War of words online over Parliament debate

War of words online over Parliament debate
Posed photo of a girl sitting in front of a computer and surfing the internet.

SINGAPORE - A showdown between the chiefs of two political parties in Parliament earlier last week spilled over to the digital world.

Pro-People's Action Party (PAP) netizens engaged Workers' Party (WP) supporters in a fierce war of words, even as online transcripts of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's and WP leader Low Thia Khiang's speeches made the rounds.

The exchange was on constructive politics and took place during Parliament's debate on the President's Address.

The transcript of the exchange remains the most-read piece on current affairs website Singapolitics. And at one point during the week, Mr Lee and Mr Low's stand-off became one of The Straits Times' most popular articles of the day, with more than 1,100 likes.

Last Wednesday, Mr Lee slammed the Workers' Party for what he described as its "breathtakingly cynical" approach to politics.

Mr Low did not take these comments lying down, and said that his party had not turned the House into a theatre.

Mr Lee also accused the WP of being less than honest about its flip-flopping on foreign workers. Mr Low insisted that his party had not, and had already "explained some misunderstandings".

He also threw punches: "In any case I also noted that when the PAP has to make a policy U-turn, they called it policy shift. I don't know whether that is a shift or is a flip-flop."

The volley between the two political bigwigs was replicated in the online sphere.

Commenter Christopher Chiew said that after reading the script, he felt that Mr Low was "beating around the bush". He said: "Nothing substantial (is) coming from him while he defend(s) himself."

Others, like Jacqueline Ee, felt the 15-minute exchange raised bigger questions about the opposition's capability.

"The opposition can't even handle a small scandal within their party," she said, a comment which comes on the back of the town council saga last year. "What more a major crisis?"

But netizen Raymond Tan fought back, defending Mr Low and the opposition as a whole.

"It takes a long time for the PAP to come up with a policy - (do) you think Mr Low can just oppose one in days?" he asked.

He said he did not think the PAP enacted certain policies to make Singaporeans suffer, but added that some have impacted citizens badly.

The casinos, for example, were opposed by many MPs, he said. "Yet the plan went ahead, and created more negative social impact," he added.

But as supporters from both sides tried to establish that their team won, more than one felt it was a political draw.

They raised the point that all this talk about constructive politics was, in fact, not constructive.

"It's a waste of time to see two guys squabbling like little kids," said a commenter known only as Khee San.

"There are tonnes of things that we need our government to be doing to make Singapore a better place," she said, echoing an emerging train of thought that Parliament ought to debate more on policies and less on politics.

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