Local news site RICE Media has claimed that the “Progress Singapore Party’s vague, feel-good statements will not win Singaporeans,” in an article published after the party’s press conference that was held last Friday (26 July).
On Sunday (28 July), RICE Media – which calls itself “Asia’s alternative voice” – published an opinion-editorial by the publication’s current affairs editor Grace Yeoh, who shared her thoughts on the Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) very first press conference.
Revealing that she has been to several press conferences and considers such meetings “either a waste of everyone’s time or the most effective tool an organisation can use to control their narrative,” Ms Yeoh said she felt the PSP dropped the ball by missing the opportunity to “work with the media” during Friday’s press meet.
Asserting that the PSP’s maiden press meet “left little to be desired for their future in Singapore politics,” Ms Yeoh covered the main points that the PSP focused on as they introduced their party.
The opposition party, led by veteran ruling party parliamentarian Dr Tan Cheng Bock, focused on how they are dedicated to championing transparency and accountability in government and that it values members who have the heart to serve Singaporeans. Dr Tan called his party a “unifying catalyst” that could bring Singaporeans together.
Making note that People’s Action Party (PAP) ministers have disputed Dr Tan’s views that the Government has “gone astray” and that the ruling party has lost its way, Ms Yeoh said that she had “hoped we could skip the political platitudes” and that she found Dr Tan’s opening remarks “empty and disappointing.”
During the press conference, Dr Tan promised that the party would unveil its policies and proposals in due course and remained mum on which candidates his party would field and which constituencies his party planned to contest.
Asserting that the PSP ‘repeatedly evaded’ questions on their policies and plans, Ms Yeoh said that she was among those who pressed Dr Tan on the issues and policies that his party was focusing on. Revealing that other reporters asked about specific policy plans, she said:
“I, for one, highlighted the fact that the upcoming General Elections would be the first time Gen Z was voting. I wanted to know whether the party had a sense of the issues this generation cared about, and the steps they had to address these issues.
“In response, Dr Tan said the party would touch on these points at the launch on 3 August, but that they understood the current concerns of Singaporeans, such as “CPF, housing, economy, and so on”.”
Despite the fact that the party launch was set to take place just one week after the press conference and despite her own admission that “none of us expected a detailed policy plan to be regurgitated on the spot,” Ms Yeoh called the party’s response to some of the questions they were asked “avoidant.”
Ms Yeoh acknowledged that the party could be tight-lipped because they might have intended for the press meet to highlight the reasons behind the formation of the party and focus on the party’s values and beliefs.
Despite this admission, she opined that this strategy is an “old-school mentality” that “no longer works with an information literate generation that’s hungry for knowledge.”
Accusing the PSP of “treating the media as adversaries, and not allies,” the RICE Media staff said: “They weren’t prepared to answer hard questions with a degree of specificity required for the media to sufficiently educate and inform the public. Unfortunately for them, no answer was also an answer.”
Acknowledging that her publication’s views could be considered too harsh, she continued:
“Some might argue that we’re too harsh on a party that genuinely wants to help Singaporeans and that we should give the PSP a chance to prove themselves. But we are harsh precisely because we would like to see a credible, feasible, and progressive alternative to the ruling party as well.
“While it’s important for a politician’s heart to be in the right place, it’s equally important for us to know that they are competent or right for the job. Given the perfect opportunity to do the latter, it is regrettable that PSP did not.”
Despite the PSP’s promise that it would reveal more in just a few days’ time, Ms Yeoh and her publication wanted more.
She felt that the press meet could have been “more productive” and said that the party should have talked about the issues it plans to focus on, who are affected by these issues, a timeline of how it plans to address this issue and give policy plans on how the party would tackle this issue.
Revealing her hope that the PSP would fulfil its promise and give more details on its plans on 3 Aug, Ms Yeoh said she hopes the “public aren’t served the political equivalent of canapés—decorative but hollow statements—like the media was.”
She ended her piece by asserting that the media was not persistent enough in digging out more details from Dr Tan but that her publication will be persistent “if the party keeps up its ambiguity, and allows their narrative to remain focused on their dissatisfaction with the government instead of what they can actually do for Singaporeans.”
The title of the article asserts that the PSP’s statements “will not win Singaporeans over”. Curiously, Ms Yeoh mainly seemed to express her frustration that the party has told the media to wait for details on policy plans instead of specifying why exactly Singaporeans will not be won over by the party.
This is not the first time Ms Yeoh has criticised the PSP. In an article entitled ‘Can Tan Cheng Bock really save us all?’ Ms Yeoh said that she does not believe Dr Tan will do so.
Asserting that Dr Tan must be held to higher standards she said that Singaporeans should not be afraid to be “demanding that he shows a fundamental understanding of the current issues that plague Singaporeans more than a decade after his departure from politics, articulates feasible policy measures to address them, and details how his party plans to get the votes of those who are growing to be more politically and socially conscious.”
She also accused the PSP of having a “lacklustre lineup of members” that “leaves little to be desired” and decried what she perceives as the “dire lack of capable and willing millennial and/or female members” in the party.
Asserting that this “should raise serious questions about whether politicians are truly cognisant of the nuances that come with being a representative of the people in this day,” she said that if Dr Tan is not cognisant of this, his “party is simply version 2.0 of the PAP.”
Urging the people to be “cautious to regard Dr Tan as the ‘viable opposition’ that we’ve been waiting for,” she said, “The last thing we want to do is vote for a candidate just because they’re charismatic or a symbol of hope, and therefore fragment the votes for other viable opposition parties.”
RICE Media has published articles that have drawn criticism in the past. One particular article published in 2017, asserting that PM Lee Hsien Loong will “win” the public spat with his siblings simply because “his siblings are ugly” and apparently have untrustworthy facial features, was condemned online.