Laaaaaaadies and geeeentlemen! For the first time ever, we bring together two of Singapore’s greatest showmen! One has been presenting his shows in Korea, United States and assorted other democracy forums! He has fought in several wars, known as elections. And lost every battle. The other has been preparing for a war all his life, but never fought one. This time, they will do battle, like gladiators of old! May the best man win! Gentlemen! Unsheath your swords! Unpack your bag of words! Get ready to answer the following questions!
BH: Minister Chan, why do you hate the Huffington Post so much?
Chan: What? I don’t hate it. I’ve never read it until that man showed up in it. I like the Huffington Post – it’s an example of a free media that we don’t have. Oops! Sorry, sorry. I like the HuffPost but in this instance, it’s gone berserk, giving that man so much space.
Chee (huffing): Who are you calling “that man’’? Just because you are a minister, you don’t think you have to be civil…
Chan (puffing): Like you were civil to Mr Goh Chok Tong when you shouted at him “Where is our money?’’ during one GE??
Chee: That was in the past. Let bygones be bygones. Everyone should get a chance to turn over a new leaf…You, you… paper general!!
Chan: You, you… political failure!
Chee: You, you… PAP running-dog… Stigmatising failure! Have you never failed before? Are you perfect?
BH: Boys, boys…give it a rest. Too much testosterone for me..Back to business. So Dr Chee, you keep insisting you have been silenced in the Singapore media. What is your evidence?
Chee: Well, I sent three op-ed pieces to The Straits Times but it declined to run them. The media has always undercovered me or put me in a bad light. And now it’s insisting that it edit my letter or it won’t get published. Thank goodness for the foreign media and social media!
BH: Oh! You must be happy then at the exposure the foreign media give you. Such prominence! So much space!
Chee: Very. The foreign media are very sympathetic to the plight of the Singapore masses, who are poor, down-trodden and have been deprived of their democratic rights, like being able to protest outside the Istana. They like what I write.
Chan: I object. As Minister for Family and Social Development, I can safely say that every family in Singapore has kueh lapis to eat. And while they might not be earning much, they still have a roof over their head which they own. Plus, there are all these schemes to help them…..(gives long list…)
BH (rubbing eyes): Thank you, Minister. That was enlightening. You may wish to put up that list on very void deck in Singapore so people will know of the G’s largesse…
Chee: What largesse…! It’s taxpayers’ money! And it’s not enough! We need minimum wages, poverty line and free health insurance for all!
Chan: You’re a fine one to talk. You say one thing to one audience and another thing to another. How come you don’t mention abolishing the ISA and why not propose some ways to protect workers’ rights? Or gay rights? All these Western liberal values… In fact, why don’t you just go to Myanmar and be with Aung San Suu Kyi?
Chee: I’ve met her already…Nice lady. Read her book. Mine will be out in April…(turns to audience)… Everyone…please buy and donate to the SDP!
Chan: I’ve met Aung San Suu Kyi. You are no Aung San Suu Kyi. And this is not a forum for you to collection donations to fund your election campaign. Remember no foreign donors allowed….
Chee: How like the PAP! Set up rules to perpetuate itself. You wait till the next election when I stand against you in Tanjong Pagar GRC. I will scream “Where is my CPF?’’ Oh…that’s Roy’s line. Sorry.
Chan (turning to audience): I would like to remind all of you here that Dr Chee is a failed politician, has been jailed and fined several times and even backstabbed that nice man who was his mentor, Mr Chiam See Tong. Remember him?
Chee: Hey, wait a minute! I’ve invited Mr Chiam to the SDP 35th anniversary dinner. You didn’t even invite Dr Tan Cheng Bock to the Istana.. Remember?
Chan: Don’t confuse the issue. You misappropriated funds from the university which hired you and made up taxi fare claims. You have been caught out as a liar time and time again!
Chee: And you got into Parliament on the coat-tails of you-know-who. Never experienced a proper electoral contest and yet you’re getting paid a million bucks… !
Chan (getting up from seat): If you think you can do better, let’s fight to see who forms the next Government. Do you want to be Prime Minister?
Chee (getting up from seat): Why are you asking? Worried that I’ll take your future job away from you?
(The two gladiators confront each other. The crowd is cheering, baying for blood. Some are raising their hands in a keechiu sign. Others are waving their flasks of glucose-laced water…)
BH (terrified): Okay, okay. Stop it! Shut up and sit down both of you! I’m the one who’s supposed to be asking the questions…So Dr Chee, the minister has written in to say that you are sacrificing Singapore to score points abroad. How would you respond to this accusation?
Chee: I think the minister is equating Singapore with the PAP. It’s the PAP which has made Singapore what it is today….
Chan (cutting in): Thank you. I’m glad you have acknowledged that we have moved from Third World to First and that we worked to get this little red dot into the international spotlight. We are well known the world over for our housing, transport, CPF, healthcare and other systems. Plus…
Chee (cutting in): Hey, I mean… made Singapore a place where children have to study so hard they cry, where money is made by the few and by foreigners, where income inequality is among the highest in the world…
Chan (cutting in): …and which we are addressing with our various social policies to give the lower income a better safety net, helping SMEs restructure and ensure affordable medical care for the rest of your life…
Chee: There goes the PAP… taking credit for everything. This Medishield Life scheme is actually adapted from our own health financing policy proposal…You never give others credit. Instead you persecute people, silence good people. Look at me. My academic career down the chute…my life in tatters (sheds a tear)
Chan: Again, you are playing the persecution card, pretending to be hard done by. What you want to be is to be viewed as a martyr, some kind of hero. You think just because you have the foreign media backing you and social media to broadcast your views…that Singaporeans can’t see through you?
BH (worried): This discussion is getting out of control…Relax boys…I would like to ask this of Dr Chee. Why is your slogan Your Voice in Parliament? Sounds very Workers’ Party. Why not something more fierce? Like We stand for Free Speech, Liberty and Freedom? Like the French?
Chee: Well, first, I am not Charlie Chee. Then, I decided on Your Voice in Parliament to represent voiceless Singaporeans. We can be a First World Parliament but it’s nothing without a first-class voice. I speak well and so do several of my members. That’s why I had suggested to Mr Low Thia Kiang at the last by-election that we should join hands and contest a seat. I speak in Parliament, he runs the town council.
Chan: Hah. That shows what sort of person you are! Why not go to Workers’ Party and ask to run the town council, since it can’t seem to run it very well.
Chee: There goes the PAP again, running down other people…
BH (cutting in): Minister, the PM has said that the PAP or the G has to be careful about having to “flex its muscles’’. Are you flexing them now?
Chan (feeling his biceps): I don’t think so. I have been out of the army for so long I haven’t kept to a heavy schedule of workouts. I am still very fit though.
BH (non-plussed at reply): Hmm….Dr Chee has accused you of name-calling and character assassination…
Chan: He can sue me if he thinks I’ve defamed him. I’m sure M Ravi will help him.
Chee: I don’t intend to waste any money on a law suit. I also intend to keep out of trouble so that I can contest the election this time.
Chan: Okay, I will see you on Nomination Day. If you dare appear.
Chee: I will. Scouts’ honour.
Chan: You were a Scout? Never mind..
BH: Thank you gentlemen for being with us here today. We look forward to viewing more exchanges between you, whether in the foreign media, social media, local media…or here.
(The two men eyeball each other, and very, very tentatively, shook hands. The audience exploded into cheers and started singing the National Anthem followed by a solemn recital of the National Pledge. There were hugs. There were tears. And of course, there were fireworks.)