The sniping between Singapore’s political rivals over a vocal playwright’s patriotism continued this morning with Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam challenging opposition leader Pritam Singh to take a position.
Shanmugam asked Pritam this morning to say publicly whether he supports the views expressed in the past by Alfian Sa’at about Malaysia and Singapore, which were invoked last week by another member of the ruling party as being insufficiently loyal to Singapore.
Shanmugam described that criticism from Jurong GRC MP Tan Wu Meng described as “serious and thoughtful.”
“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. And let me make clear- this is not about artistic freedom, or license, those are not being questioned. This is specifically about Mr Singh asking the Government to listen to a specific individual,” he wrote online.
Shanmugam had on Sunday defended Tan Wu Meng’s comments about Alfian, even accusing the latter of taking “Malaysia’s side” in comments he wrote two years ago when that country’s government vessels were in Singapore’s waters.
Coconuts Singapore has reached out to Tan for comment.
Shanmugam said that while Alfian was entitled to his views, Pritam had “stood up” in Parliament on June 5, “asking the government to listen” to the playwright.
Singh responded by saying he does “not specifically track what our playwrights say about Malaysia,” and that the Worker’s Party would “stand with Singapore” on sovereignty issues. But he still showed support for local theatre practitioners and their perspectives “on subjects considered taboo or sensitive by mainstream standards.”
Singh also pointed out that Tan had published his views on the PAP website last week but “did not register his objections and question me directly in Parliament,” implying that it was a “calculated decision” considering the looming general elections.
Shanmugam responded to Singh this morning saying that he was “glad” that the Worker’s Party would continue to be on Singapore’s side. But he would still like to hear from Singh whether Alfian’s views on Malaysia and Singapore would “merit his support.”
Alfian denied Tan’s assertion that he was mocking Singapore’s approach as “jingoism” during the 2018 standoff with Malaysia. Alfian said he was expressing his “dovish anxiety” and had expected Singapore “exhaust all diplomatic channels for solutions rather than to rely on jingoism – extreme nationalism, in the form of aggressive or warlike foreign policy.”
Tan had also described Alfian as someone who was “drawn to” Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, citing a 2013 post. Alfian clarified that he was actually “writing about how Mahathir is able to turn on his charms to manipulate his listeners.” He went on to list his numerous past criticisms of Mahathir.