Reading news reports of what transpired in Parliament the last few days has been disappointing, to say the least. And particularly so is the People’s Action Party (PAP)’s politicking over the decision by Workers’ Party candidate, Lee Lilian, not to take up the Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat.
PAP MPs such as Lee Bee Wah, Edwin Tong and Charles Chong, along with minister Chan Chun Sing, all cast aspersions of various kinds on the WP and Ms Lee.
I do not think it is worth repeating them here. Suffice it to say that the attacks (even if they are veiled ones) reflect badly on the perpetrators.
Here they are, casting aspersions on a lady who had stepped forward to serve her community, and had and continues to do so for 10 years now, including her two years in the highest lawmaking body in the country.
These PAP MPs questioned her sense of service, nonetheless. And cast doubts on the motive behind her declining the NCMP seat.
Mr Chan calls it “political maneuvering” on the part of the WP, even though Ms Lee herself had explained in some details her decision not to accept the seat, and she did so almost immediately after her defeat in the Punggol East elections in September last year.
Lilian’s first foray into politics was in May 2006, when she volunteered with the WP during that general election. The next month (June) she joined as member. She then rose quite quickly through the party ranks, being voted into the central executive council two years later in 2008.
Her contribution to the community and thus to our nation is without doubt.
The WP website explains:
“[She] was elected into the Youth Wing Executive Committee and became the Youth Wing Organising Secretary. In 2008, she was elected into the party’s CEC and was appointed the Deputy Treasurer of the Workers’ Party.
“After GE2011, Li Lian became the Legislative Assistant to MP Pritam Singh in the Eunos division of Aljunied GRC. She was responsible for the recruitment of volunteers and the organisation of grassroots events for Eunos division. Li Lian also worked with the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council to address the concerns of the residents. In the same year, she also became the President of the Workers’ Party Youth Wing.
“Li Lian stood as the party’s candidate in the Punggol East SMC in the 2011 General Elections and again in the by-election of 2013 when she was elected as the Member of Parliament for Punggol East SMC.”
As any volunteer would know, it takes a lot of work and commitment to dedicate oneself to such work, and especially so in opposition politics in Singapore.
That someone like Lilian, a young mother, would find time to serve her fellow men and women is something we should appreciate and be thankful for.
For how many would do what Lilian and her compatriots in opposition parties do?
This is why I find it very sad to see PAP MPs, many of whom have gotten into Parliament with hardly breaking a sweat because of the uneven ground tilted in their favour, speaking as if they had gone through fire and brimstone to get where they currently are.
Mr Chan himself, for example, rode on the coattails of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in Tanjong Pagar in 2011 to get into Parliament.
Lilian had to fight on her own – without the illustrious reputation of a senior minister to hang on to – in a single-seat ward, first to a defeat, then to a victory, and then to a defeat again.
I think Lilian has given much of herself to Singapore.
She has earned the right to decide if she wants to continue, and in what capacity she would prefer to do so.
I have no doubt that she will continue to serve her community at the grassroots level, even as she respects the rights of Punggol East residents not to have her in Parliament as a fully elected MP.
And in rejecting the NCMP seat, partly because of this decision by residents, I respect Lilian’s principled stand.
Let us not lose sight of the woods for the trees – let us appreciate those who have stepped forward to serve, no matter how short their stint, be they from the PAP or the opposition.
Making ridicule of their time and effort – and the blood, sweat and tears – which they have given to serve us is below the belt, and unbecoming of MPs elected to Parliament.
It is especially disappointing that a minister like Mr Chan would resort to such cheap politicking, introducing an amendment to the motion to have the vacated NCMP seat filled. An amendment which took pot shots at Ms Lee and the WP over what is in fact a straightforward matter.
If you question her dedication, shouldn’t you also then question those of PAP candidates like Desmond Choo who abandoned his voters in Hougang for those in Tampines? Or Koh Poh Koon who similarly abandoned his supporters in Punggol East for those in Ang Mo Kio?
Yes, it would be nonsensical to do so.
Lilian should stand proud of what she has given to Singapore the last 10 years.
And we all appreciate it very much indeed.
Don’t let shallow politicking bury the fact that a young lady had stood up and done much for us, even when she knew full well that the road ahead would be a bumpy one.