“Well, everybody has a car, we have two — my wife drives one, I drive one. We are both professionals, we need to travel.”
The above was said by the PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon in an interview with the media during the Punggol East by-election. What caught my attention was not the fact that he revealed he and his wife drove a car each – something which many online have criticised him for. What threw me was his remark – “We are both professionals, we need to travel” – and the way he said it, with a smirk on his face.
“We are professionals…”
“We need to travel.”
And the earth parted.
It reminded me of this episode back in 2006: the Wee Shu Min affair.
The PAP doesn’t seem to have learnt its lessons from GE 2011, the presidential elections and the Hougang by-election.
It parachuted in a colorectal surgeon whom it then touted as a “son of Punggol”, had him clear a clogged drain (right in front of the media, apparently), with fake plastic smiles and all. These were as artificial as his “hi-fives” photos which he posted on his Facebook page. Someone should have told him what happened to the presidential candidate who ran his campaign going around hi-fiving everyone – and ended losing his deposit.
It would seem that the PAP has not gotten rid of its addiction to the elitist thoughts among its leadership – that credentials matter more than anything else. Koh’s entry into Punggol East is also said to have created unhappiness among the PAP’s own grassroots’ ranks there. That someone who had not walked the ward is deemed more worthy and preferred over those who did, and to add to the insult, Koh only joined the PAP 3 weeks prior to the by-election itself.
And Koh’s own words – in that one sentence – betrayed all the media and PAP spin which they lavished on him, even on the last day of campaigning and on Cooling Off Day, with a front page splash of the PAP sec gen himself bringing out his guns.
But in the end it was all to no avail.
The people rejected the fake persona the PAP tried to sell them.
It is a mindset change which the PAP needs to learn and take to heart. But it would seem that this is quite an impossible task – given how its new MPs from GE 2011 (even those who have become ministers) seem to also be falling into the same elitist and dismissive-of-others mode.
But change in the PAP, or “reform” – as George Yeo put it – is almost impossible to fathom, given how 2 years after the momentous events of GE 2011, the PAP still seems a laggard in this.
When the Prime Minister, in a party conference several weeks back, declares that his government will only “calibrate a bit to the left, a bit to the right”, you know things have not and won’t change much.
The PAP would do well to ask itself if this is how it wants to proceed – with piecemeal and little tweaks here and there; or if it would have the courage to make the deeper changes which is needed for it to remain relevant.
And for this, the questions must first be asked of its leadership – whether the PAP leadership is capable of keeping the party relevant, and whether they have the right person at the top for the job.
Cartoon from: My Sketchbook.