PM Lee Hsien Loong’s expert guide to third-degree burns
He's pretty much striking them with lightning.
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Having secured the second prime lunchtime spot at Raffles Place yesterday (8 September) after SDP clinched the first one, the PAP secretary-general spared no expense or even expanse with his merciless speech.
There was a strong line-up at this afternoon’s lunchtime rally. New faces such as Amrin Amin and Victor Lye gave rousing speeches; ministers Heng Swee Keat and Lim Swee Say had a bigger share of the rally pie; even ESM Goh Chok Tong showed up! But Mr Lee took half of the two-hour long rally for himself with every intention to send his rivals scampering to the burn unit.
In fact, the noontime sun couldn’t hold a candle to the burns that the usually affable Prime Minister handed out to the opposition parties. Perhaps we can take a leaf out of his burn — here’s what we’ve learned from him. (Are you reading this, Sim Ann?)
1. Turn your opponent’s words against them
As politicians, surely they would know to be careful of what they say. But what’s beyond your control is when your words get turned against you. Case in point:
a. On WP’s Png Eng Huat:
“I read in the newspapers Png Eng Huat Worker’s Party candidate, ‘Don’t worry, you know, look at Thailand they have military coup still okay what… no government you can go home, still take bath, hot water still running.’ If that is the Workers’ Party’s measure of good politics and success, if ever the Workers’ Party become the government of Singapore, I say, ‘Liao ah, finish!’
Don’t go and write soft words in your manifesto and don’t say you’re going to be the government but tell people one day I’m going to be the government but not yet lah, just give me a chance. If Mr Low Thia Kiang were honest… when he heard Png Eng Huat saying those things on stage he also malu, don’t know where to hide his face.”
b. Speaking of Low, WP’s secretary-general did not escape unharmed as well:
“You may be running the Government, you may be running a ministry, you can be in a [statutory] board, you can be in a town council, doesn’t matter. Whatever level you are, uphold high standards. Keep it clean. And don’t say, ‘I didn’t go to jail, I’m okay!’”
c. PM Lee also had one or two (a few more than that, we suppose) words about SDP’s Dr Chee Soon Juan:
“And I was very, very surprised yesterday [to hear] that here, on this spot yesterday, Dr Chee Soon Juan [said], ‘Reputation is temporary, but character is permanent.’ I agree. I think Dr Chee has every reason to know that character is permanent. It doesn’t change.“
d. Finally, one forest fire-level burn to take out all the opposition at once:
“The opposition’s formula [for success] which I’ve heard in these last few days, which they’re circulating around — including on WhatsApp — doesn’t make sense. Their formula is like this: They say, if the government has done a good job it’s because you voted for the opposition. So vote more for the opposition, government will work harder. Never mind if the opposition isn’t doing work. Now what sort of politics is that?
Let me tell you what should be the argument, please write it down and send it to your friends on WhatsApp. The argument is like this: Opposition not working hard enough… Vote PAP, make the opposition work harder.“
2. Name-drop all the pioneer Singaporean politicians
As a go-to move for throwing shade, PM Lee turned to name-dropping some famous and respectable pioneer politicians, essentially pitting the opposition against some of the best and most venerable leaders Singapore has had (as Taylor Swift attempts to do in her Bad Blood music video).
“You must have a good government, you must have good leaders and then the leaders can make the system work well. And we need a strong Singapore team working with our leaders… What the people mostest need done, mostest want to see happen in Singapore, I think that is what will keep Singapore successful tomorrow. And that’s how Mr Lee Kuan Yew did it! He did it with a strong team, Goh Keng Swee, S. Rajaratnam, Lim Kim San, Hon Sui Sen, Othman Wok, partners, people who work together, who work with Singaporeans, who made Singapore go from 1965 to 2015.”
… and he went on to drop other big names from successive teams too, including our former President Ong Teng Cheong and current President Tony Tan.
3. Own it with a strong analogy game
Who needs orh luak, football or sinking ship metaphors when you can appeal to the masses through the one thing everyone needs and have: insurance!
“We don’t need an opposition that says, ‘I’m not ready to form the government, but never mind just vote for me, you’re buying insurance.’ Let me explain to you insurance. Insurance is good, but you must buy the right insurance from the right company! If you buy NTUC Income I think it’s okay… It’s a reputable company. If you buy MediShield Life, the Singapore government is standing there. So when people say CPF no money to pay, I say that was 13 years ago…
But if your insurance company is opposition, no track record, or worse don’t know how to handle money, [then] all the insurance salesmen not interested in you, only want the commission. Then you buy your insurance now, you pay premium, you feel okay. One day you run into trouble, you look for the insurance company to pay out, then you know you’re in trouble.”
4. Play the I’m-better-than-you card
As if “AHPETC” and “mismanaging funds” were not already hot-button issues at PAP rallies, Lee added salt to the wound. Lesson learnt: Go back to basics by highlighting the things you have done, that your opponents are allegedly incapable of.
“…we make Singapore succeed in Singapore. How do we do that? We do that by staying one united people. It’s been our formula, it’s been our mantra, actually it’s our secret recipe. Why is it secret? Not that people don’t know it, but people cannot do it. We can do it.“
5. Take the (pristine) moral high ground
To PM Lee, it matters if you’re black or white.
“If you’re not honest, if you’re not clean, if you have a black mark, whether people know it or not, please, stay out of politics.”
So if he doesn’t want people with a black mark (Does he mean Dr Chee? Or is it Roy Ngerng?) in politics, then what colour is he looking for?
“…we have the auditor general’s office [to] keep the govt straight, to keep our statutory board straight, and once in a while, to find out whether the town councils are straight or not straight. These are the PAP’s standards, and these also have to be the opposition’s standards. Just because you don’t wear white, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be white, or needn’t be white.”
To up his game, the PM even evoked his late father (also our beloved founding father) Lee Kuan Yew in the battle of burns.
“[When] Mr Lee Kuan Yew had his 90th birthday, we had a little celebration in parliament… and he made a small speech. He talked about only one thing. He said: ‘Remember: Keep our system clean.’ And I should note that that was not just PAP MPs having a celebration. That was all of the MPs having a celebration including the opposition MPs, so the PAP MPs took note of what he said. I hope the opposition MPs also took note of what he said. Keep our system clean!“
You know what cleanliness and burns have in common? They both need WATER.
With additional reporting by Ng Yi Shu.
Top comic by A Good Citizen.