Friday, 13 June 2008 — WPSN
Yaw Shin Leong says change of heart partly prompted by criticism against him
BY SUE-ANN CHIA
ONLINE STORM: Workers’ Party organising secretary Yaw Shin Leong (above) had voted for Dr Teo Ho Pin in the Bukit Panjang ward.
WORKERS’ Party (WP) leader Yaw Shin Leong, who won praise and criticism alike for disclosing that he had voted for the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the 2006 General Election, now regrets the decision.
The 32-year-old businessman said his change of heart came after “introspection and contemplation” as he prepared to mark eight years of activism with the WP on June 24.
“I have woken up from this matrix-like slumber. Voting for a candidate from the ruling regime based on my shallow personal liking and consideration had contravened the very ideals which I had originally entered opposition politics for,” he said in the latest posting on his blog.
“It also contradicted our efforts in urging voters to value the choice provided by opposition candidates.”
The Bukit Panjang resident said he would not vote for his MP, Dr Teo Ho Pin, at the next election, and urged Singaporeans to “vote in solidarity to deny the PAP”.
Mr Yaw, the WP’s organising secretary, was caught in the eye of an online storm last month after saying that he had voted for Dr Teo over the Singapore Democratic Party’s Mr Ling How Doong.
Dr Teo was the better candidate, he had said, adding: “There is nothing inherently wrong for me to vote for an MP, regardless of his/her partisan background, whom in my opinion is the better man who can better serve the interests of Singapore and my community.”
That disclosure sparked criticism from opposition supporters who attacked him for voting for the “other side”, and for sending conflicting signals.
He was, after all, head of the six-man WP team which stood against a PAP team led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Ang Mo Kio GRC.
But others praised him for his political maturity.
Mr Yaw said, when contacted on Wednesday, that his change of heart was also prompted by the criticism he faced.
Friends scolded him for letting them down. And strangers called or told him during his walkabouts that he had disappointed them.
“I realised I had sent a confusing message to supporters,” he told The Straits Times. “Being an opposition member, I must put the need for pluralism as a higher priority than voting for a better municipal MP.”
While party leaders did not rap him, WP chief and Hougang MP Low Thia Khiang did tell Mr Yaw that in voting for the better candidate, he had fallen into “the propaganda trap of the PAP”.
Mr Yaw said in his blog that the main consideration for many who voted for the WP was “the need to have a balanced political system and a voice in Parliament…”
And he accepted criticism that had Ang Mo Kio voters adopted his “better candidate” argument, “my team would not even come close to securing 33.86 per cent of the votes”.
Despite what he said in his blog, Mr Yaw told The Straits Times that he did not want Singaporeans to vote for the opposition at all cost too.
He said: “I encourage Singaporeans to vote with their conscience. If they really feel that the opposition candidates are not deserving, don’t support them.”
Political observer Eugene Tan said Mr Yaw’s latest post showed he had decided to put on the hat of an opposition politician instead of being just a “responsible voter”.