Singapore—Wake Up, Singapore, a political website run by a “community of young activists” asked on its Facebook page on June 18 why the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) “doesn’t allow” Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam to be the Prime Minister.
Why doesn't the PAP allow Tharman to be PM?
Mr Tharman, the Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, also served as the country’s Deputy Prime Minister from 2011 to 2019, until he was replaced by Heng Swee Keat. He’s a well-beloved and highly respected political leader.
In a 2019 poll on social media which had nearly 20,000 respondents, an overwhelming 92 percent of voters said they would choose Mr Tharman over Mr Heng to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and become the nation’s next head of Government. A survey from this publication, as well as a Blackbox survey commissioned by Yahoo Singapore, had similar results.
In a forum last year at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), NTU assistant professor Walid Jumblatt Abdullah hightailed about the popularity of Mr Tharman and asked Mr Heng, “Is it Singapore who is not ready for a non-Chinese prime minister, or is it the PAP (the ruling People’s Action Party) who is not ready for a non-Chinese prime minister?”
Mr Heng said that Singapore might not be ready yet for a non-Chinese Prime Minister, especially those from older generations. He said that from his “own experience in walking the ground, in working with different people from all walks of life, is that the views — if you go by age and by life experience — would be very different,” but added, “I do think that at the right time when enough people think that we may have a minority leader, a minority who becomes the leader of the country, that is something that we can all hope for.”
This was reflected in the answers given by netizens to the question posed by Wake Up, Singapore.
Fazlena Kaswadi wrote, “According to their bubble survey, they say sporean not ready for non-chinese pm. Only in Singapore is this kind of discrimination legal and accepted.”
Mohan Tamilmaran commented, “Cos the PAP wants us to think that Spore, being Chinese majority, is not ready for a non-Chinese PM. Yet the govt deems it so important that the a President should be Malay, never mind whether or not Spore is ready.”
Another netizen, going by the name of YA AO As, answered, “They are afraid of letting go of a family business.”
One comment zeroed in on how intelligent Mr Tharman is. Lalli Maniam wrote, “Tharman is very smart, not like the ones who are sitting there and saying one can have Cotton from the ? sheep ????”
Another netizen seems to believe so highly in Mr Tharman that he said if the Senior Minister ever formed a “team” on his own, he would win.
Thng Felix commented, “Tharman shd form a team by himself and contest in the Election for the betterment of all Singsporeans…he will win . I will vote for him 100%”
Others also wrote of him in glowing terms.
Adrian Ng wrote, “very obvious tharman is much more pm calibre than any of the 4G.The way he express n carry himself is PM material.”
The question from Wake Up, Singapore, came just after Mr Tharman made the fifth in the series of ministerial broadcasts on Wednesday night (June 17). He talked about the impact of Covid-19 as not only an economic recession, saying soberly that “it has the makings of a profound social crisis”. Social divisiveness has already taken its toll in other countries that are experiencing unrest, and the Senior Minister cautioned that Singaporeans should not think it cannot happen on our shores.
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