I first got to know Shin Leong in 2006 when I joined the Workers’ Party after a year’s consideration. Several short months later, I found myself in the team of volunteers assigned to the WP’s Ang Mo Kio GRC team, which was putting up a challenge to the Prime Minister’s team, at the General Election in May.
The WP team was a young one and was dubbed “Suicide Squad” by the media. Although young they may have been, they more than made up for that with passion, drive and energy. Throughout the election campaign period, one thing stood out above all else for me as I – being a greenhorn in such matters – saw how hard Shin Leong worked each day and night of the campaign.
As the designated leader of the team, he was leading it from the front.
I remember saying to everyone I know: “That fella is tireless! He’s like the energizer bunny several times over!”
And this impression I had of Shin Leong has always stayed with me, even after I left the WP in 2008.
It is thus with utter sadness when I heard the WP had expelled him from the party yesterday (15 Feb). At first, I was outraged and thought the party had gone too far. How could they – ever – think of doing something like this to one such as Shin Leong? The man had practically given more than 10 years to the party, having joined it in 2001. It was indeed with a very heavy heart that I had to eventually accept the WP’s decision after reading more closely what its position was.
Why Shin Leong has chosen not to be forthcoming, as the party explained, in clarifying what were being expressed in the allegations made against him, to the party, I don’t know. But I am sure Shin Leong has his reasons.
Perhaps in time, he will tell us his side of the story.
In the meantime, I hope that we do not forget the contributions which he has made – and also the sacrifices which he had had to go through in doing so.
About a month or two after the last GE, I was on my way home from the MRT station in Hougang. There was a group of people at one of the void decks. I wondered what these people were there for. I caught a glimpse and didn’t really bother, and went on my way. Just then, I heard someone call my name. I turned around and it was Shin Leong, the new MP of Hougang. “Hey, Andrew!” he said, with his ever present smile. He had left the group to catch up with me. “Hey, man” I replied in my usual way. “How are you?” Shin Leong asked. “I’m good.” He explained that they were there “forming up” before they went as a group to attend one of the temple dinners that night as guests.
As I walked home, it struck me how Shin Leong is always like that – friendly, approachable and without airs about him.
A little while later, when I asked him for an interview for publichouse.sg, a website I am now involved in, he did not hesitate and said yes immediately. I was quite surprised at this. He later told me that he is always supportive of initiatives which do good for Singapore – and that granting me the interview was one way of showing his support.
It was the first interview he had given – to anyone – after the General Election.
And he chose to give it to an alternative media portal – and one which had just come online – rather than the big mainstream broadsheets.
It told me a lot about the man, and of course, I was thoroughly appreciative of his gesture.
In my time as a member with the WP, Shin Leong was the only WP member I knew then who did not dismiss anything I said. When I suggested an idea, he would listen intently, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “That is a great idea. Lets see how we can go about it and carry it out.” In all my two years there, he never once dismissed anything I said or suggested. Which is why I had and still have respect and appreciation for the man, whatever personal failings he may have.
But lets not forget one thing: the allegations against Shin Leong remain just that – allegations. Even the WP itself has said it does not know whether they are true.
I am not defending Shin Leong, if the allegations are true. I am saying that despite this, we should remember his contributions, which were especially hard to achieve, being in opposition politics. And to dedicate more than 10 years to this is commendable.
So, Shin Leong, we do not know why you’re keeping quiet. But we hope that you are ok. Please take care of yourself. Despite whatever personal transgressions you may have committed, we are here for you.
And we have not forgotten all that you have done – as a friend, as a politician, as an activist.
We do remember, and we thank you.
We hope you’re ok, Shin Leong.