The first months of the Dragon year has not been kind to Low. He must be reminding himself, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.
First came the allegations about Yaw’s extramarital activities, an issue that Low and the WP mishandled. Instead of either coming out to say that the matter was a private one (and thereby incurring the anger of the moralists*) or saying that the WP was investigating the matter, the WP opted for stonewalling silence and evasion (Examples**). This from a party that fought a general election on the need for transparency, openness and accountability, and the need for a first-world parliament.
When the noise got extremely loud, the WP announced Yaw’s expulsion from the WP. Low explained, “[A]lmost a month had passed between the first media allegations and the WP’s decision to expel Mr Yaw Shin Leong. Mr Yaw continued to remain silent on the matter, and refused to account to the WP Central Executive Council (CEC). The WP had no choice but to invoke clause 22(a) of the WP Constitution to expel him.”
This reduced the noise considerably, as otherwise rational netizens, and the usual WP and Opposition groupies rushed to blog that the WP was “whiter than white” or at least “whiter than the PAP”. And that Low was a strategist, the equivalent of Mao, Sun Tzu, Sun Pin, Chuko Liang or Fan Li. (One of these days, I’ll blog on why Low is not a great strategist. But I’ll wait until he is riding the crest of a wave again.)
Then ex-PAP Ho Kah Leong wrote to the Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao’s forum pages suggesting that Low should take responsibility for the matter and scolded him for wasting public funds because a by-election had to be called.
Instead of his usual silence when attacked (remember his silences in parly when asked to state his views on certain issues), Mr Silence became Mr Chatterbox, replying, “Even though I was familiar with Yaw Shin Leong’s background and I have met his family and attended his two wedding ceremonies, I have no way and no authority to inspect his private matters and personal life. I am a Member of Parliament, not a private investigator! Ho … said I should take responsibility for the Yaw … saga. May I ask how I should take responsibility?”.
Well he may not be a “private investigator”, but having worked with and mentored Yaw for many a year, he has to accept the responsibility of being partly responsible for choosing Yaw to defend Hougang for the WP. He also has to accept part of the responsibility of the WP’s stonewalling silence and evasion. Finally as leader of the WP, he has to accept responsibility (albeit partially) for a systems failure. “The Workers’ Party has a system to select its candidates,” he said, so that Yaw could become a candidate shows some flaw in the system surely?
And on the issue of wasting public funds, he should have kept silent. Ho said a stupid thing. But by citing Goh Chok Tong’s call of a by-election (not a good example) many years ago, Low allowed GCT to take a nasty dig at Low (and the WP) in the process.
All in all, Low’s performance is less than satisfactory.
But don’t count him out yet. Don’t understimate the man. Who would have thought in 1991 that he would lead the WP to its first GRC victory in 2011, and that Hougang would become Fortress WP?
Also, don’t underestimate the goodwill he has from S’poreans, even from critics like me (Even I have said nice things about him). It will take a lot of mistakes to make him lose that goodwill. S’poreans will readily forgive him, or give him the benefit of the doubt. Remember, S’poreans were very forgiving of the PAP, when they perceived it as the equivalent of a bad-tempered and mean hawker who sold delicious food at very reasonable prices, while giving his enemies food poisoning that sometimes hurt accidentally an innocent customer. Even after the food ceased to delicious or good value, S’poreans supported the PAP. In economics, this is called “stickiness”. Low now has stickiness.
Let’s hope he raises his game. Perhaps, a modern-day Wei Zheng should advice him on what to say and do? If that happens, I hope Low can be Tang Tai Zong.
*But the WP would be tapping a new source of voters: the New Paper recently reported that 20% of Singapore women cheat on their husbands based on a survey done recently. And as Lucky Tan says, “For husbands the number is likely to be worse – you can take the 20% and double or triple it.”
— “if it is rumours …” (Yaw),
– “You said yourself that these are rumours, why are you still asking me?” (Low himself), and
– “We have to think carefully about our response” (deputy treasurer of the WP, a Mr Png).
These comments left me wondering if the Law Minister had been moonlighting after his pay cut, or if MP Baey’s PR firm had been advising the WP.