Singapore: 2nd-language policy motivates PAP candidate

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Mar 29 14:55:10 UTC 2006

from TODAYonline

  No faulting their pedigree
Despite matching stands, new PAP candidates promise robust debate

Wednesday  March 29, 2006

Tor Ching Li
chingli at

THE second line-up of People's Action Party (PAP) candidates unveiled
yesterday for public scrutiny were all of the tried and tested pedigree:
Two lawyers and one labour movement high-flyer. When probed, their views
on major policy issues also proved to be well attuned to the party's. For
example, all felt that the carrot of public housing upgrading was valid
currency in the PAP's quest for hearts, minds and votes. Promising robust
debate, they also stood by the need for the party Whip and ultimately, for
the party's set direction to prevail.

As for the possibility of a PAP clean sweep, well, no one contests to
lose. "How are these candidates non-conformist?" one reporter asked Deputy
Prime Minister and PAP 1st assistant secretary-general Wong Kan Seng. Said
Mr Wong: "Well, you can look at them and ask them questions and determine
for yourself what we do not want are people who agree with everything the
party says, who will not add value to the party or to the debates in

A reporter then questioned the lack of diversity on show yesterday,
pointing out that there were two lawyers being introduced. Saying that it
was coincidence, Mr Wong added: "This is (only) the second batch of
candidates. Please be patient. In the next few weeks, you'll know the
background of other candidates. It's a coincidence we have two lawyers
today, one female. You'll get your answer soon." So, were there any issues
or policies on which the candidates held differing views from the party?

The now-defunct graduate mothers scheme, said Madam Ellen Lee Geck Hoon,
who added that she had worked through many other issues with the
Government behind closed doors as a chairman of the PAP Policy Forum. For
Mr Hri Kumar, it was the second language policy, fuelled, in part, by his
own difficulties with Mandarin in school. "Another example of something I
disagree with is the fact that the Government did not take steps to
legislate protection of foreign maids and domestic servants," added the
lawyer. "I always liked the PAP for taking decisions which may not be
popular, but because it is right. That was one opportunity, I thought, to
do what was right. I still hope something will be done about it."

Mr Seah Kian Peng was initially against the decision to allow casinos in
Singapore as he felt the economic arguments were not conclusive enough.
"But now that the decision has been made, I will not focus on my previous
stand anymore. Hopefully, the economic benefits will be maximised and I'm
encouraged by some of the safeguards put in place," he said. It was also
the casino debate that, for Mr Seah, highlighted the issue of the party
Whip. "I was asked during an interview with (Mr Wong) what I would like to
see less of and I said the use of the party Whip," he said.

Nevertheless, he added that it was ultimately the process of feedback,
consultation and debate that was more important. Mr Kumar called the issue
of non-conformity versus the constraint of the party Whip a "red herring".
Madam Lee concurred that the two were not inconsistent. Mr Kumar added:
"It is important for members of the same party to vote together,
particularly on contentious issues. If people see the Government voting
different ways, they may wonder if the Government is making the right

Said Madam Lee: "People tend to link non-conformity with opposing for the
sake of opposing, deviance and trying to be picketing. I don't think
Chairman (Lim Boon Heng) meant it in that manner (last week)." The next
batch of candidates will be introduced tomorrow.

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