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Don’t talk Chinese in parliament

Don’t talk Chinese in parliament

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This is not Suzhou, so why make parliamentary speeches in Mandarin?

By translation meister Chong Zhi Ping

I have no idea how the trend snowballed.

Maybe it was from Chen Show Mao, who during his inaugural parliamentary speech last October, took the silk route to compare PAP with an ancient Chinese emperor and the Worker’s Party as the side-kick court adviser, before making his point that the Blues had a role to play in the legislature.

Chen is, of course, of Taiwanese origin and spent his majority career in Beijing – so perhaps he needed time to assimilate. Implausibly, the PAP MPs rushed to entertain him. In their non-native Mandarin Chinese. Some even became Tang dynasty experts overnight.

Oh sayang.

Why couldn’t they just condemn CSM as a Munjen chauvinist?

Regardless, I kept my faith in the PAP’s ability. Their track record for maintaining the impeccable standard of atas-ness in parliament over the years has been immaculate.

So I thought: the sudden Cheenafication in parliament was probably one-off. To defy the impression that they don’t give chance to opposition. Not the best PR move in my books, but acceptable.

Except… those ching chong chang continued clanging into “now-you’re being-really annoying” territory. Like the family singing KTV downstairs until 3am in the morning.

I shall name the latest culprits:

Josephine Teo, in a pseudo channel 8 anchor voice, began her parliamentary address in Mandarin, for no apparent reason. As if hosting the Tuesday Report, she detailed the troubles she faced while making the decision to join politics; you know, public scrutiny, loss of privacy, loss of personal time, and stuff. Of course the government’s fatal attraction of being ‘clean’ then swept her off her feet. Which is why she’s on the rostrum, all sparkling and doe-eyed.

Ditto Lee Bee Wah, heaping copious praises on the PM’s ‘transparency’ and ‘openness’ among others. She ended up sounding more like Henry Thia in a typical Jack Neo production.

Happy Chinese New Year from this writer by the way *^_^*

Goodness me. Are the ladies trying to justify their rocket salary by insinuating, “Hey look, we are effectively bilingual?”

Because if that’s the case, it’s not working. Especially for aunt Bee Wah, who clearly needs to work on her English as well.

Or are they mindful, that if they were to speak entirely in English, they might have had their message(s) lost in translation by Zaobao reporters, ala Pritam Singh?

Here’s the kicker: after all that effort to out-cheena CSM, the bodies of their speeches were ultimately delivered in Angmoh.

Which renders the gesture as lame as it can get.

Like neither here nor there.

Like the new ministerial pay scheme.

So, you may ask, why not just do the whole thing in half-baked Mandarin to complete the Chinese opera?

– I’ll tell you why.

1) They have to take into account that Tharman, Shanmugam et al also exist in parliament (even if they may privately joke that they can’t see them).

2) English is still the lingua franca of our ruling party elitists; they need English to convey the important stuff.

In which case, Tharman could have been excused for playing Fruit Ninja on his iPhone while his colleagues were busy getting street cred from the Chinese papers.

My question is then – why create this babel? If every MP starts telling grandmother stories in their so-called mother tongue, how on earth is the parliament going to continue solving pressing issues in double quick time?

Parliamentary efficiency and first-rate government, that was what the PAP promised when urging us to vote for them, no?

Take the cue from The Old Man. He already cannot tahan. Don’t make him repent for hanging on.