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The Economist and Singapore UK High Commissioner: a “bait” and “hate” relationship, accusing and rebutting each other on a heated level




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It is a long stride of accusations and rebuttals between the 175-year-old British magazine, The Economist and Foo Chi Hsia, Singapore High Commissioner to the UK from March 2017 up to November 2018.

Photo: Screengrab from YouTube

It started with the magazine’s Banyan, a column that started tackling and analyzing Asia politics in 2009. Singapore politics was never an exception but a focus of commentaries that led the High Commissioner to respond to every published one.

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She has written a total of eight letters replying and defending People’s Action Party (PAP), the ruling party of Singapore. Her Dec 18 letter turned out to be a baited one as she was intentionally incited by Banyan to give her own perspective regarding PAP’s political power, the very party that she belongs to.

Gerrymandering, harassing opposition figures, cowing the media, threatening spending cuts in districts that vote against it and “inculcating the absurd notion that its survival and that of Singapore itself are synonymous”—these are some of the reasons apart from a competent governance why PAP still has a stronghold in Singapore politics since 1959, as asserted by Banyan.

In response, the High commissioner contends: Singaporeans vote for the PAP “because it continues to deliver them good government, stability, and progress”.

Also, Foo criticized the column for its “patronising backhanded innuendos about Singapore’s ongoing political succession”.

Photo: Screengrab from YouTube

Coverage of the news all over was centered on the appointment of Heng Swee Keat, the 57-year-old finance minister as the party’s new first assistant secretary-general, the Banyan then discloses that in the April 2021 election Heng will surely succeed as the republic’s prime minister after Lee Hsien Loong. Lee, who has run the country since 2004 is the 66-year-old eldest child of Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.

Heng is one of PAP’s “4G leaders”, the younger generation of leaders in the party occupying spots in the party’s top decision-making body in the internal polls. Joining him among the ranks is the trade minister, Chan Chun Sing, who was appointed as the second assistant secretary-general.

Ever since PAP rose to power, the incumbent premier would refrain to be part of the selection process for the next prime minister. The process is in the hands of the younger ministers who choose one among themselves as the first among equals. This time, the Central Executive Committee has chosen Heng as that “first”.

Photo: Screengrab from YouTube

Democracy was a political concept both parties did not fail to deal with. In Foo’s exact words condemning how The Economist defines it: “Banyan equated democracy with freewheeling, rambunctious politics, divisive national debates, inter- and intra-party politicking, and quick changes of prime ministers and cabinet ministers. He dismissed Singapore’s political culture which strives for continuity and consensus in seeking the mandate of the people.”

After everything has been all said, the Singaporeans were confronted with a binge of claims, arguments, and analysis plus heated rebuttals that one can take so much.

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