This evening, I was prompted by a friend who texted to tell me that my photo was posted on Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s Facebook page. On it, he wrote at length about a certain member of the audience who questioned him about the government’s censorship of the media and also the issue of gutter politics by the People’s Action Party. I would like to clarify that I did not ask that question and I am puzzled as to why he would choose to use a screenshot of me speaking at that lecture. I believe the question was asked by a young, courageous gentleman who had just completed his National Service and to take away that credit from him would be rather unjust.
However, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you what I actually said. During the Majulah Lecture, I had asked the Minister two important questions. First, whether he was of the view that the Reserved Presidential Election was entrenching the notion of race into Singapore politics and if Singapore was regressing as a society. Second, I asked him if the government had any plans, in the future, of reserving the position of Prime Minister for a Malay or other minority candidate. The latter went unaddressed.
Instead, he went on talking about how Mdm Halimah Yacob was an outstanding individual and how the Government had to take proactive steps in order to turn the pledge from a mere incantation to actuality. Indeed, like him and many other Singaporeans, I have no doubt as to Mdm Halimah’s abilities. As much as I would like to believe that he missed the point, I also know that he is far smarter than that. He did what most politicians would do when presented with a hard question. He avoided it.
To be honest, part of me knew that it was going to happen. Take a look at Parliament. Just yesterday, the news reported that Worker’s Party had failed in their second bid to raise a Parliamentary motion on the Presidential Election. So why then did I feel angry when he side-lined my first question and ignored the second?
Many of my friends are aware of my feelings toward the reserved elections. It is something that I feel strongly about, and for good reason. In 1965, Singapore was expelled from the Malaysian federation. By and large, it was due to the belief that we should be free from racial politics and be united as one – regardless of race, language or religion. This is something not to be trifled with. It is not about the willingness to pay a political price. It is also not just about a political party. It is about a nation; whose future is in the hands of a group of people who chooses to ignore important questions from people whom they are supposed to be held accountable to.
I implore you, and your colleagues, to stop ignoring important questions. How would you like it if we ignore your appeals come election time?