Written by Ng E-Jay
06 April 2011
Why is it that the Tin Pei Ling saga just won’t die down? It has been nearly two weeks since netizens began dragging her private photographs out into the open and making inane insinuations about the background of her marriage. A heated debate has erupted, with some defending Ms Tin’s right to privacy, and others questioning the quality of the candidates PAP is fielding, as well as the flaws in our GRC system.
An online petition to field Tin Pei Ling in an SMC has also been initiated (Sgpolitics.net was the first local socio-political blog to openly make this suggestion). Started by one Mr Ti Kiang Heng on 4 April, the petition has started garnered well over a thousand signatories so far (see here).
The massive reaction by cyberspace is noteworthy, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates that netizens are speaking up more on socio-political issues and are far from apathetic. Perhaps the closeness of the general election date has a lot to do with the increased participation. Nonetheless it is heartening to note that the internet community is articulating its views in a stronger voice than ever before and more people are logging on to read, react and interact with others concerning current issues. The authorities must know that they had better started paying even closer attention to what is being circulated on the net, because the cyber community will only grow and become exponentially more vocal over time.
Secondly, the Tin Pei Ling saga is one of the rare instances when there has been so much attention drawn to the caliber of PAP candidates, and the apparent flaws in the GRC system. It used to be that only staunch opposition supporters regularly questioned our political system and our lack of democracy. Now, it seems people from all walks of life are actively thinking about the issue and openly questioning whether the PAP is using the GRC system to bulldoze inferior candidates into Parliament.
It is hoped that this saga will serve as a springboard to galvanize Singaporeans into thinking about the merits or lack thereof of our political system, about how the PAP has gerrymandered itself into a position of dominance, about how the PAP has used budget carrots to sweeten the ground, as well as mask its administrative failures and its incompetence.
One can hope that Singaporeans will gradually realize that just focussing on bread-and-butter issues alone is insufficient. As long as the PAP is able to use the current political system to unfairly and undemocratically entrench itself, there will never be significant improvement as far as bread-and-butter issues are concerned.
Thirdly, this election must be the first in which PAP candidates have been put under such intense scrutiny by the public, and by the internet community in particular. There are signs that the electorate is becoming more discriminate over time and less likely to blindly buy into the hype that the mainstream media regularly dishes out concerning PAP candidates.
If this trend continues, we can hope that Singaporeans in the future will not so easily succumb to the temptation to vote for the incumbent PAP in a GRC just so as to guarantee that the minister will retain his post. It would be a very positive development if Singaporeans begin questioning whether the PAP GRC team as a whole will serve their interests best, rather than base their judgment simply on the electoral heavyweights like the ministers.
Why is it that many netizens can’t get over Tin Pei Ling?
Perhaps it is because many netizens have always felt the political system to be unfair, and the GRC system in particular to be flawed. The Tin Pei Ling saga is a spark that makes these concerns boil to the surface.
Once the fire has erupted, it is now difficult to extinguish it. This is because the issue at hand is not just about a seemingly immature and inexperienced candidate who “acts cute” and who has “no substance” being bulldozed into a GRC under the protection and shelter of a ministerial heavyweight.
The issue at hand is about the PAP’s undemocratic use of the GRC system to ride roughshod over the electorate, and its apparent unwillingness to put its candidates through the rough and tumble of a straight one-to-one contest against an opposition candidate.
The issue at hand is about the PAP complaining that Singaporeans have become soft, that the locals have become less hard-driving and hard-striving (to quote Minister Mentor Lee), and yet at the same time treating their own candidates like little strawberries that must be sheltered from chaotic buzz of a free and fair electoral battle.
The issue at hand is about hypocrisy and the blatant lack of democracy from the PAP.
The furore over Tin Pei Ling is a sign that the electorate is beginning to take these political concerns seriously. People may not yet be quite ready to call the PAP an undemocratic government. But the people are surely becoming more aware, and more awake to the fact that our political system is flawed.
We can hope that this awareness will grow over time, and people will one day realize that the PAP Government is far from the shining bastion of democracy it makes itself out to be, but in fact a political bully and a coward.