The media and Yaw Shin Leong

A while back, I made a prediction that as opposition parties make headway into the political mainstream, new media will increasingly make those parties the objects of scrutiny. The oft-repeated complaint of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and its government that new media tends to give opposition parties a free pass while fiercely attacking the government will prove to be a passing phase.

Indeed, this phase is passing.  A well-known blog, T R Emeritus, recently wrote of an alleged affair between Yaw Shin Leong, Workers’ Party member of parliament for Hougang, and another party member who had stood as an election candidate in the recent general elections. Both are said to be married. The accusation is therefore that of adultery — which in Singapore is not a crime, I need to add.

The allegations lit up social media, though few other blogs followed suit. The traditional media however, picked up the story and tried to confirm it. If you’re partisan about it, you might say the pro-government traditional media was merely seizing the opportunity to make the Workers’ Party look bad, never mind if the story was initiated by a blog that the same traditional media would often hold its noses over.

However, an argument could be made that regardless of provenance, the story was newsworthy enough to be followed.

But, to come back to my first point, this report by a blog is consistent with my thesis and prediction that as new media matures, it is going to come in different flavours and it is going to treat all public issues and political actors as fair game. Which, generally speaking,  I think is good for Singapore.

It is traditional media that is going to stay immature. It is imprisoned in the cot mandated by the government. Despite its claims, newsworthiness is not the sole or even most important criterion for choosing its stories.

Look how the Straits Times reported the strike by 200 foreign workers at a construction site in Tampines. The headline said:

Wage dispute resolved after 200 workers stage protest
Construction firms agree to pay salaries unpaid since November after MOM intervenes

It is a weird headline because the newsworthy thing is that a strike occurred, yet the main thrust of the headline was not that. Rather, it hailed the government for being effective in solving / curing / bringing about happiness and harmony just like the government of the Great Leader / Dear Leader / and whatever new leader in a certain Northeast Asian country.

Photo from The Online Citizen

The Online Citizen did a better job than the Straits Times. Carrying the same story, its headline said, simply, and to the point:

Construction workers strike at Tampines

It so happened that a week prior, Channel NewsAsia approached the charity I volunteer with over a documentary they were planning to do on the subject of the increasing numbers of foreign workers in Singapore and the impact of that trend. I told them that if they wanted to interview me, they had to be prepared for the likelihood that my comments would be highly critical of government policy, and for obvious reasons:  I see that a lot of problems faced by foreign workers and Singaporeans alike over this issue can be traced to blindsides in policy. I suggested to the CNA representative that she should check with her higher-ups whether they would air such comments.

A few days later, she phoned back to say thank you very much but they wouldn’t need to interview me after all. I don’t feel I should disclose what exactly was said in that conversation, but it would be a fair conclusion to say that my initial gutfeel was not contradicted.

Enough about foreign workers, let’s talk about the Yaw story.

* * * * *

Last night, the Workers’ Party issued a terse statement to say that Yaw Shin Leong had resigned from the Executive Council and his position as Treasurer. In about 100 words, it said:

The Workers’ Party wishes to inform the public that at the monthly meeting of the Executive Council on Tuesday, 7 February 2012, the Council accepted the resignation of Yaw Shin Leong from the party leadership. Yaw Shin Leong will cease to be Treasurer of the Party with immediate effect.

The Council has also decided to appoint the Deputy Treasurer, Yee Jenn Jong, as the Party’s Treasurer.

Yaw Shin Leong will focus on his responsibilities as Member of Parliament for Hougang.

The Workers’ Party assures residents of Hougang of the Party’s commitment to the constituency and to supporting the work of their Member of Parliament.

There was no mention of the allegations, entirely in keeping with Yaw’s and the party’s “no comment” stance through the last few weeks. However, the resignation alone will probably confirm in many people’s minds the notion that the allegations were well founded. That said, they remain allegations, and as I had pointed out above, if even it was a case of adultery as rumoured, such is not a crime.

Nor is it my intention to discuss the truth or falsity of these rumours. What I found interesting was the reaction of the Workers’ Party. In choosing to stonewall the issue, the party is tacitly kowtowing to two things that I consider damaging to Singapore’s long-term interests, and that will probably come back to haunt the party:

1. By refusing to discuss the allegations, the party in effect submits to the moralism that is being whipped up.

Accusations of adultery on the part of politicians are always built on the unstated premise that politicians should be morally pure, super-human, virtually saints. Setting such a high bar will deter the best and brightest from coming forward to serve, not just the Workers’ Party, but any other party. While we can acknowledge the fact that leadership does indeed call for some degree of personal discipline, we should never confuse politics with religion. Short of being saint-like,  a reasonable modicum of discipline, plus a large dose of humility and honesty with the public should be good enough to earn trust and goodwill.

But by refusing the route of honesty, the Workers’ Party is implicitly subscribing to the moralism at play, thus conceding the tenet that politicians should have nothing less than immaculate lives.

I think the party is making a huge mistake. As I told the Straits Times (reported 8 Feb 2012): “‘The WP and Mr Yaw should have had a forthright discussion with Singapore citizens about whatever it may be that may have generated the rumours,” and to seek understanding rather than duck.

2. By refusing to discuss the allegations, the party in effect subscribes to the notion that only politicians should set the agenda, not the public.

One of the things Singaporeans are truly sick of is the PAP dictum that the government should be setting the agenda for the media and voters, not the other way around. People should respond (preferably rally to) the government’s ideas, but the government does not have to respond to the public’s. The behaviour of the Workers’ Party in this instance is cut from the same cloth. The party is saying it will only discuss what it wants to discuss, not what the public considers important or newsworthy.

I suspect the party is hoping the issue will blow away in time and Yaw’s hard work serving his constituents will earn him reelection at the next general election. It may well be, and that constituents will overlook these allegations and vote for him again for his dedication and effectiveness in Parliament. But if so, it will only prove the other point I made to the Straits Times: “If they think Singaporeans have a one-track mind, the party is wrong. I don’t think Singaporeans on the whole are always judgmental.”

If the party hopes Hougang voters will overlook the allegations at the next general elections — they are hardly likely to forget them — why doesn’t the party trust that Singaporeans will be understanding now?  Why not set an example of honesty and openness now?

Why is the Workers’ Party putting on the PAP’s mask of sullen resistance?

88 Responses to “The media and Yaw Shin Leong”

  1. 1 Poker Player 8 February 2012 at 14:41

    “Accusations of adultery on the part of politicians are always built on the unstated premise that politicians should be morally pure, super-human, virtually saints.”

    And this in turn is based on the unstated premise that the number of men who don’t commit adultery and who are also not morally pure super-human virtual saints – is zero.

  2. 2 m'sia 8 February 2012 at 14:45

    wanna bet that wp will drop this guy like a hot potato in the next ge ?

  3. 3 Anon 8 February 2012 at 19:36

    I think WP is handling this just right. By dropping Yaw from the leadership team, WP is distancing itself from Yaw. Both for its own sake, as well as for Singapore’s good, WP cannot go any further – getting Yaw to step down over a private affair goes too far (in my opinion) and will result in a by-election. There’s a difference between the SCDF/Corruption Board’s case vs Yaw’s case, in that the former involves not just affair but potential corruption by a supplier. Unfortunately for Yaw, all 3 cases came into light at around the same time, hence the increased public scrutiny and the inevitable comparison – see how the PAP is handling this vs the WP. But the 3 cases are different. Yaw’s case is a private matter. Even the PAP had had its share of “moral failings”, none of which led to an MP stepping down. Examples of PAP MPs having affair includes a recent former MP of Toa Payoh, a former MP who is a doctor, etc. Its just that the press didn’t give coverage to these. My own opinion is that as long as the issue is settled between the MP and his wife (which is essentially what matters most) and does not affect his work as an MP, its live and let live. Maybe I’ve been influenced by American politics seeing how Bill Clinton is such an effective president, despite his moral failings. So I think WP is handling this just right. I’m sure some Singaporeans will have a different standard and to each his own to judge.

    • 4 Jammie Wong 9 February 2012 at 00:32

      if the speculation news on SCDF/CNB turns out to be true, and CPIB’s investigation only finds “serious personal misconduct”, i.e. the two chiefs slept with female IT executive who’s also a vendor, and no other wrong doing whatsoever

      …would u accept that the case is “private matter” of the chiefs?

      ..would accept government (CPIB) – after sacking the two chiefs, say nothing more, not even confirming the speculative news?

      …would u accept if government re-instate the two chiefs – as the issue is “private matter”, and issue no statement, announce no investigation result?

      • 5 sg 9 February 2012 at 15:07

        there is a difference between the 2 cases..

        SCDF/CNB case is receiving sexual favours/or $$ and giving out a benefit which is related to your professional scope of work…

        YSL sexual life did not interfere with any of his professional work thus in my view purely private.. (unless there is evidence he gave some monetary or other benefit in terms of procurement, professional contract etcc or assets then diff story.. but at this moment it appears to be purely personal relations..)

        the fact is no human is perfect…if you are looking for 20 ministers who are capable, got IQ, EQ, non corrupt, morally upright.. then you are looking for 20 GODs… which i wish you good luck in your search..

        the impt thing to ask is, what values/qualities do singaporeans value more in a minister/MP??

    • 6 Vote for Change 9 February 2012 at 10:45

      I think that the ball is in Yaw’s court, not WP. WP has no right to disclose Yaw’s personal affair without his consent. What WP did is correct – dropping Yaw from the CEC as a form of accountability. WP should tell the media that it has done its part, the rest is up to Yaw himself.

      • 7 Jane 9 February 2012 at 15:58

        There is an agenda here and if people can’t see it they are stupid. As many of the commentators in this post have said, his conduct is his personal affair, unlike the other 2 govt guys.

        But quite apart from that, look at what the other alternative media (not TOC) is doing, look at how the bashers are questioning him, in the way they would never question all those who have gone that way before him, but have their affairs hidden just because they are wearing the right colour.

        Most disgusting of all is whether this agenda was started by a filthy pathetic plant who is himself a philanderer, and now fuelled by silly people who have never had any self-awareness, and whose skeletons, should they be exposed will be even worse and illegal, to boot.

  4. 8 yuen 8 February 2012 at 19:56

    I dont think PAP believe its people are saints: they openly admit they need high salaries in order to justify going into politics, and anyone thinking of committing transgressions would fear to lose such privileges .

    They do believe they are better qualified and better informed than ordinary citizens, and deserve to set the agenda. (Remember GCT wrote to Catherine Lim that she should go into politics if she wished to set the agenda, not try to do it by writing ST columns, i.e., if she was merely a story writer, then she was not entitled to “set the agenda”)

    I dont see why it would be in WP’s interest to hold “a forthright discussion with Singapore citizens about whatever it may be that may have generated the rumours,” If I were invited to such a meeting, I would ask questions like

    is it true you got so and so pregnant?
    does she intend to have an abortion?
    if not, would there be a paternity DNA test?
    if you are the father, do you intend to pay child maintenance?

    it seems obvious to me that any open discussion would end badly.

    • 9 yawningbread 9 February 2012 at 01:10

      I don’t see why these questions shouldn’t be asked, and why they shouldn’t be answered. Nor do I think that it will be certain to end badly. I think we should give Singaporeans more credit, in being able to see that real life is never black and white, but multiple shades of gray, and able to see that the better politician is not one who pretends to be perfect and holy, but one who is humble and honest.

  5. 10 Elijah Lau 8 February 2012 at 20:52

    In Western democracies, unless you’re JFK, if there’s a whiff of sexual improprieties for a politician, the first action is to immediately call a press conference and blab it all out. Disclose all! Because if you don’t, the media will stir the pot till the cows come home. And media penetration is very high.

    In Singapore, this may not be the best strategy, as media penetration is not that high for certain sectors of the population. If we look at it from a tactical point of view, YSL, to keep his seat, only needs to win a simple majority of voters in Hougang, a significant number of which are not plugged into trending news and who value more an MP’s personal presence and work.

    So from an electoral strategy viewpoint, it may be better to clam up.

    • 11 Poker Player 8 February 2012 at 22:44

      “In Singapore, this may not be the best strategy, as media penetration is not that high for certain sectors of the population.”

      We are talking about a long time opposition constituency here.

    • 12 YMC 15 February 2012 at 11:47

      Not true. The deceased French President – François Mitterrand – kept a Mistress for a long time and fathered a daughter with her. During his funeral – both wife and mistress met and iirc they both participated together in the funeral service. I’m not so sure why having consensual adult sexual relationships is so frowned upon, esp. in today’s more permissive society. The whole idea of monogamy is a fairly recent legislation. And really so what if a man has two or three wives? In all ancient societies, polygamy was well practiced. I don’t see the big deal if someone has a girlfriend or two on the side so long as he/she does his job well.

      • 13 yuen 15 February 2012 at 16:42

        I take no position on whether polygamy is right or wrong, but point out two not so long ago cases: Nelson Rockefeller destroyed his chance of becoming US president by divorcing and remarrying, but John Kennedy did fine despite his rampant womanizing; draw your own conclusions

        In the mean time, theory and historical examples have little bearing on the Yaw Shin Leong case, and neither he nor Workers Party are fully in control of events; instead, further development of the case is up to the (so far) unnamed mistress and her husband, depending on whether they decide to reconcile or divorce, and on the reporters, depending on whether they continue to dig for additional information

      • 14 yuen 15 February 2012 at 18:44

        now that Yaw has lost his seat, I would guess Gerald Giam will be standing for WP, and his NCMP could be re-nominated for another of the East Coast candidates; he will surely be elected if no 3 corner fight takes place; however, another opposition party might think it is a good opportunity to get some publicity, even if it might cost them the election deposit or give PAP a chance (small as it might be) of taking back Hougang

  6. 15 Loh 8 February 2012 at 21:15

    Low Thia Khiang should have bit the bullet and tell Yaw to resign from the party altogether. A move like that may seem reckless as it would mean they could lose Hougang. But I believe they would still win it. Yaw won by a fairly large margin largely because of the good groundwork laid by Low. And a bold move to sack Yaw from the party would show Singaporeans the WP puts honesty and integrity above their own party’s interests. It would sort of turn defeat into victory.

  7. 19 Anonymous 8 February 2012 at 23:26

    Goh Meng Seng said: “Alex Au only comes up to state the obvious on hindsight without the intent to provide a viable solution for WP and YSL. I did it to provide WP and YSL an option how to get out from the mess. I have even stated very clearly that it could go very wrong if it is mismanaged.”

    • 20 yawningbread 9 February 2012 at 00:42

      Firstly, I am not interested in “provid[ing] WP and YSL an option how to get out of the mess.” If WP and YSL fucked up, it is not my job to help save them. So accusing me of not doing my bit to save them is quite off the mark. It’s not the mission of this blogger. If anything, stating an expectation like that is precisely what I was pointing out — the misconception that new media should always be pro-opposition.

      What I am interested in is how politics should be conducted in Singapore in a manner that gives due respect to voters and their concerns. I am on the side of voters, democratic processes and transparency, not on any party’s side.

      In any case, I did suggest a better way of dealing with the allegations: Talk about them. If there is basis, admit so and explain, so that the public gets a fuller picture and can form a more considered opinion. If there is no basis, deny them and clear the air.

  8. 21 Anonymous 9 February 2012 at 00:13

    I can’t agree more with Alex. Recent incidents have all shown that when it comes to fallibility – all men truly are equal.

    The problem lies not with our best and brightest – it lies with ourselves. Our expectations are unrealistic to begin with.

    We want our best and brightest to become doctors and politicians to serve the nation for a cheap fee. And we expect them to never commit adultery.

    Dare I also add that our best and brightest should be absolutely heterosexual – and ideally married to an oppposite sex spouse with happy and straight children as well.

    I would be disappointed with my MP if he has no courage to admit to his own acts. But no way will I expect my MP to be a saint.

  9. 22 Anonymous 9 February 2012 at 01:01

    Just to confirm your theory, the authorities did approach the MSM and explicitly told them not to use the word ‘strike’ when reporting on the incident that happened at Tampines.

  10. 24 Anonymous 9 February 2012 at 08:08

    Seems like all political parties are the same. The only difference is, whether the party is in power or otherwise.

  11. 25 dolphin81 9 February 2012 at 09:10

    Ask YSL to be more forthcoming?. This can only work if MSM is fair.

    The PAP is desperately trying to shift focus away after realizing the mess it has created after GE2011.

    The FT hub dream has resulted in a cheap labour mess.

    The FTs meant to solve SG population woes has worsened it.

    The PAP has no real plan on how to win back Hougang SMC & Aljunied GRC from the WP. It is also worried Gerald Giam will lead a team & win East Coast GRC.

    The PAP knows LKY will die at any time & there will be great pressure for a by-election at TP GRC.

    Without LKY, PAP is not confident of a strong victory as TP has 5 walkovers from 1991 to 2011.

    Any more revelations from YSL will result in the MSM talking nonstop about this so-called issue till GE2016.

    • 26 Chanel 9 February 2012 at 16:03

      A certain political party wanted to contest TP GRC during GE 2011, but a member of that party was threatened jail-time by ISD officers (if I recall correctly) should he contest. This was partly the reason why the party was several second late in submitting their election forms.

      I watched the online video-clip of the onference initiated by the party. This incident was not reported by any of the mainstream media, understandably so!!

      My guess is the men-in-white was trying to protect the image of LKY, as the loss of Tanjong Pagar would be disastrous for his image.

  12. 28 Chanel 9 February 2012 at 11:41

    I have always wondered why any aspiring journalist (with even just an iota of journalistic integrity) would join SPH. Maybe you can posed the journalist this question the next time one approached you!

  13. 29 skponggol 9 February 2012 at 12:45

    MSM manipulating headline to deliver their political point of view is actually very common in the Western countries…

    In America, where the MSM is dominated by the liberal Establishment and has become the mouthpiece of the Democratic Party, they always like to paint their liberal point of views to the voters.

    But unlike Singapore, the American conservative readers can decipher the news thru radio talk show (who will interpret the same news from another perspectives). Also one of the most popular conservative website is the Drudge Report which use the same article in the MSM but change the headline to slant it to the conservative perspective. For example:

    The headline from this NY Daily News (a pro-Democrat mouthpiece):

    “Obama: I’m going after Romney, not Wall Street”

    But the Drudge Report link to the same article under a different headline:

    “Obama to Wall Street: I’ll hit Mitt, but don’t take it personally…”

    In this way, the new media is making use of traditional media to stay ahead of competition.

    • 30 jem 9 February 2012 at 21:25

      “In America, where the MSM is dominated by the liberal Establishment and has become the mouthpiece of the Democratic Party”

      I presume you have exhaustive evidence to prove this point?

    • 31 Packed_lunch 14 February 2012 at 14:26

      “In America, where the MSM is dominated by the liberal Establishment and has become the mouthpiece of the Democratic Party, they always like to paint their liberal point of views to the voters.”

      Yes, the News Corp media empire owned by Rupert Murdoch (Fox News, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Daily Post, etc. etc.) is famous for its liberal, pro-Democratic Party bias. Just like how I’m famous for being the Empress of Japan.

      Seriously, what planet do you spend most of your time on?

      Apart from the New York Times, I can’t think of a single major American paper that is consistently liberal or progressive. And the New York Daily News you mention is just a tabloid, which is now managed by the ex-Daily Mail and News of the World hack Colin Myler.

    • 32 Poker Player 14 February 2012 at 14:32

      Google this: “”reality has a liberal bias”

  14. 33 A 9 February 2012 at 13:51

    I wonder why do you have to keep emphasizing that adultery is not a crime. Are you trying to say it’s not a big deal?

    • 34 Elijah Lau 9 February 2012 at 17:12

      Under Singapore law, adultery is not a crime. But it can be grounds of divorce. Our parliament repealed section 498 (which made seducing another man’s wife a crime) a few years ago (with nary a peep from “conservatives”, I might add.)

      • 35 Poker Player 10 February 2012 at 10:42

        Great catch!

        For some of these conservatives, laws exists not just for enforcement, they exist to express a society’s values.

        Apparently for these conservatives, bonking someone not your wife is OK as long as it’s not another man.

        Some of these conservatives lurk here 😉

  15. 36 Carey 9 February 2012 at 16:16

    Adultery alone is not a criminal offence. As to whether it is “a big deal” or not is really confined to one’s own personal views on morality. And this further drives home Alex’s point that WP and Yaw should then come clean, so that voters can make an informed choice.

  16. 37 Benedict Thambiah 9 February 2012 at 16:28

    Honestly, if Mr Yaw doesn’t want to talk about the rumours that caused him to resign his position as WP Treasurer, that’s his call. But I think if the reason was grave enough to cause his resignation from the Party, it should also be grave enough to cause him to tender his resignation as MP for Hougang. Unless of course the WP feels what is good for the goose is not good enough for the gander?

    As I have said somewhere else previously, following his resignation as MP, the WP could force a by-election in Hougang. This will help to put paid to any doubts that the WP or Mr Yaw (should he seek re-election) have lost the people’s confidence. If he is indeed reelected, it will prove beyond doubt that he has the people’s support.

    A by-election will also help return to normal the fact that by-elections are part of regular, functioning democracies. Also, there will be less reason for the Government to not hold one should the need arise in the future in other constituencies.

    • 38 Anonymous 9 February 2012 at 19:06

      I disagree. The reason is not grave enough for him to resign as an MP. He can still perform his job professionally in the parliament and serve the residents well as long as he keeps his personal life separate.

      Singapore is not a normal functioning democracy, so what makes you think the PAP will play by the rules of having a by-election, especially when it has a track record of not holding one when a certain MP passed away?

  17. 39 Hmmmm? 9 February 2012 at 19:38

    What by elections? I thought if a single seat is vacant, PAP puts it under a caretaker GRC until the next GE?

    • 40 yawningbread 9 February 2012 at 23:25

      Section 24 (1) of the Parliamentary Elections Act requires, through the use of the word “shall”, that a by-election is held if a seat falls vacant. Only in a GRC, all seats of that GRC must fall vacant before a by-election is called. Hougang, being a single-member constituency, would require a by-election if its MP resigns.

  18. 41 K Das 9 February 2012 at 23:12

    That man is twice married and with his second wife around he commits adultery with yet another married woman and that too one from his own party. This speaks a lot about the man. His libido looks insatiable and given his relatively young age God alone knows what more he will do. If women and pretty girls are dissuaded from seeking his help unless he is in the company of others, what good is he as an MP?

    He resigning from the CEC and the Party accepting it is not going to win them any brownie points. Both want to have the cake and eat it as well. If you are a man of conviction and (political) integrity don’t stop at half measure. Resign from the Party not the CEC alone. He won’t because if he does he will no longer remain as MP and the Party does not want to face a by-election. Smart people can also do stupid things and this is a classic example. Workers Party please stop this sandiwara (puppet show)!

  19. 42 Patrick 9 February 2012 at 23:58

    1. WP cannot ask Yaw to leave the Party because he is an elected MP in office, unless it was a criminal offense.

    2. Most people believe that some or part of the rumors are true and WP leadership knows this. So by “accepting” his resignation from CEC, WP is saying “let Hougang voters decide”.

    3. WP is betting (correctly) that most voters will not punish Yaw and WP at the polls over the alleged adultery. They are also betting (also correctly) that Singaporean are generally forgetting and forgiving. Look at the box office success of Jack Neo’s latest film.

    4. WP’s message is loud and clear – “We don’t condone such poor personal discipline so we we dropped him from the CEC. But please judge him based on his performance as MP.”

    WP always read the ground very well. If it blows away, Yaw can always be co-opted back into the CEC again in a couple of years. If it blows out of proportion, Yaw can still apologize later and WP will then say “let Hougang residents decide” — and I bet my last dollar Yaw will still be reelected in the next GE if he does his MP job well.

    • 43 K Das 10 February 2012 at 10:22

      The clarion call for “First World Parliament” by WP flies in the face of its conduct in the Yaw saga. First World Parliament also means First World Opposition which requires abiding to certain basic principles and ethical and moral standards. You cannot shelter – for political expediency – a twice married MP who goes around having affairs with another married woman and breaking a family. Gross personal misconduct (on the part of an MP) is as good as an ordinary criminal offence by an average Joe. It is also to be noted that as an MP he will encounter more situations and interactions dealing with women which can make it uncomfortable for both parties in some instances.

      Yaw is not Jack Neo. The latter is an actor and in the cinema/entertainment world having illicit affairs is not uncommon. Yaw is an MP and you cannot give him the leeway you can to Jack Neo as his constituents had placed their trust on him because of his clean and sparkling image as projected. If he thinks it is unacceptable for him to remain in the CEC, he should also think likewise it is in appropriate for him to remain as an MP. If he and the Party think that they still have the support of Hougang voters why not put it to test. The WP fear losing the by-election and it is as simple as that.

  20. 44 Anon 10 February 2012 at 07:53

    I totally agree with Patrick’s comments. WP is handling this just right. The media is trying its best to make a big deal out of it, because this is their rare chance to tarnish the opposition. But I don’t think Singaporeans are stupid.

    Lets look at yesterday’s ST – one whole page on the affair.

    In contrast, look at how much coverage is given to the controversy stirred by Lawrence Wong’s talk to ITE students, essentially “you guys are dumb-dumb and please be content to remain there”. Hardly anything in the media.

    Then ask yourself – which of these 2 stories have a bigger impact on citizens’ lives ? And you can see why Yaw’s private business is blown way out of proportion.

  21. 45 sg 10 February 2012 at 09:58


    do you want,

    1) an MP who talks down on you everyday, ask you to suck it up, make your life a steep hill climb everyday, pays himself generously while in the same breath extend your CPF withdrawal age… BUT is extremely faithful to his wife and raised his children perfectly…


    2) an MP that speaks up for you, fights for you, LISTENS to you, address the peoples concerns, understands you and doesnt talk down on you, make sure accountability in govt, pressure govt to make consessions favourable to the ppl of sg…. BUT bangs busloads of chicks during his free time??

    what is your choice?

    • 46 yawningbread 10 February 2012 at 10:06

      False dichotomy. One trait is not dependent on the absence of the other trait.

      • 47 sg 10 February 2012 at 11:38

        agree. but its just an example to show that no humans are perfect and the key issue is sgpreans must decide which traits are “more” impt to them than others… like a married couple – you choose/enforce the traits which matters to you most and close one eye to the rest….

        u can replace/ mix and match any other combinations of good and bad traits of human beings to choose from (after all, there are 7 general categories to chose from)…. need not be confined to adultery vs capability…. what is your poison?

  22. 48 Chanel 10 February 2012 at 10:25


    I fully agree with you that the mainstream media has been far from objective in covering the Yaw saga . . .

    Straits Times, for instance, has been producing “news” article on Yaw every other day even though there has been no fresh revelation on the matter. In between these “news” articles, the newspaper published letters (by ghost writers?) in the ST Forum on the saga, so that this issue remains fresh on readers’ mind.

    Is Straits Times just another paparazzi paper? To think that the newspaper referred itself as the “gold standard” in journalism recently! How ironic

  23. 49 notpleased 10 February 2012 at 11:43

    @Anon, 100% agree with you. NEVER has a 1 page been devoted to opp. news. Not even during the election. WP is the strongest opp capable of bringing down the MIWs as at now. Will MSM not grap the chance. And by doing just that MSM is doing a great dis-service to the MIWs. The wise can see.

    The more WP talks about it, the more MSM will stir (they are trying their darnest to make them speak) and yes, WP is smart enough not to fall into the trap.

    Why are they comparing Steve’s case to YSL’s case. Remember, one is a rumoured sexual harrassment (unwilling partners) another is a rumoured extra marital affairs (willing partners). If his wife and him have moved on, let’s move on too.

    As a citizen of SG, I am more worried about a limping escaped terrorist under a govt with decades of experience ruling a country than a green horn politican with an eye for pretty things who have served the country for less than a year!

    I do not accept infidelity but I do want to look at the bigger picture!

  24. 50 Simon Says 10 February 2012 at 15:04

    A person can be married once or not at all, and still enjoy various marital affairs in the closet. Your marital status does not say a shit about your morality where people are quick to judge.

    No one is saint when it comes to managing relationships that is by nature, complex. If you have the same strict criterion, then Goh Keng Swee who divorced his wife and married a colleague is no saint either. But that does not make him any less effective as a Politician or Minister. Who are we to stop or prevent our Leaders from finding true love? And I am sure if our MSM are that investigative, there are many more MPs or high level Civil Servants holding far more important roles are worth looking into and exposing.

    Personally I think WP has handled it adequately. Not as forthcoming as I would have liked, but enough action to make the point. I have no personal interests to know all the sordid details of YSL’s personal life unless it involves corruption (an exchange of sex for service) in a larger scale. The CPIB/CNB & SCDF is case in point.

  25. 53 witness 14 February 2012 at 08:28

    The WP and Yaw have done the best they could under the circumstances. Resigning from the CEC is a tacit acknowledgment that the allegations are true Of what purpose is it after that to drag out all the details? It would only allow their opponents to take undue advantage of the situation. Since he has already more or less admitted to what was alleged, his privacy should be respected.

    Despite indications that non-monogamous behaviour among Singaporeans is rather more common than thought, the cultural monogamous stricture is the norm here. So we are far from ready to discuss issues as to whether or not it is permissible for political leaders to sleep around. The obvious, default answer is a big NO.


  26. 54 TheWatcher 15 February 2012 at 00:55

    Ironically, now I’m curious as to what ‘scroobal’ commented that makes it important enough to trigger legal action (or shall we say… defensiveness?).

  27. 57 reversehaven 15 February 2012 at 01:31

    I think, the WP understands crucially that if they’re going to ever win the PAP they have to do it on their terms. SDP under chee may have been said to have victories of their own over the hearts of the people. but there’s a stark difference between the turnout to their rallies and actual number of votes they get. the WP, on the other hand, has shown that they are truly capable of manoeuvering the political intricacies that exist, and in this game of chess, I believe they have given up a knight to prevent a checkmate. it’s a sad loss if you ask me, but a necessary sacrifice.

    • 58 Poker Player 15 February 2012 at 10:02

      “SDP under chee may have been said to have victories of their own over the hearts of the people. but there’s a stark difference between the turnout to their rallies and actual number of votes they get.”

      Why limit politics to votes? Widening the political spectrum is at least as important – it influences voting patterns over the longer term.

  28. 60 Singapore Voter 15 February 2012 at 10:20

    Although Alex didn’t want us to comment on Shamugam’s lawyer letter but it is important to understand the implication of his letter.

    If the police or ISD could track various forumers in the past who have made racist remarks and send them warning, it is obvious that the claim of not able to track down Scroobal is pretty lame. On top of that, there is no necessity for the lawyers to state in its letter to Alex that they could not press charges on Scroobal because they could not track them.

    Obviously, the intention is not about pressing charges or going to court over this matter. Apparently, Shamugam didn’t want to go to court over this defamation because it might backfire and he will come under public scrutiny once the court case is conducted. This is especially so when there might be willing witness to stand on the defence side.

    I believe the main aim is to show contrast to Yaw Shin Leong that PAP MPs or Ministers will not hesitate to sue if they are defamed by allegations of having marital affairs. It is just political posturing without the intent to go to court.

    • 61 Anonymous 15 February 2012 at 13:47

      What you wrote made sense. The end result is the same as Alex put it:

      “Needless to say, NO COMMENTS to this post will be necessary.”

  29. 62 Anon j22W 15 February 2012 at 21:13

    Why can’t he just post a reply that it is not true? Sending a lawyers letter might be acceptable legally but that it not the sort of person I would ever vote for.

  30. 63 Shanmugam's sickening shenanigans 15 February 2012 at 22:32

    Eh, who does Shanmugam think he is? This is 21st century! If you can’t handle the heat Shanmugam, get out of the bloody kitchen!

    Don’t vote for Shanmugam!

    • 64 Poker Player 16 February 2012 at 10:31

      For the benefit of the very young readers of this blog who may not have the same name recall of Ministers as some of us.

      One of our ex-Ministers has a worse google problem than Rick Santorum. Look up “Escape from Paradise” in wikipedia. You will see an ex-Mnister
      s name there. Google his name.

      Know that the maintainers of the web-site having his namesake are not anonymous and are not the subject of any legal action from the ex-Minister.

      Compare the contents with what YB had to retract.

      Their threats work nowhere else in the world.

      Next election, bring those parts of the world closer.

      • 65 yawningbread 16 February 2012 at 13:48

        I made no allegation, therefore there was nothing to retract. The request from the lawyers was to take down. I decided to oblige and took down.

      • 66 yuen 16 February 2012 at 19:22

        the objective of the request from the law firm is not to stop the paragraph from being available, since their own letter reproduces it; the objective is to demonstrate power and reach, and that objective was successfully achieved; there is nothing really contradictory or laughable about it

      • 67 Poker Player 17 February 2012 at 11:16

        ” there is nothing really contradictory or laughable about it”

        Which comment are you responding to?

  31. 68 jeffcwwong 15 February 2012 at 22:46

    Since Alex has closed of comments on the resulting letter that arose from the original version of this article, I find terribly amusing that the A&G lawuers FAILED to ask Alex to remove the offending paragraph from their letter before publishing. There is something known as the Streisand effect in modern American media – when you try to suppress something you pull more attention to it. I suspect some other political blog will pick this up and play it up – without even removing the text in question from publication. It is to laugh.

  32. 69 alan glad over the hill 15 February 2012 at 22:52

    One lawyer’s letter and Alex caves. where got hope for spore like that? freedom requires vigilance from sharks like shanmugam. who knows what he might do if he ever gets to the no 1 position. so he must be stopped. bloggers unite! Courage! just becoz he lawyer doesnt mean he can ride roughshod on citizens. to shanmugam we should say: why so thin skinned? maybe you should change professions. and your private life wont be scrutinized? wheres the integrity shanmugam? a selfish decision which has grave implications for spore politics. we have made enough strides to walk over shanmugam. he’s taking us back to dark ages. dont let him.

    • 70 Poker Player 16 February 2012 at 15:18

      “One lawyer’s letter and Alex caves. where got hope for spore like that? ”

      YB is not anonymous.

      There is something that requires no courage that anyone can do to give them their comeuppance.


      Don’t care if it’s a squirrel contesting – as long as it’s against the PAP – vote for it. They are no longer fit to rule.

  33. 71 alan glad over the hill 15 February 2012 at 22:55

    shanmugam is testing waters and reactions. hes perpetuating culture of fear. what kind of a foreign minister does that? diplomats negotiate. threats and bullies have no place in the nascent singaporean political culture today

  34. 72 Another Singapore Voter 15 February 2012 at 23:40

    I wish K Shamugam could sue Scroobal or anyone else who have made the “false and scurrilous”.allegations.

    Scroobal has been active in the New Media for a long long time. I do not think that it is difficult to trace him if K Shamugam could use all the resources under his capacity as Law Minister as well as Home Affairs Minister, instead of leaving the responsibility of tracing/tracking to the law firm alone.

    It would be very interesting if this case could go to court.

    I can’t help but think of the case of NKF’s TT Durai suing SPH a few years back.

    • 73 Poker Player 16 February 2012 at 15:39

      “I can’t help but think of the case of NKF’s TT Durai suing SPH a few years back.”

      Both were establishment figures. One was *more* establishment than the other. One won.

    • 74 Anonymous 16 February 2012 at 17:13

      By leaving the responsibility of tracing Scroobal to his lawyer, it shows Shanmugam does not really want to sue as it could open up a can of worms.

      If MHA can trace posters who stirs religious and racial disharmony, I cannot believe MHA cannot trace Scroobal for the Home Affairs Minister.

      • 75 yawningbread 16 February 2012 at 19:03

        Shanmugam cannot use the resources of Ministry of Home Affairs to trace Scroobal. The allegations are about Shanmugam’s personal life (allegations he has denied) and is therefore a personal matter, nothing to do with the interests of the state. Thus, it would be improper to use state resources to pursue private interests. (Please don’t laugh).

      • 76 yuen 16 February 2012 at 19:16

        while what YB says is entirely correct, it is always possible for the law firm to request assistance from Infocomm Development Authority “in connection with an important law suit”, and presumably IDA would be happy to cooperate

      • 77 Poker Player 17 February 2012 at 11:14

        For the benefit of people who can’t detect “tongue in cheek”, YB’s comment is “tongue in cheek”.

  35. 78 Sunragam 16 February 2012 at 07:21

    I don”t see why there should be a by election in Hougang.
    The dismissal of Mr Yaw for his actions may be the result of misjudgement on the part of WP. Unless an MP dies, then I can understand the reason for a by election. In this case why should the WP deserve a by election in Hougang for something that is due to their own making?
    It is unfair and undue expense on the tax payers. You dismiss your MP and expect a by election?
    Killing two birds with one stone?

  36. 79 wikigam 16 February 2012 at 13:49

    1)Can a Law Firm telling the Lie to Public and misleading Public interest ?

    2)Can freedom of speak / Speak Right of singapore version overwrite International level of “Speak Right” Law & Regulations?

    3) Is it true that current technology available unable to trace the destination source of blogger’s commenter ?

  37. 80 arockefeller (@arockefeller) 16 February 2012 at 15:40

    Have just seen this after a couple of days, and needless to say it strikes me as absolutely bizarre. Did the comment even make any allegations? All it alleges is that “there were rumours” and “allegations” at “various points in the recent past.” It doesn’t make any allegations at all, nor does it repeat the old ones. It’s pretty ridiculous that someone would get their lawyers onto that.

    And yes, as has been pointed out, incredibly strange to ask for a comment to be taken down, but a new post to be put up that includes that comment!

  38. 81 Ah beng 16 February 2012 at 15:49

    Dear Yawning bread,

    I don’ t understand why you got sued when you wrote such an article. I read and re-read and i don’t see what is wrong with it.

    Can somebody enlighten me?

    Btw will i get sued too because i wrote this? Mr Shamugan says everything written on the net can be track by their IP address. Very scary le!

    Anyway your angmoh very chim so i also don’t really know what you are talking about. Hence Mr Shamugan don’t have to worry lah.

    No need to anyhow sue people la. Love, peace and harmony okay?

  39. 82 arockefeller (@arockefeller) 16 February 2012 at 21:11

    Ah beng, just to clarify, no-one has been sued here. A lawyer requested that Alex remove an article from YB and he did so, but nothing has gone to court.

    What you think would have happened if this had gone to court would depend on your understanding of the legal system. I’m sure there would be differing opinions on this.

    • 83 Anonymous 17 February 2012 at 12:18

      It is just a warning shot. The header of the letter wrote: DEFAMATORY STATEMENTS PUBLISHED ON YAWNINGBREAD.WORDPRESS.COM

      I seriously doubt that the statements within that comment is defamatory in any sense. Alex is just being cautious as lawsuits can be expensive, even if you win, it is going to cost you something.

      No one in the right mind would want to get embroiled into a legal battle unless he is a lawyer himself. And Shanmugam is a millionaire minister. Do you have enough money and resources to defend yourself?

  40. 84 2 Steps Back 17 February 2012 at 04:12

    Alas. What this letter did was to give a chilling effect to the blogosphere. Look at TOC and Publichouse on this matter. Everyone declined to add on further.

    Alex’s point was not about the Minister. His point was about the state of journalism in Singapore and questioned if there was balance. That’s so obvious.

    I applaud Alex for taking the comment down. It’s a ridiculous thing, to fight someone else’s battle. More so for a certain scroobal. There will be battles ahead, if Alex continues drawing blood, but we have to be wise here.

    Back on the chilling effect, this cannot be good for Singapore’s rational voices. It’s a simple case of holding someone prominent like Alex to account as a warning of sorts. While this may score a victory for Shanmugam in the short run, I think PAP is going to have their hands full of handling more scroobals in the long run.

  41. 85 Aaron Soo 19 February 2012 at 22:50

    guys give Alex a break, you guys aren’t the ones getting the lawyer letter. Will be interesting to see how you respond if you are the ones getting the letter.

    I am just wondering if we are all so upset with the top, and some believe that they have the facts and are willing to take the stand. why ask someone else to represent your cause or hide behind anonymity. Put down your real names and contacts for verification of facts.

    Just like I feel uncomfortable with the press for their lack of information and how they may have implicated possible innocent individuals. I sincerely hope that those with facts will dare to speak up and be able to have their points verified. I think that marks a matured responsible society. (but i accede that it may also be folly.. its always a fine thin line being courage and stupidity)

    Alex no point fighting someone else’ battles. Whether facts or lies, let those that have information on it post it up .When you put something up, please be ready to back it up as a responsible individual. Social media is a powerful tool that should be used responsibly.

  42. 86 think again 21 February 2012 at 18:25

    As with celebrities, politicians are public figures and as such the law should make it harder for them to sue for defammation. Unfortunately, our law doesn’t make such a distinction. To erect a high bar of having to furnish evidence to substantiate rumours in the political arena restrains freedom of speech and democracy. Why are there rumours? Is it because there is a lack of information and transparency? The government guards its information very closely. Even when it reveals data, one often wonders if the data is complete. Hence, it’s disingenuous to call for evidence to substantiate rumours because it’s just difficult to get access to timely and complete information. Those with information also cannot reveal it easily or be prosecuted by the official secrets act. Our laws need major reforms to make it more relevant to a maturing society of thinking individuals. Incidentally, relying on defammation lawsuits may be counterproductive in dispelling rumours. One may strong-arm a publication/writer to retract an article, apologize and say that the accusations are groundless, but one has not convinced anyone that the rumours are false. That’s because not being able to furnish evidence doesn’t mean that the accusations are without merit.

  43. 87 Investigative Journalism 22 February 2012 at 13:02

    A few years ago, perhaps in anticipation of future actions by citizens, a new law was passed to protect Millionaire Ministers from being investigated by private investigators. Only Govt investigators like those from CPIB can investigate. This unfair / unjust law protects the few minority (Millionaire Ministers) against the majority (The Citizens).

    Investigative journalism should be able to dig into wrong doings, injustice, dirty dealings, corruption, immorality, infidelity, etc of public figures and public servants. This law therefore prohibits investigative journalism in Singapore.

    Based on this law, the people/citizens at large would not be able to:

    1. Find out why Someone’s first wife divorced him? Or why he divorced his wife?

    2. Interview his ex-wife and/or children to find out the actual reason for the divorce? (The grounds for divorce could be easily extracted from records in the documents in Court, but there could be other details that have not surfaced/recorded, is it not?)

    3. Find out the background of his present wife and how they came to know each other before they marry?

    4. Find out why Someone was put in the back-bencher seat for so long? Why did they took so long to discover a talent in him? Or was it because of something else?

    So how can rumours be substantiated with facts and findings?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: