Is this what Singapore politics is like?

By Amanda Yong, Lediati Tan & Eugene Wee

HER name was, at one point, the top search word on Google Singapore yesterday. The day before, it was the second-most searched phrase.

One could say that Ms Tin Pei Ling, 27, is hot - but perhaps not in a way that could have been anticipated.

Being unveiled as the PAP's youngest candidate on Monday has put her in the hot seat in the court of online opinion where meanness seems to be the catchword.

So, what is it about Ms Tin that has irked netizens so much as to incite such vitriolic flaming?

Much of the brickbats have to do with the age and perceived inexperience of the senior associate at professional services firm Ernst& Young Advisory.

Others highlight her marriage to Mr Ng How Yue, the principal private secretary to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

But as Ms Tin said on Monday, when she was introduced as a candidate, she has been doing grassroots work since she was 20 - long before she even met her husband.

In fact, it was her father who introduced her to helping the community. He was a grassroots worker himself.

But netizens have ignored all that.

Instead, they focused on her age and questioned her maturity.

They pointed to online photographs and videos they claim are of her.

In one picture, she is grinning widely and holding a teddy bear in one hand and a Garfield soft toy in the other.

In another picture, she is posing with a Kate Spade gift box and making a horizontal 'V' sign with her hand.

She's "acting cute", some said. Others accused her of showing off.

But there's also her interview with journalists at the party press conference on Monday.

A clip of the interview, titled "Tin Pei Ling's greatest regret", posted on The Straits Times RazorTV website, drew14,622 views as of1amtoday.

She was asked about her greatest regret in life. She said it was that she had not yet taken her parents to the Universal Studios.

Netizen Jeremy commented: "If your greatest regret is not being able to visit an amusement park with your parents, then you are really a person with no substance."

A YouTube video of Ms Tin as an emcee at a PAP event also drew flak. At the end of the clip, finding herself at a loss for words, she says abruptly: "I don't know what to say!"

Then, she laughsand stomps her feet.

Acting cute, netizens cried.

When contacted yesterday, Ms Tin declined to comment on the online criticism.

But she did explain the YouTube video at the press conference on Monday.

She said she was receiving a youth medal at the party awards and her comrades had suggested she give a "doorstop kind of interview...a candid shot". It is unclear when the video was shot.

'Caught by surprise'

"So, I was caught by surprise. It was actually meant to be a fun video and it was uploaded onto YouTube," she said.

She was also aware of earlier online attacks.

Some netizens had criticised her when she was identified by the media as a potential candidate.

She said: "I think, for me, my objective and priority is very clear. To me, I just want to serve, I want to do my best to contribute to the community, to Singapore.

"I guess, having observed some of the activities online and given the profile in the media, it's inevitable that some of the netizens will launch an attack on me.

"I think that's also one characteristic of the social media these days."

She added: "So, I'm not affected by it at the moment... I think they may have their doubts, but I hope that given the chance, the opportunity, I can prove to everyone that I have what it takes, I have the perseverance... to do a good job, to serve the residents.

"Because at the end of the day, that's really what's more important, the most important thing, in fact, as an MP."

Ms Tin also said that while criticisms can help her avoid complacency, she won't react to all of them

She said: "Some of them can be rather personal, and it wouldn't be the best use of my energy and attention to keep thinking about why they say this about me..."

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