Why the political potshots against WP and Yaw Shin Leong?

PAP leaders were quick to comment on WP's expulsion of Yaw Shin Leong. (Photo courtesy of Terence Lee)
PAP leaders were quick to comment on WP's expulsion of Yaw Shin Leong. (Photo courtesy of Terence Lee)

In a new column called "The Flip Side", local blogger Belmont Lay lets loose on local politics, culture and society in his weekly musings. To be taken with a pinch of salt and with parental permission advised. In his latest post, he wonders why the PAP has been taking potshots at WP and Yaw Shin Leong.

With the expulsion of Yaw Shin Leong from the Workers' Party for his alleged indiscretions, the People's Action Party has come out with guns blazing.

The political potshots are too blatant to miss. The cattiness of the remarks are difficult to read past.

Take for example, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who said: "WP has let down the voters of Hougang."

Or PAP chairman Khaw Boon Wan, who said: "I think it is sad that the voters in Hougang have been misled."

Both spoke about the issue within a day of WP's media conference announcing Yaw's dismissal.

However, if the PAP wants to apply stringent standards of accountability and transparency to any opposition party by calling WP to explain itself fully, it is going to be a tight rope to walk.

Because the one question the public-at-large have in their collective mind is: How candid has the PAP been in the first place?

Remember Steve Tan?

Let's go back in time, shall we?

The most memorable incident that should have elicited heightened calls of transparency and accountability was at last May's General Election.

At the eleventh hour, Tampines GRC PAP candidate Steve Tan was pulled out unceremoniously and substituted by auntie-killer and the very metrosexual Baey Yam Keng.

In the hustle and bustle, not much was explained, except that Tan had to withdraw due to personal reasons.


For any observer, the PAP did a fine job explaining very little about the circumstances surrounding the last-minute switch.

All the public got from mainstream media reports subsequently about Tan's substitution was a reiteration and smattering of cryptic clues that referred to "allegations" and "female colleagues".

I don't remember reporters stalking Tan, questioning his wife relentlessly or staking out at his home while rummaging through his trash.

No one bothered to ask our founding grandfather Lee Kuan Yew what he thought as well.

To further clear the air unconvincingly, the 39-year-old Tan then infamously said in an exclusive interview last year with a broadsheet about his pull-out: "I did not have an ideal love story or love life, and I dated people. But my conscience is clear."

Oh wow. That sure explains a lot, you almost-Member-of-Parliament, you.

And then what happened next?

Yup, nothing. The mainstream media wasn't too interested being on his case.

So why the sudden interest with Yaw Shin Leong now?

Lee Hsien Loong's verbosity

But whatever, let's turn our attention to the prime minister for the moment.

Within hours of Yaw's expulsion, PM Lee Hsien Loong spontaneously developed an opinion or two.

You see, this is very unique for a man who is known for his taciturnity and measured views in comparison to his father who could raise hell with each word he spoke.

For those of us who remember, Lee junior remained resolutely silent when Jemaah Islamiyah leader Mas Selamat Kastari escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre almost exactly four years ago in late February 2008.

How long did it take for him to make his first public comments about the jailbreak then? Yup, that's right. He spoke on the issue after 12 whole days had elapsed.

Well, I mean, I guess I can see where his priorities lie.

I mean, what's more important than winning back Hougang SMC, right?

Public vs. private

Regardless, we've got to love Khaw Boon Wan, who is also Minister for National Development.

This is a man who is presently tasked to clean up the housing mess that his predecessor Mah Bow Tan wrought.

And this is what Khaw, the PAP chairman, had to say about the Yaw debacle that has resulted in many people getting hot, bothered and rattled: "… once a person enters politics, there is no difference between his or her public and private life."

Oh, really?

Since you said there is no difference between public and private life, may I know what is your salary? Care to publish an itemised list -- with the bonuses factored in?

Lest we forget, you are paid with taxpayers' money but we still have no clue how much dough that's worth even after all that song and dance in parliament earlier this year.

Well, the fact is the chasm between the public and private life of a politician is as wide as the politician wants it to be.

So, that being the case, was the comment about public versus private life made out of convenience or conviction?

To further enhance making a poignant point, I'd like to propose a hypothetical scenario: should a Cabinet Minister's divorce ever become public fodder?

Will Khaw go so far as to suggest that a Cabinet Minister is not entitled to his bit of privacy and his personal life should be an open book just because he owes taxpayers a living?

But what I'm assured is that the public is noticing that this Yaw Shin Leong matter is allowing WP to come out even stronger than before.

The public realises that the WP has gone to the extent of cutting off a limb just to preserve its integrity and standing as a trusted political party -- as far as accountability and transparency goes.

But to ask the Workers' Party to be upfront and truthful with every detail is something that is even too much to ask for of the PAP itself.

And the public knows that, too.

Belmont Lay is one of the editors of New Nation. In his free time, he contemplates about what Khaw Boon Wan gets up to in his personal life.