PM Lee justifies the PAP’s weak candidate

Posted on 08 April 2011

Because cannot find enough people mah.

By Fang Shihan

“We are not able to generate the talent in order to produce those numbers of people who are able to do their job, competently, to the satisfaction of Singaporeans” – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 5/4/11

Now we know why the PAP’s fielding Tin Pei Ling. In his reply to a student during the Q&A session of the NUS-organised Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum, PM Lee defended the decision to field Miss Tin by emphasising that she empathised with the elderly, was bilingual, and had been doing grassroots work for 6 years.

He also revealed that the PAP had trouble finding suitable candidates to be fielded as potential MPs. At least, not enough candidates to form a “team B” to serve as a shadow opposition party. PM Lee did not mention if he currently had enough candidates to field a complete team.

This begs the question of whether the current team consists of deadweight to make up the numbers.

But let’s give him the benefit of doubt. Not many people are like Miss Tin: Despite the years of moral education taught both in Mother Tongue and English, not many people truly love old people, are bilingual and care as much for their community. She must have been a rare find, groomed the moment she was talent-spotted speaking at a PAP convention while schooling in NUS.

She’s not the only inexperienced new face in white. To ensure that the party does not stagnate, PM Lee emphasised that it was of utmost importance that at least a quarter of the PAP candidates are fresh faces. Around 20 new candidates will contest this elections of which 18 have already been revealed with less fanfare than Miss Tin.

If you’ve got no idea who these new guys are, you’re probably not the only one. Chan…Chan who? Orh, the former general har. He believes that Singapore should er…. er…

*crickets chirp in the background*

The new candidates have no experience in politics, credentials from past jobs aside. If they appear weak or unimpressive, that is to be expected. Paraphrasing PM Lee, voters must give them time and support over the years in order for them to deliver results.

In Singapore, new MPs are not elected based on political skill or savvy. Oh no. MPs become understudies only after they’re elected.

You, the voters, hold the key to the minister job-training centre. If these new faces don’t get voted in, they will not be able to start their on-the-job training and will hence weaken the half-a-century old PAP succession plan.

Scared already? Read on.

The GRC system allows for the assumption that all candidates who won the GRC are competent, an assumption with no proof until he, the one with no political clout, enters office.

Not only does PM Lee admit that the lack of qualified candidates has led to MPs needing to be trained on the job after being elected, the need to enforce racial harmony through the GRC system has sustained repeated batches of low-profile MPs with the ability to do a disappearing act better than David Copperfield.

You’ve heard of them. That one minority candidate in each GRC that you’ve never heard of, or seen for 5 years. And you know he’s there just to show his non-Chinese face. Whassisnameagain? Er…dunno. The Malay guy.

Okay, maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe he’s been busy behind the scenes, fixing problems plaguing the neighbourhood like broken tiles, uncleaned litter and whatnot. And there are many other Chinese MPs like that too.

But you get the point. GRCs allow politicians to… not be politicians. They allow MPs to be quiet servants of the public, or as one MP puts it, the caretaker of the constituency. Most of all, the GRC system allows for the assumption that all candidates who won the GRC are competent, an assumption with no proof until he, the one with no political clout, enters office.

A big risk for the voters, no? Yet according to PM Lee, the risk of not having a proportionate number of minority candidates is a bigger threat. At least bigger than having a potential deadweight on the GRC team.

If GRCs were abolished one day, he says, Singaporeans would vote overwhelmingly for the candidate of the same race. For example, newly converted citizen, Janil Puthucheary, despite not having done his national service and justifying that practicing medicine was a form of service to his new country, would have the overwhelming support of Indians in this country.

The PAP conducted tea sessions with 240 candidates, of which only 20 made the cut. And PM Lee still laments that the PAP cannot find enough qualified, ministerial-quality candidates. But he still has to fill the numbers. MP spots have to be taken up just like minority quotas have to be fulfilled.

Is the PAP responsible for ensuring each and every candidate is deserving of the peoples’ votes? No. They’re only responsible for ensuring a win. If a deadweight politician makes it to office just remember, you elected them.

Or did you?

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  • hahaha

    In Singapore, new MPs are not elected based on political skill or savvy. Oh no. MPs become understudies only after they’re elected.

    In that case, I would expect these MPs to only receive internship level of remuneration, ie., a couple of hundred dollars a month (not a day!). This govt really defies logic…

    • jfk

      Our on-the-job training pays us $5 a day and I believe we’re called “professionals” when we come out to work.

  • Tingtong

    There is SIMPLY no reason for TPL to come in as a understudy MP at the expense of taxpayers. The people need someone who already possess such skills to serve, and ready at get-go to hit the ground running. In private sector “understudy” is called “intern. And we dont pay them much. I suggest they nominate TPL as an NMP and let her go do all the talk-talk-no-action role. If their argument is not to field TPL in NMP role because of its restrictions, then PAP would have justisfied very well to the people what this crap about NMP/NCMP is. Why aren’t the reporters asking these tough questions?

  • xnsdvd

    She is cute though, I’ll give her that. But aren’t there any articles on her political views? Or is it true that she has none?

  • Shihan

    @hahaha: well MP interns from the PAP could still win their opposition opponents by a large margin. we did to keep their paycheck high just to make sure the quality doesn’t deteriorate. :( sad hor.

    @TPL as an NMP? Great suggestion, and I do agree. She’s do very well as a lobbyist for the elderly. But as I said to the previous commenter, it could be that she was the least bad of whatever was leftover. Maybe…they just needed the numbers.

    @xnxdvd: Cute??? Did not realise that you like the foot-stomping kind. We’ve been trying to get an interview with her, but it’s not looking positive. She has views and she has a cause to campaign for. But political views, not so sure.

  • lim

    I’m just curious why this article started out talking about Ms Tin Pei Ling (who’s not from a minority race) and then went on to comment on the supposed non-performance of minority candidates. I don’t see the link.

  • Terence

    lim, both are symptoms of the GRC system, which the writer argues, produces inferior candidates.

    sorry if the link was not clear.

  • Unconvinced Citizen

    If MPs and Ministers need to have on-the-job training, then I also can become MP or Minister. If fact, anyone of average intelligence can also be MP or Minister, if they are allowed to have trial and error, further guided by senior Ministers and Mentors. So, where is the A-Team people have been talking about? Then why pay them so high (by the $millions) to do a job many people can do? What is so special about them?

  • keesiao

    Guess it’s a madness to appoint someone with no political view of herself

  • shannon

    The replies from the PAP on this issue is simply ridiculous.
    If MPs are eligible to learn on the job and yet fetching that amount of renumeration, am sure there are lots more other candidates who ought to be field in for the job.

    Why not get some of those talented and political savvy and intelligent down-to-earth opposition party candidates to be part of the PAP’s team if they just want an alternative voice? Instead of all “yesmen” within the team who agreed every single govt policies that have been implemented?
    it’s too obvious that they would rather have mediocre yesmen MPs than daring, controversial and intellectually analytical candidates in the parliament house.

  • Something to consider

    She is not the weakest link, as did Cynthia Phua was in Aljunied GRC – she is simply not suited to be the MP with so many social problems unless the PAP wants to ‘give up’ on the ward.

  • Robingoh

    If the government has difficulty finding suitable candidates why do they keep increasing the number of wards. Do we need so many MPs for such a small population?

  • Troppofino63

    you voted the piper…she calls the tunes. too bad so sad.

  • Troppofino63

    come 2016, the p.a.p. may and should find itself the official opposition party and begin the transition of power to the w.p.   this isn’t a musing, its also not a matter of if, but a merely an inevitable an irrefutable fact of time.

  • Logic

    Any of the arguments posted here with regards to on-the-job training applies equally to the opposition parties. In fact, other than the WP, none of the other parties have had much experience. Worse, they have fewer mentors, or even none, to guide the newbies. By extension shouldn’t we all NOT vote for the opposition then, because they have no experience?

    What I want to say is just that there is no “professional” in politics, unlike in other fields like medicine or engineering. Any of you who are rooting for the opposition obviously do not mind fresh faces going into parliament to get on-the-job training. Why should it be different for the PAP candidates? 

    Although if you’re talking about specific candidates like the one discussed here then it’s slightly different…..