Grace Fu on Chee Soon Juan’s lack of relevant experience

From ‘PAP’s Grace Fu questions SDP’s readiness  to run a town council’, 30 Apr 2016, article in CNA

…Ms Fu also spoke about Dr Chee’s plans to be a full-time MP and to make the ward his priority if elected – a point he played up in the SDP’s rally also held on Friday night.

But Ms Fu highlighted the fact that as far as she knew, he had not “held a steady job for many years”. “Let me be clear – I’m not criticising his decision to not hold a full-time job for so long. No, that is his personal choice. But the work experience, or the lack of it, is a relevant fact when we consider the credentials of the candidate,” she said.

She likened choosing between two candidates for a job. “You look at their work experience – what have they done, is the experience relevant to the job. You also seek references from people who have worked with them – their colleagues, their bosses.”

She added that it would “be very interesting” to see if there would be a referral letter from Mr Chiam See Tong, who had recruited Dr Chee into SDP years ago. Last week, Mrs Lina Chiam had said in a Facebook post that her husband had not given his endorsement to any candidate in the by-election.

Name-dropping old Chiam is a low blow, given the known history between ‘protege’ Chee and the elder opposition veteran. But Grace Fu’s main beef with Chee, unlike the rest of her colleagues casting aspersions on his character (‘complete hypocrite’, ‘shouty fellow who disrespects his elders’), is whether he’s up to the job even as a full-time MP, whilst at the same time endorsing a candidate who looks unlikely to give up a cushy position in Rajan and Tann as head of commercial litigation. This despite Murali calling the MP role a ‘sacred duty’. Not sacred enough to go into it full time, apparently.

To be fair, one should ask the same questions about relevant experience of our noob candidates who went on to become MPs. We have a colorectal surgeon and a former host of the Pyramid Game running the PM’s ward. Some call Chee a ‘gangster’ for his past encounter with ESM Goh, but we have a rising star amid the PAP cadre who was in fact, an actual gangster in his teens. You could say having ‘gangsterish’ traits may even be a plus in leadership, like threatening opponents with knuckle-dusters and catching them in a ‘cul-de-sac’. As one would expect, the PAP is magnanimous when it comes to their own people with a dark and checkered past, just not Chee Soon Juan, no matter how he presents himself as a ‘changed man’. Shouting at Goh Chok Tong in broad daylight is a stain you can’t erase.

Full time MPs are a rare breed, but in most cases they still hang on to ‘non-executive’ roles in their previous organisations. Baey Yam Keng quit his directorship in Hills and Knowlton but remains as senior adviser. Others include Foo Mee Har, Tin Pei Lin and WP’s Chen Show Mao. Yet, despite all this emphasis on relevant work experience, Wong Kan Seng once opposed politicians giving up their ricebowls because it would mean them ‘losing contact with people in business and foreigners’.

Yet, a decade back, ESM Goh described being an MP as a ‘full time job’, even if these people are helming advisory boards and councils. So we’ve come to accept the average MP as a dynamic multitasker who is able to juggle a day job and the nuts and bolts of town council management. An MP with little time for his own family but willing to kiss other people’s babies. An MP who not only has to go house visiting but post about it on Facebook as well. In the case of Bukit Batok’s former MP, one who’s able to squeeze in some sideline flings too.

Ultimately, all this talk about work experience doesn’t matter. Thanks to the GRC system where newbies are sheltered by anchor ministers, your disapproval of any single candidate’s CV has zero impact on the outcome. We’ve a track record of voting in doctors, lawyers and military men, but they might as well be former exotic dancers, swimsuit models or drug lords if given the right exposure. Experience is brought up only now because in a SMC contest, one could focus all your energy and judgement on that single candidate. It also serves as spare ammunition once you’ve exhausted the cheap character assassination tactics.

Chee and Murali should both learn from Louis Ng. Despite the relative lack of experience, the animal welfare champion took it upon himself to do ‘dirty jobs’ that would look good on a town council CV. I’m not sure if a high flying lawyer, a PhD holder to writes books about himself or Grace Fu herself would do the same. The only things that politicians seem to do with a broom these days is either raking up the past, or sweeping issues under the carpet.

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