Tuesday, April 26, 2011

PAP's smearing campaign draws strong condemnation


Vivian Balakrishnan has been roundly criticised for engaging in "gutter politics"

By Nigel Tan
Chief Editor

Even if attention was what Dr Vivian Balakrishnan was seeking, he might be getting a little more than he bargained for.

Just hours after the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports released a damning statement on Dr Vincent Wijeysingha’s so-called “hidden gay agenda”, he has found himself roundly slammed by disgusted Singaporeans.

The entire internet has been awash with stinging criticisms of Dr Balakrishnan, with voices coming from a wide cross-section of society.

Reform Party leader Kenneth Jeyaretnam led the calls in support of Dr Wijeysingha, saying that “somebody’s sexuality is not part of his qualities as a politician”. He added that the RP did not believe in “discriminating against people on the grounds of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation”.

Political blogger Ng E-Jay accused Dr Balakrishnan of “political cowardice”, charging that the PAP team leader for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC was acting out of “sheer desperation”. He added:

“So who’s being transparent and forthright here, and who’s hiding in the shadows behind vile insinuations and personal attacks, but without coming clean on the real issues that concern all Singaporeans? The answer to me is as clear as day.”

The Temasek Review charged that Dr Balakrishnan was engaging in “gutter politics”, adding that the minister was making use of gay issues to “smear” the SDP. It called on the SDP not to get “distracted by the PAP’s desperate attempt to throw a smoke screen to divert public attention from their own failures”.

On his website, former Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong issued a detailed rebuttal of Dr Balakrishnan’s points, pointing out that the SDP candidate did not talk about lowering the age of consent for boys anywhere in the video. He also alleged that those who posted the video were guilty of contravening Section 61(d) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, and called for the culprits to be prosecuted.

Former NMP Siew Kum Hong has urged all Singaporeans to make their disgust known to the leaders of the PAP

Mr Siew summed up the entire episode by saying:

“The PAP can try all it wants, but the objective here is transparently clear to everyone: to tell the world that Vincent Wijeysingha is gay, and thereby win the votes of that part of the population that will vote based on just this single wedge issue, regardless of any other issue.”
He also called on all Singaporeans to voice their discontentment to PAP leaders:

“Well, we can all let the PAP know exactly what we think of this. Speak up, whether online or in the papers. Ask your grassroots leaders what they think about it, and whether they agree with the tactics apologised. Ask the next PAP candidate who asks for your vote, what he/she thinks about this and when the PAP will apologise. Ask the PM if the Government’s stand on all this has changed, since he presumably had the last word on this during the Section 377A debate in 2007.

Popular discussion group soc.culture.singapore was also flooded with comments from irate netizens, with one user, “truth”, alleging that “Vivian Balakrishnan is homophobic, he is anti-gay. He is hitting below the belt and is definitely unfit to serve Singaporeans.”

Political blog The Owl went one step further, asking if Dr Balakrishnan would, like in Borat’s Kazakhstan, want “all gays to wear blue hats”. The author also said that this was “the ugly face of the PAP” and “a shame to Singapore”.

Well-known gay rights blogger Alex Au took Dr Balakrishnan to task on his Yawning Bread website, in a two-part article titled “Vivian slithers in the gutter”.

In a separate article, Mr Au also raised questions regarding the video’s dubious origins, saying that it was uploaded on April 14 – ten days before Dr Bakarishnan made his comments about there being a video that the SDP was “trying to suppress”.

However, the person who uploaded the video posted: “This is the video that the SDP is trying to hide. Vincent Wijeysingha and M Ravi – lowering age of consent with boys aged 14 and repeal of 377A… more SDP promises!”

Mr Au also said that the person who uploaded the video joined YouTube the same day (April 14), and has uploaded only one video and no other.

Even the state-owned newspaper TODAY carried a letter from a disgusted reader on its website. In her letter, Lisa Li Shi-En said that the statement from Dr Balakrishnan was “disappointing” and “misleading”, and criticised the PAP’s Holland-Bukit Timah team – made up of Liang Eng Hwa, Christopher de Souza, Sim Ann and Dr Balakrishnan himself – for engaging in “gutter politics”.

Some Singaporeans, such as poster “earthyblue” on the HardwareZone forums, believe that Dr Balakrishnan’s smear campaign will cost the PAP votes. Others feel that while the tactics used are deplorable, they will eventually help the PAP to win Holland-Bukit Timah, since certain segments of the electorate are “prejudiced” and will “vote against (Dr Wijeysingha) no matter what”.

It remains to be seen if the furore will be carried over onto the ground and possibly even into the print media, though the latter seems unlikely. What Dr Balakrishnan’s comments might have done, however, is to further divide a society that is already becoming deeply polarised – something that is completely contrary to the PAP’s promise to help Singaporeans “secure our future together”.

The author is Chief Editor of The Satay Club

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