Singapore—Writer Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh tackled the issue of Workers’ Party (WP) members being “champagne socialists,” as one former Nominated Member of Parliament has lately claimed them to be.
In a series of recent posts, former NMP Calvin Cheng, who is known for his decidedly pro-administration opinions, posted about the lifestyles of WP Members of Parliament Dr Jamus Lim and Ms Raeesah Khan, whom he called “celebrity MPs,” in the context of them being “Champagne Socialists.”
He pointed out that Ms Khan celebrated her birthday in her “3 storey bungalow home in Eunos” as well as “amongst the heartlanders at Compassvale,” and that Mr Lim “shares with his fans the joys of Italian sweetbread panettone, with a designer espresso, lovingly shot with his latest iPhone 12.”
Mr Cheng later called these posts “sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek” but that he has a “serious message” about not heading down “the path of superficial Western politics where packaging is more important than substance.”
Mr Vadaketh, a writer for the Economist Group and the author of the socio-economic narrative “Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore,” wrote an in-depth article addressing Mr Cheng’s claims entitled, “Why are there so many Champagne (Panettone) Socialists in Singapore?”
According to the writer, Mr Cheng’s claims “offer clues about the future of elitism, meritocracy and political ideologies in Singapore.”
First of all, he showed how the WP is not socialist “by any modern definition”. Citing the WP’s push toward a minimum wage of S$1300 for Singapore’s lowest-paid workers, Mr Vadaketh said it was an “effort at affording greater social protections amid wrenching economic upheaval; hardly the stuff of socialist wet dreams.”
There is the reason that party has been derided as “PAP lite,’ he explained.
“The WP, then, seems to recognise that many Singaporeans want moderate, not extreme, socio-economic change. Over the past decade, in fact, some voters have poo-poohed the WP for its moderation, using ‘PAP lite’ pejoratively on it. This partly explains the support for parties like the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), seen by some as the true champion of social justice and democratic rights.
This is also why the PAP today is so wary of the threat from the WP: same same but different. If the recent minimum wage debate is anything to go by, the WP appears to be successfully outflanking it on the left, more attuned to shifting ground sentiment.”
Mr Vadaketh also spoke up in defence of the WP MPs Mr Cheng had taken potshots at, writing that Ms Khan and Dr Lim come across as more authentic than some of the candidates from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).
“From their unabashed foreign accents to her (Ms Khan’s) assertiveness on issues of social justice and his (Dr Lim’s) penchant for repeating witticisms—are we finally done with cockles?—I get the feeling I’m listening to authentic, genuine voices. Whatever their flaws, they seem more self aware, more comfortable in their own skin. It is the same with many other opposition politicians.”
Mr Vadaketh’s piece, which dissects Mr Cheng’s claims, as well as discusses the possible future of meritocracy, can be found here. —/TISG
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