UPDATE: I should have added that so far in this campaign, I have respected SM Goh Chok Tong for his call to keep things "clean" (even though it is self-serving since Tin Pei Lin is in his GRC, but it was the right thing to say), Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng (and indeed the rest of PAP) for not mentioning Mr Chiam's health, and Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang for declining to make any personal comment about Tan Jee Say. I would also express disappointment at the NSP's Yip Yew Weng for perpetuating race-based politics (see the piece in last Saturday's(?) Straits Times about multi-cornered fights) thereby playing into the PAP's hands in terms of justifying the continued existence of GRCs.
Not much in Singapore politics gets me really worked up anymore. All too often, it just feels like "been there seen that".
In fact, nowadays, the things that tend to rile me are not about the substantive issues themselves -- it's gotten too easy to predict the PAP's response and arguments to explain why something I agree with is "not right" for Singapore. Instead, what gets my blood boiling will be questions of (un)fairness and (in)justice.
Most recently, it was the attacks on Tin Pei Ling, who does enough to destroy her own credibility in her own speeches and responses to questions without needing any help from gutter would-be-journalists trawling her Facebook account. Today, it was this personal attack by the PAP.
The PAP can try all it wants, but the objective here is transparently clear to everyone: to tell the world that Vincent Wijeysingha is gay, and thereby win the votes of that part of the population that will vote based on just this single wedge issue, regardless of any other issue.
The rest of the statement -- in particular the allusion to an alleged discussion about "sex with boys and whether the age of consent for boys should be 14 years of age" -- is just outright unjustified mudslinging insinuation that seems designed to imply a linkage between Vincent Wijeysingha and that discussion. If you watch the video in question, you will find that:
(a) Vincent Wijeysingha does not talk about sex with boys or lowering the age of consent for boys.
(b) only M. Ravi talked about that, and he also does not advocate lowering the age of consent for boys. Instead, he seemed to be talking about the age of consent for boys in the context of making a more general point (it's hard to tell precisely what the point is, because the clip has been edited -- perhaps deliberately -- such that what went on before is not shown).
[At this point, I hope that those responsible for posting the video and the misleading description about "lowering age of consent for sex with boys aged 14" are aware that they may have contravened Section 61(d) of the Parliamentary Elections Act. And I certainly hope that the Elections Department will be fair and investigate this case, and prosecute if the culprit is found.]
Considering that the constituency in question is Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, a fairly rich area which may well have a higher than average proportion of conservative Christians, this move may yet pay off in terms of votes. But it would fundamentally damage the fabric of Singapore politics, by opening the door to the slippery slope of mudslinging attack politics, where personal attacks are disguised as questions about "agenda".
This PAP statement is no different from, and is in fact worse than, the gutter attacks on Tin Pei Ling to degrade the political discourse in Singapore. I did not want Singapore politics to degrade like this, so imagine my dismay that it is the PAP itself bringing politics down.
I hope -- no, I trust and believe -- that Singaporeans will see through this PAP statement for what it is. Now that the SDP has posted its response, the ball is really in the PAP's court. Will the PAP retract its statement? Will the PAP apologise? Will the PAP understand that there will be a backlash to this, the same way there was a backlash to their efforts to demonise James Gomez in 2006?
Well, we can all let the PAP know exactly what we think of this. Speak up, whether online or in the papers. Ask your grassroots leaders what they think about it, and whether they agree with the tactics apologised. Ask the next PAP candidate who asks for your vote, what he/she thinks about this and when the PAP will apologise. Ask the PM if the Government's stand on all this has changed, since he presumably had the last word on this during the Section 377A debate in 2007.
The strangest part of all this is that the political parties, including the PAP, have historically been discreet on personal lifestyles and indiscretions, as noted by Cherian George. It is unclear if this statement has been endorsed by the PAP leadership, but in the absence of any public dissociation by the party from the statement, we can only conclude that it was. That would mark the PAP leading us to the kind of "First World Parliament" that we know we do not want, namely the gay-bashing tactics of US conservative right-wing politics.