New Paper: Opposition candidate stirs Net debate when he says he voted PAP. MP says: I knew because he told me

By Karen Wong

NEWS that Workers’ Party (WP) candidate Yaw Shin Leong voted for Dr Teo Ho Pin came as no surprise to the People’s Action Party (PAP) MP himself.

Dr Teo, Mayor of the North West district, had known that WP candidate Yaw Shin Leong was going to vote for him, even before Nomination Day in the 2006 General Election (GE).

When The New Paper called him yesterday to find out if he knew about Mr Yaw’s vote, Dr Teo replied matter-of-factly: “He told me himself, when I visited him at a block visit before the GE that he and his mother were going to vote for me.”

That was a couple of weeks before the nine-day campaigning started, recalled Dr Teo.

“That’s his choice. He has every right to decide who to vote for. I won’t say I was very surprised but I appreciate his gesture.”

Dr Teo said that after Mr Yaw told him that he will vote for him, he then passed him a copy of WP’s election manifesto.

“It was quite an interesting encounter,” he added.

Mr Yaw, who is organising secretary of WP, has found himself at the centre of a heated Internet debate, after he revealed that he had voted for Dr Teo in the 2006 GE in his blog.

Some of the accusations that the Internet community has flung at him include “contradictory” and “hypocritical”.

NO CONTRADICTION

But Mr Yaw himself does not see any contradiction in being an opposition member and voting for the ruling party.

In the 2006 GE, Dr Teo was the PAP candidate at single-seat ward Bukit Panjang. Running against him was Singapore Democratic Party’s Ling How Doong. In the end, Dr Teo, trumped his opponent, winning 77.2 per cent of the vote.

Mr Yaw himself had led the WP slate of candidates in Ang Mo Kio GRC – against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s team.

The heated Internet discussion began on local forum Sammyboy last week, which pointed to a screen shot of Mr Yaw’s blog where the latter had included a link to Dr Teo’s blog.

On that link, Mr Yaw added the postscript of Dr Teo: “Good MP. I voted for him in GE06.”

The person, who started the thread on 8 May, said:

“A leading opposition candidate from the Workers’ Party, who stood in the election against none other then PM Lee Hsien Loong, actually voted the PAP rather than… the opposition!”

The netizen also called Mr Yaw’s act “hypocritical” of an opposition member.

A couple of people also speculated that Mr Yaw was trying to “spite” SDP by “bragging” about his vote on his blog.

Mr Yaw told The New Paper: “It doesn’t mean that you’re at the forefront of the opposition means you have to vote for the opposition.

“It also doesn’t mean that just because you are in opposition politics, you must also oppose everything. I believe in voting for the deserving candidate regardless of the party.”

He pointed out that Dr Teo knows the ground well and works really hard for the people and that was why he voted for him.

When asked why he even revealed his vote on his blog, Mr Yaw said: “I was just stating my views. We should strive towards this level of transparency in political discourse.”

Of the attention he has been receiving in cyberspace, Mr Yaw said: “I’m pleasantly stunned. I read some really good comments, both opposing and supporting my view.”

WHAT POSSESSED HIM?

When approached for comments, WP’s chairman Sylvia Lim, a Non-Constituency MP, said: “We respect that our members have the right to decide how to exercise their vote.

“However, we would expect that if they live in a constituency which WP is contesting in, they would vote for the WP candidate(s).”

Political observer Gillian Koh’s first reaction to Mr Yaw’s revelation that he had voted for Dr Teo was: “What possessed him to reveal that?

“It was quite unnecessary and not in the least politically advantageous for him to do so. It would have been naive of him if he thought it was.”

On Mr Yaw’s view that he did not believe in opposing for the sake of it, Dr Koh, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, commented: “One thing that is a bit more subtle or too subtle, is that WP sees itself as an alternative political party and not an opposition party.

“So they always maintain that they do not oppose for the sake of opposing.

“They may also be persuaded to take the PAP line based on the merit of the case. That is the WP line.”

In view of the brickbats he has been getting, does Mr Yaw regret publicising his vote in the first place? “No regrets,” was his emphatic reply.

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