SINGAPORE: Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh on Sunday night (Jun 21) said that an article written by People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament Tan Wu Meng was "politically motivated" to divide Singaporeans.
It was Mr Singh's first direct response to an opinion piece by Dr Tan Wu Meng titled Mr Pritam Singh Supports Alfian Sa’at, which was posted on the PAP website on Jun 19.
In the article, after listing several Facebook posts by Mr Alfian in which the poet claimed to support Malaysia, Jurong GRC MP Dr Tan said: "I suggest (Mr Singh) read them carefully, and then tell us if he still thinks Alfian is a 'loving critic' of Singapore. If he does, perhaps Mr Singh considers himself a 'loving critic' of Singapore too?"
Mr Singh had made the comments about "loving critics" of Singapore during the debate on the Fortitude Budget in Parliament on Jun 5.
"LEAP OF LOGIC"
Mr Singh's initial response to Dr Tan was a brief Facebook post which said: "A loving critic. A son of Singapore. Not perfect. As imperfect as you and me Dr Tan, maybe more, maybe less."
In his latest response, which he posted on Facebook, Mr Singh said that it was a "belated but calculated decision" to post Dr Tan's article on the PAP website "on the eve of imminent general elections", and called it a "leap of logic" to say that the WP endorses "every controversial view Mr Alfian has made".
"For these reasons, it is my view that Dr Tan’s questions, cloaked as innocent ones, were politically motivated to divide Singaporeans into those who are for or against - not Singapore - but the PAP, and to paint the WP in negative light," he wrote.
"How the PAP chooses to conduct its politics is something for the PAP to decide. The public are equally entitled to respond as they deem fit - within the remit of the law – and at the ballot box."
"A LEGITIMATE QUESTION"
On Sunday, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam weighed in and said "Dr Tan’s note asks a serious and thoughtful question".
"Dr Tan did not say anything about Mr Pritam Singh’s character. He asked a legitimate question in response to what Mr Pritam Singh had said in Parliament, as to what the Government should do," he said.
"When Mr Pritam Singh, as leader of the Opposition, stands up in Parliament and supports Mr Alfian Sa’at and says he is a loving critic of Singapore, then I think we are entitled to ask in a healthy democracy, which side do you stand on?”
Responding to Mr Shanmugam's comments on the same night, Aljunied GRC MP Mr Singh said: "When it comes to Singapore’s sovereignty, there can be no doubt where the WP has stood and will continue to stand. We stand with Singapore."
He added that Singaporeans such as Mr Alfian should not be "admonished" in Parliament based on "a selective reading of their works".
"However, should any Singaporean consistently establish that he or she rejects Singapore or our Constitution or runs Singapore down with a political agenda overseas, neither I, nor the WP will stand for such conduct," he said.
On Monday morning, Mr Shanmugam wrote in another response that he was glad that Mr Singh had said that "WP under him will continue to stand squarely with the Government when it comes to foreign relations".
"This continues the stance that Mr Low Thia Kiang took," said Mr Shanmugam.
The minister added that he looked forward to Mr Singh "telling us if he still believes that Mr Alfian Sa’at’s views on Malaysia and Singapore merit his support".
"He admits now that he hadn’t examined these statements before declaring Mr Sa’at a 'loving critic' and admonishing the Government for not heeding Mr Sa’at’s wisdom," said Mr Shanmugam.
"He need not rush to examine those statements, (set out in Dr Tan’s post), but I hope to hear his views on them in good time."
Mr Shanmugam also said that the issue "was not about artistic freedom or license".
"This is specifially about Mr Singh asking the Government to listen to a specific individual."
Political parties have ramped up ground activities since Phase 2 of Singapore's reopening on Jun 19 while also intensifying efforts to engage voters online for an election that many speculate will be called soon.