Singapore playwright Alfian Sa’at today said it was “bad form” for Parliament Member Tan Wu Meng to trash him on the ruling political party’s website.
Alfian said Tan, a member of the ruling People’s Action Party, painted him as unpatriotic this morning as a cheap way to attack “a member of an Opposition Party,” referring to Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh.
“If you wish to call me out on various statements that I have made over the years, then do it without having to drag other people into it,” Alfian wrote in response. “I’m very happy to have a discussion with you about what I think of Singapore, Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew, Mahathir, etc.”
In his post titled Pritam Singh supports Alfian Sa’at, Tan claimed that Alfian was one of Singapore’s “loving critics” Singh mentioned earlier this month before going on to slam “his disdain for Singapore.”
“But Alfian Sa’at is no ‘loving critic’. For nearly a decade, Alfian has consistently praised Malaysia to illustrate his disdain for Singapore,” Tan wrote, highlighting Alfian’s comments dating back to 2011, when the playwright opined that Chinese Singaporeans seemed to fear merger with Malaysia due to that country’s policies supporting indigenous people.
Though Tan linked the two men, Singh made no mention of Alfian in his comments earlier this month.
Tan, who represents the Jurong GRC, also called attention to several past comments of Alfian’s that were critical of Singapore or supportive of neighboring Malaysia.
Alfian said he knew his past statements might be used against his allies, saying he’s “mindful” his “overly glowing testimonies would in the end hurt my Malaysian friends, by papering over their very real struggles for justice and equality.”
He also noted that he has also been critical of Malaysia, including in one of his plays, Parah, which touches on Malaysian racial politics.
“I just don’t understand this roundabout way of attacking an opposition Member of Parliament. Were those statements about Malaysia made by that opposition party member? No. Has that opposition party member specifically endorsed or agreed with any of these statements I have made? No. Is there anything in the manifesto of that opposition party that echoes these statements? No,” Alfian said.
Singh also responded to Tan’s post today.
“A loving critic. A son of Singapore,” he wrote. “Not perfect. As imperfect as you and me Dr Tan, maybe more, maybe less.”
The flap comes as the general election looms despite the lack of a confirmed polling date. The elections department recently published guidelines for campaigns which are expected to mostly take place online due to COVID-19. Physical rallies are not allowed, but candidates will get airtime on television.