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Rachel Au-Yong
Tuesday, Jun 3, 2014

Singapore

Netizens take sides in PAP-WP clash

Rachel Au-Yong | Tuesday, Jun 3, 2014

A showdown between the chiefs of two political parties in Parliament last week spilled over to the digital world.

Pro-People's Action Party (PAP) netizens engaged Workers' Party (WP) supporters in a fierce war of words, even as online transcripts of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and WP leader Low Thia Khiang's speeches made the rounds.

The exchange was on constructive politics and took place during Parliament's debate on the President's Address on Wednesday.

The transcript of the exchange remains the most read piece on current affairs website Singapolitics (as of May 30). And at one point during the week, Mr Lee and Mr Low's stand-off became one of The Straits Times' most liked articles of the day, with a total of over 1,100 likes.

Mr Lee slammed the WP for what he described as its "breathtakingly cynical" approach to politics.

Mr Low did not take these comments lying down, and said that his party had not turned the House into a theatre.

Mr Lee also accused the WP of being less than honest about its flip-flopping on foreign workers. Mr Low insisted that his party had not, and had already "explained some misunderstandings".

He also threw punches: "In any case I also noted that when the PAP has to make a policy U-turn, they called it policy shift. I don't know whether that is a shift or a flip-flop."

The volley between the two political bigwigs was replicated in the online sphere.

Commenter Christopher Chiew said that after reading the script, he felt that Mr Low was "beating around the bush". He said: "Nothing substantial (is) coming from him while he defend(s) himself."

Others, like Jacqueline Ee, felt the 15-minute exchange raised bigger questions about the opposition's capability.

But netizen Raymond Tan launched back, defending Mr Low and the opposition as a whole.

"It takes a long time for the PAP to come up with a policy - (do) you think Mr Low can just oppose one in days?" he asked.

He said he did not think the PAP enacted certain policies to make Singaporeans suffer, but that some have impacted citizens badly.

But as supporters from both sides tried to establish that their team won, more than one felt it was a political draw.

They raised the point that all this talk about constructive politics was, in fact, not constructive.

"It's a waste of time to see two guys squabbling like little kids," said a commenter known only as Khee San.

"There are tonnes of things that we need our Government to be doing to make Singapore a better place," she said, echoing an emerging train of thought that Parliament ought to debate more on policies and less on politics.

But commenter Lynna Saim enjoyed the rigour shown in the House. "I like this type of debate," she wrote. "It make(s) me alert about where I should stand."

Another speech that drew online attention was that of Nominated MP Eugene Tan, who said his alma mater, Raffles Institution, was now less representative of the country than it used to be.

A story on it by freesheet My Paper was widely shared.

Netizen Joseph Hiew felt that "elitist culture should not be tolerated, and care (ought to) be given to nurture the underdogs".

But commenter Lim Mui Khim wondered when it had become "politically incorrect to do well enough to be accepted into RI".

myp@sph.com.sg

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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