From ‘PAP’s Aljunied team: Suicide squad or ‘men of courage’?’, 28 Aug 2015, article in CNA
The team that the People’s Action Party is fielding to Aljunied GRC has three tasks, should it be elected in: Solving local issues; sorting out Town Council finances; and representing Singaporeans in Parliament, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
The five members of the team include NTUC assistant secretary-general Yeo Guat Kwang; private banker Chua Eng Leong; insurance firm CEO Victor Lye; lawyer K Muralidharan Pillai; and former school head of department Shamsul Kamar.
…ON FIELDING CANDIDATES IN AN OPPOSITION-HELD GRC
The team could be seen as a “suicide squad“, a member of the press said, by coming up against what is regarded as the Workers’ Party A-team in Aljunied. Was it a risk fielding potential office-holders in the GRC?
Said Mr Tharman: “It’s a risk anywhere in Singapore. We must go into elections to fight, to win, then to serve. Don’t take the vote for granted anywhere in Singapore.
…Added Mr Lim: “These are men of courage. It takes courage for anyone to come forward to stand for elections in Opposition-held territory. The hostility that they faced from some residents – it takes courage and commitment to persevere, to tell the people that they’re here to serve.”
Going by Mr Lim (Boon Heng)’s argument, it follows conversely that those who don’t come forward and volunteer to contest Opposition strongholds are wusses. That includes tough talking ministers who take fried oyster metaphors way too seriously. None of the Aljunied candidates are key office holders of course, which means in the grand scheme of things, PAP can afford the loss despite sending in their ‘heavyweights’. There is even talk of Yeo Guat Kwang, who got shooed out of the AMK team to make way for new blood, being on the verge of retirement. It’s like how in the African savannah old buffaloes sacrifice themselves to rampaging lionesses so that the rest of the herd and carry on.
The same term was used on the Reform Party’s motley crew contesting PM Lee’s constituency, which include CPF blogger Roy Ngerng, flamboyant lawyer M Ravi, and the guy who once threatened to burn Lui Tuck Yew’s effigy in Speakers’ Corner. Leader of the pack Ravi brushed the label aside, preferring to say that the RP possessed a ‘different energy’. Like bomb-strapped minions rather than ‘The Dirty Dozen’. For RP, ‘courage’ wouldn’t quite be the word. ‘Trying their luck’ would be more appropriate. Well, at least this is better for our general entertainment than PAP gaining a cheap walkover. It would also keep our PM busy refuting Roy and gang during the hustings, otherwise he’d be going around holding the hands of PAP babies learning how to walk the ground. It’ll be like the defamation suit court proceedings writ large all over again.
Curiously, it wasn’t until 2006 when the term ‘suicide squad’ was coined, by none other than PM Lee himself, in reference to WP unleashing a team of ‘young punks’ to challenge his 6-seat throne. These include Yaw Shin Leong and Glenda Han, both now out of politics altogether. Yaw, who led the team, compared the WP novices to the band of brothers and sisters in the Lord of the Rings. Interesting choice of words; we all know what colour Saruman’s frock is. Lim Boon Heng bet that the PM’s team would win more than 80% of votes. They got a comfortable, less-than-mandate-y, 66.1%. If there’s any consolation, the WP proved a big mouth wrong.
Perhaps Tharman was more accurate in describing Yeo’s team as ‘underdogs’ going up against the WP’s ‘A-team’. When PAP’s Kenneth Chen decided to challenge Chiam See Tong for Potong Pasir in 1988, he didn’t just describe himself as the underdog, but the biblical DAVID. As in David vs Goliath. Plot twist: This ‘David’ didn’t pull off an upset as expected, and he turned out to be more of a sacrificial lamb instead.
Since LKY’s ‘repent’ remark and the AHPETC incident, my take is that this is more like a team of ageing soldiers with a specific set of skills going for broke to take back what was rightfully theirs, an attempt to ‘save’ Aljunied residents from what has been judged as an incompetently run town council. The selection was obviously geared towards fund and estate management; a former school HOD, an insurance CEO, banker, lawyer and a leader supposedly holding 64 positions. So the PAP Aljunied team isn’t a random suicide squad, an ‘A-team’ or a team of Davids, but rather the ill-fated team from Saving Private Ryan, a squad with THAT ONE OBJECTIVE and only that. AHPETC is the PAP’s Private Ryan, and they’ll try to reclaim their prize or die trying.