Residents in the single member constituency of Hougang appear willing to overlook the latest reports that their married Member of Parliament (MP) Yaw Shin Leong has allegedly fooled around with more than one woman.
The New Paper reported on Thursday that, following news of Yaw’s alleged involvement with a fellow married Workers’ Party (WP) member, he has also been linked to another married woman, a Chinese national who reportedly gives tuition in Singapore.
After an email from the woman’s neighbour, who noticed that Yaw paid her visits when her husband left the house to go to work, the woman involved told the paper in separate instances that she had a “short affair” with Yaw, adding that she did not want pity for it as she “(did) not deserve it”.
Residents whom Yahoo! Singapore spoke to on Thursday said they were largely unconcerned by the rumours, which to date have yet to be addressed directly by either Yaw or representatives of the Workers’ Party.
“As long as he does what he’s supposed to (for the constituency), and performs to his best, it’s fine for now,” said 56-year-old Edward Goh, who has lived in Hougang for more than 20 years.
“I think ultimately his professional and personal lives are two different entities,” added 22-year-old Loh Hui Min, a coordinator.
Research writer Pamy Tan said the scandal has changed her view of the MP, although she was still hopeful he could do his job.
“Cheating is cheating, and it doesn’t make a difference whether it’s one woman or two,” the 23-year-old said. “It (knowledge of Yaw’s possible affairs) changes my opinion of him as a person, but I do hope it doesn’t affect his ability as a politician.”
Many of the residents interviewed said that they were willing to give Yaw and the WP the benefit of the doubt, with others affirming their belief in his commitment to being their MP.
“So far, there hasn’t been concrete evidence (to support the rumours going round), so there’s no reason for me to believe them, unless he comes right out to admit it,” said undergraduate Leow Shi Qi.
“What’s most important is that they do their job,” added customer service supervisor Eileen Yeo, a mother of two. “Humans have their weaknesses, but if they move on and do their job right, we should all move on as well,” she said.
One resident, who only wanted to be known as Ms Leong, noted that Singaporeans have a “soft spot” for the WP, which puts them at an advantage over other political parties.
“In general, Singaporeans are more forgiving of the Workers’ Party… it’s a bit unfair in that sense, but they really must do something about it (the rumours),” she told Yahoo! Singapore.
The 33-year-old human resources manager added that she sees this incident as an opportunity for the WP to explain themselves fully and earn their credibility back, which she believes has been tarnished by the onset of these rumours.
“This is their chance to redeem themselves by coming out in the open to explain themselves to the public,” she said. “They can’t cover these things,” she added, likening Yaw’s situation to that of local filmmaker Jack Neo, who ended up coming clean in public about an affair he had with a freelance model almost two years ago.
“I think that while his personal life does reflect poorly on his character, I still have faith in his ability as an MP,” added Tan.
Other residents told Yahoo! Singapore that they were quite disappointed in and upset at the news that Yaw could have been involved with more than one woman.
Leong shared that she felt sorry for WP chief Low Thia Khiang, who is understood to have taken Yaw as his protégé, preparing him to take over the reins of Hougang SMC at the 2011 general election.
“Mr Yaw has disappointed everyone (and Low) by letting his affairs emerge… it’s terrible,” she said. “It reflects on his individual accountability. He needs to take responsibility for his actions.”
Another resident, 52-year-old Raymond Wee, went as far as to say that Yaw is as good as “finished” as an MP, adding that he had made a “huge mistake” in allegedly getting involved with two women outside of his marriage.
“It’s a very big problem,” he told Yahoo! Singapore. “He (Yaw) should have known that these things will come to light sooner or later — if he enjoyed having affairs, he shouldn’t have become an MP,” he added.
Loh told Yahoo! Singapore she felt disappointed for a different reason — that Yaw seems to have allowed rumours of his affairs to compel his exit from the WP’s central executive committee, where he initially held a post as treasurer.
“The CEC is the main decision-making team, which is what I’m more concerned about,” she said. “My take is if his affairs are the main reason why he resigned, it’s a shame and pity that’s all it took.”
Other residents speculated that Yaw’s exit from the party leadership could be just the first in a series of steps that could end in his complete withdrawal from the party, or even the constituency.
A statement on Yaw’s Facebook page that accompanied his announcement on Tuesday evening seems to dispel these notions, however, with Yaw saying, “I will continue to serve the constituents of Hougang SMC to the best of my abilities.”