Singapore—One wonders if Teo Chee Hean wished he had just stayed home, as, in the course of a house visit, he encountered playwright Joel Tan, who then proceeded to grill him on various topics including Parti Liyani, the Indonesian domestic helper recently acquitted on theft charges, and the controversy surrounding fellow playwright Alfian Sa’at, among other topics.
Mr Tan humorously recounted the MP’s visit in a Facebook post on Tuesday, September 8, writing that the visit had occurred the night before.
Lol so earlier tonight, Minister in the PMO, Teo Chee Hean, also my MP, did a door-to-door in my block to hand out…
He wrote that Mr Teo had done a door-to-door on his block, handing out leaflets regarding upcoming estate upgrading, along with “a massive entourage of town council people who made sure the whole block knew of the divine visitation.”
The Senior Minister stopped at Mr Tan’s family’s doorway to ask “with concern, why our family hadn’t participated in the poll about what improvements we wanted to the void deck.”
The interesting part of the visit occurred when Mr Tan’s father pushed him forward, saying, “well my son has something to say to you”.
First, the playwright asked if Mr Teo received his email about Ms Parti. Mr Tan told the Senior Minister that “the case reveals some really disturbing structural inequalities in our society and I was hoping as my representative you might ask questions about it in parliament.”
SM Teo answered him that it was a matter for the Attorney General’s Chambers and not something for him to act on.
When the Senior Minister asked Mr Tan what he does, the playwright answered him and added that he is a friend of Alfian Sa’at.
And when SM Teo expressed how disappointed he is “in Alfian and the way he expresses things,” Mr Tan answered that he was also “very disappointed in Tan Wu Meng,” and had actually emailed the Senior Minister about the matter.
On June 19, Dr Tan Wu Meng of the People’s Action Party wrote an article criticising WP Secretary-General Pritam Singh for speaking in support of playwright Alfian Sa’at in Parliament.
SM Teo and Mr Tan then proceeded to have a conversation about Mr Sa’at. While the playwright agreed that Dr Tan had the freedom to express his opinions, Mr Tan told SM Yeo, “But also the power dynamic in this instance was so imbalanced, don’t you think? Especially if you think about Alfian’s right to reply in defense. And what does it mean to you that the article was uploaded on the PAP website?”
The Senior Minister then asked him about the plays that Mr Tan has written, which led to the playwright telling SM Teo about his play about gay rights, ’Tango,’ which had been Nominated for Best Original Script by The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards in 2018.
This, in turn, led to a discussion between the two men about Section 377A, the speed with which social change occurs, culture wars, US right-wing politics, the Christian evangelical tradition, among others, with the Senior Minister telling Mr Tan, “we mustn’t ask for change too quickly.”
The exchange was halted with an interruption from Mr Tan’s father, who said, “well, yes, we can all agree to disagree. Joel is very passionate about these things.”
And when the Senior Minister looked at him “laughingly” and said, “so how, you want to come help me anot?”
The playwright replied, “No, not at all. But maybe you can get round to replying my email. I told a lot of people to write in to their MPs as well.”
Mr Tan’s post has since gone viral, with over 700 shares. Netizens commended him for speaking up.
Alfian Sa’at commented on the post as well, thanking him for his support. “Btw if I haven’t said so, you are a CHAMP. Thank you so much for speaking up for me!” —/TISG