Singapore– Netizens have gone online to react to the online dispute between Secretary-General of Worker’s Party Pritam Singh, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam and playwright Alfian Sa’at over PAP’s Dr Tan Wu Meng’s article criticising what Mr Pritam’s had said about Mr Alfian in Parliament.
Netizens remain conflicted with torn and diverse reactions as some support Mr Shanmugan for speaking up for Dr Tan, while some praise Mr Pritam, while still others have completely gone against Mr Alfian and Mr Pritam’s views and called this a trivial topic to debate about when there are “more important” things to worry about.
The issue began when Mr Pritam quoted Mr Alfian in Parliament whom he called a “loving critic”. Dr Tan’s article questioned Mr Alfian’s loyalty to Singapore by pointing out that Mr Alfian had been releasing “pro-Malaysia” comments over the years. Dr Tan also said he doubted Mr Pritam’s “side” in politics.
Mr Pritam said that the term “loving critic” was mentioned by Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh to defend Mr Alfian, as well as other critics and intellectuals, in a commentary by The Straits Times in October 2019.
Mr Pritam felt that the backlash received by both Dr Tan and the PAP could be due to two reasons: Dr Tan’s “belated but calculated decision” to bring this up nearing the General Elections, and also Dr Tan’s “leap in extending Mr Alfian’s artistic expressions to an endorsement by the WP of every controversial view Mr Alfian has made”.
He also said that “For these reasons, it is my view that Dr Tan’s questions, cloaked as innocent ones, were politically motivated to divide Singaporeans into those who are for or against — not Singapore — but the PAP, and to paint the WP in a negative light.
Netizens mixed reactions can be seen on Facebook. There are some who support PAP, Mr Shanmugan and Dr Tan. One netizen stated that “It is great that the [Mr Shanmugan] has taken up this issue.”
However, Mr Pritam’s reaction to Dr Tan’s article on the PAP website was, “A loving critic. A son of Singapore. Not perfect. As imperfect as you and me Dr Tan, maybe more, maybe less.” Some netizens supported Mr Pritam and called Dr Tan out for being “irresponsible” for raising this “in d midst of a looming election”.
Bryan Yang also noted that this situation is like “saying people who listen to black rappers must be bad because of their swearing”.
Despite some support for Mr Pritam, some netizens also went against Mr Pritam’s defence of Mr Alfian. Philip Sim noted that “[Mr Alfian] was attempting to deny our national identity and history” while another netizen pointed out that this was “usual WP tactics”.
Photo: Screengrab from Facebook
Many netizens, however, noted that there are “more important matters” to worry about in the coming General Elections. Jing Quek noted how “People are losing jobs, we have to rebuild our economy, and this was considered important enough to get involved in?”