From ‘Don’t let politics polarise us: Lawrence Wong’, 25 Seet 2012, article by Sujin Thomas, my Paper
While politics is important, Singaporeans should not end up in a situation where every activity or conversation in the country becomes politicised and where citizens are polarised by their political beliefs.
Senior Minister of State for Education and Information, Communications and the Arts Lawrence Wong yesterday cautioned against this, as well as a situation where Singaporeans are set against other Singaporeans based on creed or political affiliation.
In a post on his Facebook profile page, he said: “Politics can drive a wedge between us and divide our society.
“Or it can be a force for good, to bring our people together, and to build a stronger and better Singapore.”
He drew references to the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and a TV forum with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, both of which took place over the past few weeks.
He said that he watched certain incidents unfold over the Internet, in relation to these events, with “some heaviness in my heart”.
(On a side note, this guy’s title is a ridiculous mouthful! ‘Senior Minister of State for Education and Information, Communications and the Arts’. There are as many words here as there are letters in LAWRENCE WONG. He’s HEAVY with responsibility too!)
Though to ‘politicise’ everyday issues has a negative ring to it these days, it’s something that we’ve been unwittingly doing way before Will and Kate’s visit, mainly because we’re a one-party dominant state which makes the PAP a visible and easy target to pin causality and responsibility upon. From the water you drink, the roof over your head, the bus you take to work right down to the air your breathe, there’s always something that you can associate the ruling party with simply because they’ve had their fingers in every pie for more than half a century.
But perhaps Lawrence Wong’s definition was more in relation to ‘taking sides’, or some form of subversion against the PAP, which treads closer to his bread and butter. Although his ‘heavy-hearted’ lament has drawn flak for being over-sensitive or even lacking a sense of humour, being ‘non-partisan’ was something the man did in fact demonstrate late last year, by inviting WP’s Yaw Shin Leong to be a member of a defence council. Wong said ‘defence is not a partisan issue, that we should not POLITICISE the defence and security of Singapore.’ Yaw has since faded from politics altogether after his alleged scandal, but at least having an Opposition member in a group like Accord was a step in the right direction, unlike the make-up of some National Conversation Committees we know. Or maybe it was just ‘wayang’ like the Royal Visit.
The most symbolic image of ‘politicising’ used to happen right before the very eyes of every Singaporean; the seating arrangements and attires of the PAP and Opposition parties at our National Day Parades. That was before the ruling party decided to ditch the all-white dress this year. So if PAP ministers like Wong wag a stern finger at you for being the source of ‘polarisation’, you could jolly well show him parade shots of NDP VIP stands in the past and say ‘Hey you guys started it first’, and point to that invisible WEDGE between PAP and WP members. You may also cite the PA’s ‘disinvite’ of MP Chen Show Mao from a hungry ghost dinner last year. Not to mention the PAP’s ‘preferential’ treatment towards their own GRCs compared to, say, Hougang. NDPs, Seventh month, housing estates, all ‘politicised’ by none other than the PAP and their chums, like how we used to invite only the boys with the cool toys to our houses and ignore the rest. Real mature, guys.
PAP ‘politicising’ took on a different meaning in the eighties. Toh Chin Chye POLITICISED undergrad leaders at NUS, nudging them into developing an interest in political affairs. The PAP Youth Wing, as described by then Chairman Lee Hsien Loong, was designed to ‘POLITICISE’ and mobilise the next generation. ‘Politicising’ then was basically a euphemism for ‘recruitment drive’. Compare this to Transport Minister Raymond Lim’s comment in 2007 that bus fare hikes should NOT be ‘politicised’, which is basically a hands-off statement that the PAP had NOTHING to do with our misery. We need a more concise definition of ‘politicising’, a buzzword that has been abused, distorted and conveniently employed in a divisive or defensive context. Like Wong rightly pointed out, the defence of the nation should NOT be politicised, and likewise if Singapore ever embarked on a space program, offered humanitarian aid, or fell prey to a calamity like SARs, where we have to bond regardless of ‘affiliation’. Some things, however, need to be charged with a ‘political’ character in order to pull some weight. The haze, for example, is something you can only blame a government, whether it’s the Indonesian or Singaporean one for failure to take action.
So lighten up, Lawrence Wong, I’m not going to vote Opposition simply because I thought the Queenstown show and tell was overdone. In fact, I’m sure a number of PAP supporters thought it was worth a snigger too. Just because that royal visit was overstated doesn’t mean your Facebook complaints need to be either.