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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Straits Times: I voted for PAP in 2006 election: WP candidate

Opposition party leader Yaw Shin Leong draws online flak for revelation in his blog

BY SUE-ANN CHIA

HOW should an opposition leader vote in a general election (GE), especially one who is contesting the polls?

Workers’ Party leader Yaw Shin Leong voted for the ruling People’s Action Party candidate in the 2006 GE – and has now found himself in the eye of an online storm.

Mr Yaw, a Bukit Panjang resident, had revealed in his blog that he voted for the PAP’s Teo Ho Pin who was contesting the single-member constituency (SMC) against Singapore Democratic Party chairman and former opposition MP Ling How Doong.

The disclosure was just a one-liner: Teo Ho Pin (MP) – Good MP. I voted for him in GE06.

And it was hyperlinked to Dr Teo’s blog.

However, it soon appeared on a popular online forum and sparked a furore among netizens who registered more than 100 postings.

Many attacked him for voting for the other side and making public his vote. One posting called him a “political opportunist and hypocrite” for doing so.

They also criticised him for sending conflicting signals.

Mr Yaw, the WP’s organising secretary, had led a team in 2006 to contest against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his team of five in Ang Mo Kio GRC.

Said a netizen: “He was a candidate contesting against PAP and rallying for voters to vote against PAP in one constituency, but himself voting for PAP in another.”

But Mr Yaw, 33, in defending his actions, said he voted for the better candidate.

His latest blog entry, posted on Monday, said: “I do not believe in opposition for opposition’s sake.

“There is nothing inherently wrong for me to vote for an MP, regardless of his/her partisan background, whom in my opinion is the better man who can better serve the interests of Singapore and my community (Bukit Panjang SMC).”

He also said, in reply to comments made on his blog, that “in view of Mr Ling’s past performance and antics, I just could not bring myself to vote for him”.

When contacted yesterday, Dr Teo said he appreciated Mr Yaw’s support. “It is his personal choice,” he added.

Political observer and law lecturer Eugene Tan believed Mr Yaw did what was right.

“It is a responsible and principled approach to voting that entrenches democracy and ensures that Singapore will continue to have good leaders,” he said.

sueann@sph.com.sg


THE RIGHT TO DECIDE

“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, they would vote for the WP candidate.”

WP CHAIRMAN SYLVIA LIM, on Mr Yaw (above) voting for PAP’s Dr Teo rather than SDP’s Mr Ling

Straits Times: Address Workers’ Party query

Forum

I REFER to the recent debate on foreign workers in Singapore, as highlighted in Saturday’s report, “Workers’ Party and NTUC spar over foreign workers”. The Workers’ Party (WP) had asked how the Government and the labour movement will ensure “the dignity and societal position of Singaporean workers are not compromised”.

This is a valid question, especially in the face of increasing inflation and the growing global nature of workforces.

I am disappointed that MP Seng Han Thong, assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), responded by challenging the WP to “not allow its contractors to employ foreigners”, instead of addressing the issues raised.

It is dangerous to sidestep the WP’s questions and let the “stealing rice bowls” mentality set in.

I hope to hear how, as Mr Seng puts it, “the societal position of Singaporeans (is not) in question”.

Nicholas Loh

Weekend TODAY: WP: Only S’poreans work at Hougang Town Council

NEO CHAI CHIN
chaichin@mediacorp.com.sg

THE Workers’ Party has responded to Member of Parliament Seng Han Thong’s May Day challenge and has put on record that all its staff at the Hougang Town Council are Singaporeans.

At the same time, WP said it is not against the employment of foreigners; its concern is that the dignity and societal position of Singaporean workers be upheld.

The town council does not object to its contractors deploying foreign workers in the estate, for example, said the WP’s organising secretary Yaw Shin Leong (picture) in a press release.

The People’s Action Party’s Mr Seng, who is also assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, had asked WP to set a national example by hiring only Singaporeans at its town council.

The spirited exchange was triggered by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Boon Heng’s remark that “a sweet, young beer girl from China” drew more patrons to her coffee shop, thus helping an older Singaporean to keep her job. WP pounced on the implication that Singaporeans are dependent on foreigners to keep their jobs.

In its release on Friday, WP said, “Mr Seng has conveniently forgotten to address WP’s questions about his ex-boss Minister Lim’s insensitive comments. Instead, he side-steps them by querying whether all employees of the Hougang Town Council are Singaporeans.”

Referring to its May Day message, the party said it had said: “The Government’s attitude should be to put Singaporeans first; secondly, we should resist any erosion of Singaporeans’ societal standing; and thirdly, it’s the Government’s responsibility to show compassion for the plight of the workers facing the pressure of high inflation.”

In reply to WP’s latest comments, Mr Seng said the opposition “has shifted its position on the issue on foreigners”.

“The WP has implied earlier that foreigners are breaking the rice bowl of Singaporean workers. If WP truly believes in helping Singaporeans, then it should offer all of its work to Singaporeans, and not allow its contractors to employ foreigners,” he said.

Mr Seng said an “inclusive approach” was preferred when it came to labour supply.

“The societal position of Singaporeans has never been in question. Nonetheless, we believe that all workers should be treated with dignity,” he said.

Weekend TODAY: What I meant by my silence: Low

LOH CHEE KONG
cheekong@mediacorp.com.sg

SWITCHING effortlessly between Teochew and Mandarin, Opposition leader Low Thia Khiang laughed heartily, listened intently and spoke animatedly at his Hougang Meet-The-People session on Wednesday evening.

For close to three hours, Mr Low attended to his residents.

However, he switched instantly to battle mode when this reporter, who turned up uninvited, asked him about the debate with the Prime Minister in Parliament last month on Mas Selamat’s escape.

“The question by the Prime Minister is an unnecessary question. I have not called for the resignation of the minister. Is that not an obvious answer to you?” he told Weekend Today.

The Workers’ Party chief had said he could not reconcile the principle of pegging ministerial pay to that of the corporate sector when ministers are not held to the same accountability.

But when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked him pointedly if his deputy, Mr Wong Kan Seng, who is also the Home Affairs Minister, should resign over the Mas Selamat fiasco, Mr Low – in contrast to his usual combative style – kept silent.

Why didn’t he point out to Mr Lee then that he was not calling for Mr Wong to resign?

“I’ve answered that. I thought it was an unnecessary question (by Mr Lee),” was his reply.

In fact, it was Mr Lee who had failed to answer his question on “minister responsibility vis-a-vis ministerial pay”, he pointed out.

Mr Lee had said that even in the private sector, lapses have to be seen in perspective. He had also said Mr Low was attempting to cloud the issue since the Prime Minister was given “full opportunity” to establish whether Mr Wong was culpable for the mistake.

Insisting that his question “had nothing to do with” whether Mr Wong should resign, Mr Low was puzzled why Mr Lee linked his question to the calls for Mr Wong’s head to roll.

Said Mr Low: “The Government uses the same principle (as the private sector) but different standards. Is that a case of double standards? That was what I wanted him to clarify.”

Still, the exchange – or non-exchange – made it to the front page of The Straits Times. It was further dissected and scrutinised not just in coffeeshop discussions, but on blogs and Internet forums.

While some netizens felt the episode had been blown out of proportion, others criticised Mr Low – and the effectiveness of Opposition MPs – for failing to take the Government to task.

Postgraduate law student Dharmendra Yadav wrote in Weekend Today last week that Mr Low, as an Opposition leader, “owes Singaporeans an explanation as to why he chose to remain silent in the face of an opportunity to be decisive and to show what a leader can and should do”.

“Why, Mr Low? Why?” Mr Yadav had asked.

But an academic, who did not want to be named, said: “Why what? It seems as if suddenly, Mr Low has a duty in Parliament to endorse the desire of those Singaporeans who want to see heads roll.”

Throwing his arms up and shrugging his shoulders, Mr Low said: “A lot of people are jumping up and down but I really don’t understand why.”

So, does he think Mr Wong should quit?

Mr Low said: “Well, the fact is that I have not called for the resignation of Wong Kan Seng … That is enough for me to answer you.”

Straits Times: Workers’ Party and NTUC spar over foreign workers

BY SUE-ANN CHIA

THE Workers’ Party (WP) and the labour movement engaged in a battle of words over the issue of foreign workers yesterday.

The exchange had been sparked by labour MP Seng Han Thong’s criticism on Thursday of the opposition party’s May Day message.

It had questioned if Singaporeans “truly benefited” from the job boom, as six in 10 new jobs had gone to foreigners.

Mr Seng, assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said Singapore has to take a pragmatic approach to the issue.

He also challenged the WP to match its words with deeds, by ensuring the town council it runs in Hougang does not hire any foreigners.

Yesterday, the WP responded and said all the staff members in the town council are Singaporean.

However, it was quick to add that it recognises the contribution of foreign workers and is not against their employment.

For instance, Hougang Town Council does not object to its contractors deploying foreign workers in the estate, the WP said in a statement signed by its organising secretary Yaw Shin Leong.

It also reiterated its views on foreigners.

“The issue here is not of foreign workers’ employment per se but rather how the Singapore Government and the labour movement will ensure that the dignity and societal position of Singaporean workers are not compromised,” it said.

The Government’s attitude, it added, should be to put Singaporeans first and “resist any erosion of Singaporeans’ societal standing”.

“It is the Government’s responsibility to show compassion for the plight of workers facing the pressure of high inflation,” the WP said.

Later, Mr Seng retorted: “The Workers’ Party has shifted its position on the issue on foreigners. The WP had implied earlier that foreigners are breaking the rice bowls of Singaporean workers.

“If WP truly believes in helping Singaporeans, then it should offer all of its work to Singaporeans and not allow its contractors to employ foreigners.”

He also said that, as far as NTUC is concerned, “the societal position of Singaporeans has never been in question”.

“Nonetheless, we believe all workers should be treated with dignity. Hence, we believe in taking an inclusive approach that would make Singapore an inclusive society.”

TODAY: Singapore workers disadvantaged: WP

THE Singapore economic model, one in which Singaporeans are dependent on foreigners for their jobs, has eroded the societal standing of the Singapore worker, suggested the Workers’ Party (WP) in its May Day message yesterday.

The WP cited an anecdote from Mr Lim Boon Heng, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, at the recent Singapore Tripartism Forum, of a woman concerned about a “sweet, young beer girl from China” undercutting her wages at the coffee shop.

According to The Straits Times, Mr Lim had said the young girl drew more customers, in turn helping the Singaporean to keep her job.

“According to Mr Lim’s logic, is he conceding the People’s Action Party has created an economic model whereby Singaporeans must now be dependent on the foreign workers to retain our jobs?” asked the WP statement, which cited how 60 per cent of the 234,900 jobs created last year went to foreigners.

The party also questioned if the “rosy picture” of the record job growth had masked some disadvantages.

“Could it be that more Singaporeans are holding contractual part-time work positions, whereas foreigners might be benefiting from the full-time positions created?” asked the WP.

The job figures required “more detailed analysis to understand the actual employment status” of Singaporeans and their employment terms, such as medical benefits and annual leave.

The WP ended its message with a call for more help measures from the Government, in the context of rising food prices, “on top of the initiatives (such as the U Stretch food voucher programme) by the National Trades Union Congress”.

While the party did not suggest food subsidies “across the board”, it repeated its call to reduce the Goods and Services Tax to 5 per cent and to keep it at that rate for “at least a year”.

It also suggested the Government reduce fuel taxes.