SINGAPORE: The People’s Action Party’s (PAP) newly launched Friends of PAP network has drawn flak online, with a sizeable segment of Singaporeans questioning the wisdom of involving social media influencers in politics.

The network was introduced earlier this month and is comprised of individuals who have come on board to support the party’s efforts.

The group includes a number of social media influencers such as Simon Khung, the former addict known for turning his life around and is better known as Simonboy; bilingual content creator Amy Ang; and Tommy Ong, the founder of the Nothing But Cheeseburgers burger chain popularly known as TommyNBCB. All three have thousands of followers on social media.

Ever since they, and other personalities including food bloggers, actors, and content creators were seen at the Refresh PAP event at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on June 8, there have been many reactions online, a number of which have been negative rather than positive.

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Over on Reddit, one commenter said that if the influencers who joined the Friends of PAP network are to engage in political activity, they should be designated “politically significant persons” in the same way that naturalized Singapore citizen Philip Chan Man Ping was in February.

“They must declare the source of donations, their affiliation to state institutions, and any benefits they receive. After all, the law is about transparency and not about discouraging specific political activity right?” the Redditor added.

Others online said that the network is a “desperate move” with some speculating that it’s part of a bid to appeal to younger Singaporeans, with one saying that millennials may already be a “lost cause” to the ruling party, who now have their sights set on Gen Z.

“Only if these influencers can actually lower the cost of living, stress, etc. Otherwise all these engagement efforts are just exactly what they are, temporary (and) superficial,” opined another Redditor.

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On Facebook, one user appeared to feel the influencers have become “sellouts” to the ruling party.

“Are they promoting party viewpoints or government viewpoints?” asked another, who also asked whether the influencers are getting paid for their appearances.

More prominent Singaporeans have also weighed in on the issue. Poet Gwee Li Sui predicted on Facebook that “So much can go wrong,” with such a scheme, urging observers to mark his words.

Writer and activist Kirsten Han, meanwhile, took exception to the descriptor used for members of the network, writing, “‘Cause champion’ is when the PAP invites you to their events because they want to talk to you. ‘Civil society activist’ is when you try to talk to the PAP but then the police want to talk to you.”

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