Singapore — Many would have noticed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife, Ms Ho Ching, actively following him on the GE2020 campaign trail.
She was by his side at all major events, handing out flyers and urging voters to support the People’s Action Party (PAP) in walkabouts in Mr Lee’s Ang Mo Kio GRC.
What some might not know is that, just after the elections, Ms Ho also spoke up for an opposition candidate in the Reform Party team that contested against her husband’s PAP team.
Mr Charles Yeo, a 30-year-old lawyer, is an RP Central Executive Committee member of the RP. These were his first elections.
In view of Covid-19 making rallies impossible, political parties had to address voters in special televised Constituency Political Broadcasts. However, only Mr Yeo and Ms Noraini Yunus of the five-member RP team for Ang Mo Kio GRC showed up to the recording. Two members of the team were not able to make it to the recording, while party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam was on Stay-Home Notice.
The RP’s constituency broadcast drew criticism because three of the team members were not present. Moreover, Mr Yeo stumbled over the words while delivering the party’s message in Mandarin. Many speculated that he was not prepared and he admitted later that he translated half the speech on the spot. His speech went viral and many people online joked about it and made memes of it.
However, Mr Yeo received support from an unexpected quarter, the wife of Mr Lee, his opponent in Ang Mo Kio GRC.
In a Facebook post a day after the elections, Ms Ho praised Mr Yeo’s bravery and urged the online community to stop poking fun at him.
She wrote: “Hello, folks, I think we should not make fun of Charles Yeo for his attempt to deliver his team’s Chinese message. He was brave on 2 counts.
“First, he was willing to step up to the plate, to stand in for his team mate who was not able to deliver the Chinese speech for whatever reason. He didn’t shrink away from what was obviously a difficult task for him. This strong sense of responsibility to his team is laudable.
“Second, I give him very high marks for doing his best to deliver his message despite his language handicap. That takes courage. This willingness to try is how we all can learn and improve over time.”
Ms Ho, who is Chief Executive Officer of the Temasek Holdings sovereign wealth fund, also urged those circulating memes and videos to stop doing so and take down their material. She wrote: “Yes, it is painful to see his struggle, but that is no reason to make fun of him or his courageous effort.
“So for all the folks who are making or circulating memes to laugh at him, please stop. Please do take down your videos, and other social media material, out of respect for another human being who had just been trying to do his best. Thank you, and a good weekend to everyone.”
Ms Ho drew praise for her compassion and her post went viral with about 8,700 reactions and 1,600 shares.
In a postscript, she added: “Just as we shouldn’t laugh at Charles Yeo for struggling with Chinese, we shouldn’t look down on others for not speaking pukka English.
“In Singapore, many of us speak Chinese with a characteristic Hokkien or southern Chinese style of short sharp tones. That is the result of having 40% Hokkien, the largest dialect group among the Singaporean Chinese.
“Likewise, we speak English with a variety of lilts, reflecting the composition of our diverse population — Malay, southern Chinese, Tamil, plus a sprinkling of Queen’s English and other sub groups like Australian, American, French or Latino English. Let’s encourage and support everyone who is learning and trying their best.”
Hello, folks,I think we should not make fun of Charles Yeo for his attempt to deliver his team’s Chinese message. He…