prime minister many times?

SM Teo immediately thanked SM Tharman for his “enormous contributions” following the news he was contesting the presidency.

SM Teo said he and SM Tharman have worked together for more than 25 years.

Both are PAP men to the core. Both will never let the PAP down.

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