Written by Ng E-Jay
14 July 2009
New Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Calvin Cheng has written an atrocious letter to TODAY newspaper betraying not only his absence of a sense of accountability, but also his complete lack of political acumen. I am truly shocked by his letter.
In his online letter entitled “I am curious all the time“, Calvin Cheng attempted to rebut TODAY journalist P.N. Balji’s assertion in a column published on 11 July that he had joined the YPAP in a rather cavalier and whimsical manner in 2006.
Calvin Cheng had earlier confessed to joining the Youth Wing of the ruling party three years ago out of “curiosity“. These were his exact words as quoted in a TODAY article: “I joined YPAP in 2006 when I visited the Teck Ghee PAP branch with a friend, and I signed up out of curiosity. Due to many reasons, I never returned.”
This prompted journalist P.N. Balji to ask if this “curiosity episode” should be dismissed as a case of boyish candour, and to assert that the burden is now on Calvin Cheng to prove to Singaporeans that the decision by the Special Select Committee to pick him was not misplaced.
However, Calvin Cheng ended up shooting himself in the foot in his response to P.N. Balji’s missive.
To start off, Calvin Cheng tried to deflect scrutiny from his YPAP membership by claiming that he had intended to resign from the party last Tuesday after the new NMP list had been released, and not only after his YPAP membership was exposed by TODAY newspaper.
Mr Cheng is missing the point. If NMPs are truly supposed to be non-partisan, he should have resigned from the party upon submitting his application to become an NMP, not only after the results are out.
That the Select Committee would entertain applicants from current members of political parties also makes a mockery of their claim that NMPs are meant to be non-partisan voices in Parliament.
Even an aspiring Elected President must resign from any political party which he is a member of before submitting his candidacy for consideration.
Next, Calvin Cheng launched into a long-winded thesis about the nature of human curiosity that would have made for good bed time reading had it not been so utterly constipated.
Mr Cheng is completely missing the point again. TODAY journalist P.N. Balji was not questioning the virtue of being curious or having the drive to seek out new knowledge. He was questioning Calvin Cheng’s motivation to join a political party and what that said about his character.
Besides, what kind of curiosity would drive a man like Calvin Cheng to join an organization only after one visit and then fail to even pick up his membership card?
Does this not speak volumes about Mr Cheng’s ability to sustain a new interest or to see things through to the end?
I am truly amazed at Calvin Cheng’s lack of a sense of accountability as well as his almost complete lack of political acumen.
The current batch of new NMPs is truly disappointing. People like Siew Kum Hong who really provided alternative views and were hard hitting when they needed to be are now gone, replaced instead by people are not ashamed to parade their PAP affliations and say that they look up to MM Lee Kuan Yew whilst trumpeting the tired refrain that they are non-partisan.
If the ruling PAP is willing to hold free and fair elections, we would not need to place so much increased emphasis on schemes like the NMP and NCMP to provide alternative voices in Parliament.
It is time to stop the charade about Singapore being a democracy because the PAP allows non-party members to enter Parliament on terms which it sets. If Singapore is a real democracy, we would not need such gimmicks, and neither would the media feel the need to trumpet such propaganda over and over again.
Letter from Calvin Cheng, published in TODAY Online
13 July 2009
I refer to Mr P N Balji’s piece “My, My… Mr. Cheng” (July 11-12).
Firstly, I would like to clarify that I did not resign as a reaction to TODAY’s reporting, as the statement “only after a TODAY report highlighted the issue on Wednesday” seems to imply.
As I told TODAY, and as TODAY reported, when I was called on Tuesday night, I was already going to resign; shortly after, on the same night, I verbally told Mr. Teo Ser Luck, Chairman of Young PAP of my intention to resign.
Due to the fact that offices were already closed, and also a technical issue about the exact status of my membership (whether I was a member of the General Branch or of the Teck Ghee Branch), I was only able to email my resignation the very next morning on Wednesday. This, including my verbal resignation before the article was printed, was conveyed to TODAY’s reporter the night before Wednesday’s report.
Secondly, Mr Balji was right that I sincerely believed, and still do, that being completely upfront to the Select Committee of my party membership was sufficient. This is because as I was inactive, I was confident that it will not in any way affect my ability to be impartial, objective and non-partisan. I have now resigned to remove any residual doubts of this.
Thirdly, I do feel the burden to prove to Singaporeans that my selection was not misplaced, a burden that I would feel regardless of this issue.
I am however writing most of all, in response to Mr Balji’s assertion, that my initial decision to join the Young PAP out of curiosity, was “cavalier” and on a “whim”.
I am curious how curiosity could be construed to be whimsical, and how something which I believe to be one of the most important faculties of the human intellect, could be seen as cavalier.
I am curious all the time. I am curious because curiosity, to me, is the basis of all human inquiry, the foundation of any quest to seek knowledge. I am curious because I want to learn new things, to find out things that are unknown to me, to quench a thirst for new information.
I am curious because I believe that curiosity must form the foundation of education, and it is the one thing that formal education can sometimes kill, and which Singaporean educators must avoid.
I am curious because it was curiosity that led Ferdinand Magellan to lead the first expedition around the world, of Albert Einstein to seek to unravel the mysteries of the universe, to inspire the Wright brothers to ask and answer the question of whether man could fly; it was curiosity that led to mankind going to the moon. And even if an explorer, a scientist, an inventor or an astronaut I am not, I hope any child that could still be, would cultivate curiosity in their minds.
I am curious whenever I meet any new person, as he could perhaps become a lifelong friend; getting to know this person is the only way I can tell. And perhaps as a single man, I hope upon hope that Casanova was right when he said that ‘Love is three quarters curiosity’.
I am curious that Mr Balji does not hold curiosity as a more precious value, especially because in journalism, it is the yearning to keep questioning that should be the motivation of any good journalist. The French journalist Anatole France, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921, said ‘The greatest virtue of man is perhaps curiosity’. I hope he is right.
When I signed up with the Young PAP out of curiosity, I genuinely wanted to find out more. By no means was it cavalier, or whimsical; unfortunately, circumstances prevented me from doing so. I am curious about what may have happened, if they hadn’t, but on the other hand it was no bad thing that I got busy with civic groups instead; civic groups that initial curiosity led to eventual involvement (with).
It is this same curiosity that I hope I will bring with me to Parliament as a Nominated Member, to question things as often, and as impartially and objectively as I can.
EM Foster wrote, “The four characteristics of humanism are curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race.” Some of my friends would say my taste is suspect, but I sincerely hope I have the other three.