Mr James Gomez displayed 'blatant dishonesty' in his conduct over his minority certificate application, said Mr Wong Kan Seng, the People's Action Party first assistant secretary-general. The Deputy Prime Minister who oversees the Elections Department yesterday gave a statement to the media laying out the evidence he had
MR JAMES Gomez, a Workers' Party candidate, admitted that he did not file the application for a minority certificate, contrary to his claim to the Elections Department (ELD). He had claimed that he was distracted.
Mr Low Thia Khiang has declared that 'the incident was merely an unintentional omission, a mistake made while busy'. He said he had questioned Mr Gomez about the 'details leading to and following the incident'. He had spoken to Mr Gomez 'to understand what it is about, how it has happened and I'm satisfied. He's not actually trying to be funny or doing it on purpose'.
Mr Low must have questioned Mr Gomez thoroughly before pronouncing himself satisfied with Mr Gomez's explanation and apology. I therefore asked Mr Low again and again to make public what Mr Gomez told him. But he has repeatedly stonewalled any further questions. Instead, he accused the PAP of 'making a mountain out of a molehill'. Mr Gomez too has also refused to explain what happened. He hid behind an insincere apology drafted by a lawyer, and refused to answer any questions on this incident.
Mr Low says: 'Let the voters decide.' But the voters must have all the facts before they can make a proper judgment.
The facts are out now and have been widely published. These include the statements made by Mr Inderjit Singh and Mr Thiayagarajah (Karthigesu), the transcript of the conversation between Mr Gomez and Ms Florence Tan of ELD and the footage from the ELD CCTV and the CNA recording.
The facts show beyond any doubt that Mr Gomez has lied.
This was no small lie. It was a deliberate attempt to set up ELD. If Mr Gomez had not been caught out by the existence of the security camera recording, he would have gone on to accuse ELD and public servants of depriving him of a minority certificate by underhand means.
This would have undermined public confidence in the integrity of our elections system, and done serious damage to the reputation of the Government and of Singapore. Incident on Wednesday, April 26
On Wednesday, April 26, the eve of Nomination Day, Mr Gomez turned up at the ELD. He claimed that he had submitted an application for a minority certificate to the ELD on April 24. Again, he did this in the presence of the media.
The ELD officers checked and found that they had not received Mr Gomez's application. But Mr Gomez insisted that he had filled up the form on April 24 and had handed it over to Mr Ricky Tan. He demanded that the ELD staff check again and warned Mr Tan, shaking his finger at Mr Tan. As reported on the CNA website, this was what he said when he was told that the ELD had not received his application:
'Gomez: That's not correct, I was here. The form was given to me. And I signed it and I handed it over in front of the camera. So there's footage. So you got to go and... Was it together with the other forms?
Elections Department officer (male): We checked with the PD (political donations) already - not inside at all.
Gomez: Not my fault.
Elections Department officer (female): Did you give it together with the...
Gomez: To him (pointed at male officer) direct to him... (inaudible)
Gomez: Minority form you know?
Elections Department officer (male): That's the wrong form?
Gomez: No, there's no wrong form. I asked for the minority form.
Elections Department officer (male) (muttering some numbers): 9667 (as he writes down the numbers)
Gomez: You know what's the implication? (points finger at male officer) Something must happen. When will you call me?
Reporter: What happened?
Gomez: Oh, they'll call me back later.
Mr Gomez had successfully created the impression that the ELD was at fault.
Again, in the presence of the media, Mr Gomez left his number and asked the ELD to call him before lunch. This was to show that he was upset and wanted urgent answers from the ELD before his candidacy on Nomination Day.
The CCTV evidence
UNBEKNOWNST to Mr Gomez, the ELD has a security camera. It recorded the events on Monday, April 24. When the ELD officers reviewed the tape, it showed the following:
While Mr Gomez was filling up his form, two TV cameramen were filming him. So long as they kept their cameras on him, he continued to work on the form and ask an ELD officer questions about the application.
Then something curious happened. As soon as both cameramen left, Mr Gomez stopped filling up the form. He put the form in the envelope, put the envelope in his bag and walked away.
Mr Gomez showed no signs of being distracted, as he had claimed in his apology. The security recording shows clearly that he knew exactly what he was doing. He never had any intention of submitting the form.
The telephone conversation
AT 1PM, Ms Florence Tan of the ELD called Mr Gomez. She asked Mr Gomez to recount what had happened on April 24. Mr Gomez did not yet know about the security camera.
He said that he had asked for the form, filled it up 'in front of the TV camera, the TV camera which was filming' (meaning the TV camera of the media) and submitted it 'with my colleague (who was Ms Sylvia Lim), so my colleague was with me all the time. I've checked with her and she confirmed also that the form was submitted and was accepted'.
It was all a lie. But he made his version sound plausible by using his two carefully planned pieces of supporting 'evidence': the two TV cameras and his claim that his colleague, Ms Sylvia Lim, had corroborated that he had submitted the form and that it had been accepted.
Ms Tan then told him about the security CCTV camera and what it showed.
Mr Gomez was caught out on his lie. He had to find a way out. This is what he said: 'Oh, I see. I'm very happy to hear your version of the story. I will just go back and check my bag because I'm outside now. I'm dealing with the administrative part. If there's any further information or if I need some information, I'll get back to you.' There was no surprise or shock in his voice. Neither was he apologetic. He knew Ms Tan was telling the truth.
THIS entire operation was stage-managed from the start. Mr Gomez was play-acting, as he himself disclosed in an unguarded moment the next day, Nomination Day, to Mr Inderjit Singh and one Mr K. Thiayagarajah.
Mr Singh and Mr Gomez have known each other since the late 1990s. Mr Singh was the co-chairman of the Singapore 21 committee which conducted many dialogues. Mr Gomez participated in a few of those dialogue sessions. They got to know each other and talked freely to each other, and openly exchanged views.
On Thursday, April 27, Mr Singh met Mr Gomez at the Pei Chun Public School Nomination Centre. Mr Singh was putting in his papers as a candidate for Ang Mo Kio GRC and Mr Gomez was there as a candidate for Aljunied GRC.
After he filed his papers, Mr Singh went up to speak to Mr Gomez, to renew his old acquaintance. They exchanged pleasantries. After a short while, he was joined by Mr Thiayagarajah, a grassroots leader in Ang Mo Kio GRC and an assenter for the PAP candidates standing there. Mr Thiayagarajah and Mr Gomez also know each other from their work in the Political and Media Feedback Unit.
This is Mr Singh's account of what happened:
On Nomination Day on 27 April, 2006, I attended at Pei Chun Public School to file my papers as a member of the PAP team contesting in Ang Mo Kio GRC.
After my team and I filed our papers, I saw Mr Gomez. I noticed that he was in the Workers' Party team contesting in Aljunied GRC. After he had filed his papers, I went up to say hello to him. We put our arms around each other. He was very friendly. I said that it had been a long time since we last spoke. I asked him what he was now doing. He said that he had just joined a Swedish outfit. I got the impression that he was or would be based in Sweden. So I asked him how he would manage if elected. He said that in that event, he may have to give up his Swedish job.
Mr Thiayagarajah, who was one of the assenters for the PAP candidates for Ang Mo Kio GRC, then joined us.
I told Mr Gomez that I had read in the newspapers that he had said that he had submitted his minority candidate certificate application on Monday (April 24, 2006) but that yesterday (April 26, 2006), when he turned up to collect his minority candidate certificate, the Elections Department said that it had no record of his application. I asked Mr Gomez why he had made a second mistake with his papers, two elections in a row and what had happened yesterday. In response, Mr Gomez laughed and told me and Mr Thiayagarajah that the minority certificate thing was just another 'wayang'. He added that since there was speculation that he was contesting in Ang Mo Kio GRC, he decided to play along to make them think that he was contesting in Ang Mo Kio GRC.
Although Mr Gomez laughed when he spoke to me and Mr Thiayagarajah, I got the impression that he was serious, had deliberately not submitted the application and that it was a ruse to mislead others. I was not amused but kept my sentiments to myself. Mr Thiayagarajah also did not say anything.
Mr Thiayagarajah has confirmed Mr Singh's account. Both of them have issued their statements to the media.
A deliberate deception
WHAT Mr Gomez did was therefore not an 'unintentional omission' or 'innocent mistake'. It was, as he himself said, a 'wayang' (theatrical or operatic show). Mr Gomez never had any intention to apply for a minority certificate. He set out to play a dirty trick on the Government.
After ELD issued its statement setting out what had actually happened, I pressed Mr Gomez to explain himself. He refused. Eventually, under pressure he admitted that he did not file the application. He did this only after the Elections Department had released the security camera video recording, as well as the tape and transcript of his telephone conversation with Ms Florence Tan of ELD.
Mr Gomez claimed that he did not submit his forms because he was distracted. He read out a carefully worded apology, with Mr Low standing beside him.
The apology appears to have been drafted by lawyers. It gave nothing away on what actually happened. It was disingenuous and crafted to mislead.
Mr Gomez was not distracted. As the tape shows, he was totally focused. He put the envelope in the bag. This entire episode was premeditated, as he himself said a 'wayang', a story that would have been backed up by two TV cameras of the media and his claim of corroboration by Ms Sylvia Lim.
He told the ELD that he had checked with Ms Sylvia Lim and that she had confirmed that the form had been submitted and accepted.
That is also untrue. Mr Gomez did not submit the form. The tape shows that Ms Lim was not with Mr Gomez when he put the envelope in the bag. She therefore could not have seen the form being submitted or accepted.
Ms Lim must know what actually happened. She was with Mr Gomez on April 24. In my view, she must know that Mr Gomez has not been truthful. Instead of coming clean, she had sought to trivialise the matter by saying that we are splitting hairs.
This is a grave matter
BUT it is a grave matter. What Mr Gomez did was not an inconsequential white lie. Nor was it a 'wayang' just to make the public think that he would be fielded in Ang Mo Kio GRC, as he told Mr Inderjit Singh and Mr Thiayagarajah. If it were some spontaneous fun with the media, he need not have gone back two days later to make a show of not receiving his minority certificate. He knew he did not hand in the application form - he had put it deliberately in his bag when he was at the counter of the Elections Department on April 24.
What is at stake
INSTEAD, he went on April 26, the eve of Nomination Day, to claim in front of TV crew that he had been deprived by the ELD of his minority certificate. In so doing, he was effectively charging that the PAP Government and its public servants had engaged in an unprincipled and criminal act to disqualify opposition candidates. He was playing an even more elaborate 'wayang' to claim that the PAP Government and the ELD had no integrity.
His second deliberately dishonest act just before Nomination Day was meant to set the stage for many damaging allegations which Mr Gomez and the other Workers' Party candidates would surely have made during the election campaign.
Mr Gomez would have accused the PAP of depriving him of his right to stand in a constituency of his choice. He would have questioned the integrity of the whole election process in Singapore. Other Workers' Party candidates would have taken up the theme. The Government and the ELD would have been brought into disrepute.
The test is: Had there been no security camera at ELD and had Mr Gomez not been caught red-handed, would the truth have come out?
Would Mr Gomez have voluntarily informed ELD that he had made a mistake, and that actually had never submitted the form?
Or would he have maintained his false claim, using the supporting evidence that he had constructed - the media's TV cameras and Ms Sylvia Lim - to make scandalous accusations and blacken the reputation of the ELD and the whole Government?
Even with the security camera recording, Mr Gomez has refused to come clean. What more if there had been no evidence against him, except the word of the ELD officials who dealt with him?
The responsibility of the Workers' Party and Mr Low Thia Khiang
THE evidence shows beyond doubt that there has been blatant dishonesty on the part of Mr Gomez, a Workers' Party candidate.
Mr Low Thia Khiang's statement that Mr Gomez made an 'innocent mistake', an 'unintentional omission' is nonsense.
This is why I asked Mr Low and the Workers' Party to answer my questions. I was giving them more than one chance to stand up to the high standards that Mr Low had claimed that he and the Worker's Party upheld in selecting their candidates.
Mr Low had earlier announced that the Workers' Party emphasised transparency and accountability, and demanded '3Cs and 2Ps' from all its candidates - credibility, capability, character, passion and public spiritedness. The PAP had applauded this statement and encouraged the Workers' Party in this approach to upgrading the quality of the opposition in Singapore.
I therefore gave Mr Low and the Workers' Party many opportunities to distance themselves from Mr Gomez, many chances to reconsider their position, and show that they indeed would live up to their ideals and moral standards.
Unfortunately, by their repeated stonewalling, they have proved that these are just empty words.
Mr Low continues to back Mr Gomez as a Workers' Party candidate. Perhaps Mr Gomez did not tell Mr Low the full story, or Mr Low has not had a chance to watch the security video himself.
I urge Mr Low to reconsider his position, even at this late stage.
There is still time before polling day for him and the Workers' Party to take a clear and principled stand, and show that the new Workers' Party under Mr Low is different from the old Workers' Party under Mr J. B. Jeyaretnam.
Mr Low cannot simply brush this episode away and say 'move on'. This is a serious matter. It cannot rest here.
THE JAMES GOMEZ AFFAIR
'The security recording shows clearly that he knew exactly what he was doing. He never had any intention of submitting the form.'
MR WONG KAN SENG on Mr James Gomez