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Singapore—Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh recently published a no-holds barred critique of Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who recently made the headlines for the leaked audio recording of a speech he made at a recent closed-door meeting with the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI).
Mr Chan drew both approval and censure for his speech, with some people praising him for authenticity and honesty, and others criticizing him for calling Singaporeans and Hongkongers “idiots,” among other things.
Mr Vakadeth, a published author and former senior editor with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), expresses concern over Mr Chan’s rise to presumptive second in command, given the Minister’s character and behaviour over the years.
While the writer praises Mr Chan for his down-to-earth ways, for Mr Vakadeth, “the evidence that keeps emerging about him only deepens my conviction that he has ascended far higher than he would have if we had genuine meritocracy at the top.”
He adds that Mr Chan’s ascent to second in command in waiting worries him, and finds that the praise Mr Chan received for the leaked audio recording shows how low the standard of leadership has gotten in Singapore.
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The writer mentions several examples to support his premise, citing the Minister’s exchange in Parliament with Worker’s Party head Pritam Singh last month, and, even more, damningly, what he terms as Mr Chan’s “denigration of his fellow citizens.”
For Mr Vakadeth, the Minister, like others “among the political and civil service elite—believe they are bearing some twisted modern form of The White Man’s Burden, and without their benevolent paternalism Singapore and Singaporeans would be rudderless, penniless peasants.”
In times past, when the country was still in its infancy, perhaps this would have been more acceptable, but today, “with talent spread so broadly across a knowledge economy that depends on the free exchange of ideas, sometimes from the most unexpected of places, this idea is not just offensive but also myopic.”
The writer further points out Mr Chan’s “obvious lack of introspection and humility” in living out what is characteristic of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) “it is because of the party’s famed governance; but when anything bad happens, it is because of individual error—those irresponsible, ungrateful, stupid idiots whom you call fellow citizens.”
Mr Vakadeth writes, “This strategy is always used when it comes to race and religion. When there is harmony, it is because of the PAP (and no, nothing to do with the fact that Singapore has been a multicultural trading port for at least two hundred years). When something flares up, it is because of individual provocateurs, like Preeti and Subhas (and no, nothing to do with the PAP’s own racist policies, including institutionalised discrimination against Malays and Indians).”
For him, Mr Chan is not the only 4G leader guilty of this, making special mention of Ong Ye Kung as an example. He writes, “Are they all trying to Out-Shanmugam Shanmugam?”
The writer unfavourably compares Mr Chan to Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who had served as Deputy Prime Minister for 8 years. “But with Tharman, one of Asia’s sharpest minds and Singapore’s most popular politician in the background, it makes the elevation of CCS seem like a cruel joke, as if Singaporeans are being forced to live through an extended reality show where the best person has so egregiously been voted off the island.”
Since Mr Chan is rumoured to be a favourite of the Prime Miniter and his wife, the choice to bypass Mr Tharman in favour of Mr Chan and current Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat is what, the writer says, scares him the most.
“CCS symbolises the idea that the Lee family’s interests are being prioritised over the party’s and the country’s.”
Mr Vakadeth went on to show how in 2017 during the debate over constitutional changes to pave the way for the reserved presidency, Mr Chan made a mockery of the yet to be held presidential election, calling Halimah Yacob “Madam President”.
He writes, “He did it not once but twice, laughing along with his fellow PAP politicians, having a ball of a time, delighting themselves in their own megalomaniac conceit.
And in the process he also helped reduce Halimah, Singapore’s first female president, to a stooge of tokenism. How will history remember that election? As the achievement of a talented and very likeable Malay Muslim lady? Or as a vulnerable lady from a minority community being exploited by a dastardly fix?”
At the end of his article the writer warns others of Mr Chan’s contempt for Singaporeans. Making reference to a Facebook post that had gone viral last week, he wrote, “Chan Chun Sing is “your beng”? That’s fine,” but added “Just remember that to him you could be an idiot. Even if not today, maybe tomorrow.” —/TISG
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