Tan Jee Say goes after new PAP candidate for being 'contradictory'

PHOTO: The Straits Times, The New Paper

Mr Tan Jee Say took a jab at the ruling party's candidate for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, Mr Chee Hong Tat, yesterday.

At the sidelines of the SingFirst 3rd Public Forum at Hotel Royal in Newton, Mr Tan, secretary-general of the Singaporeans First (SingFirst) party, called Mr Chee "inconsistent" and "contradictory" after Mr Chee used Hokkien in his introductory speech on Wednesday.

Mr Chee has come under some fire online for this incident because six years ago, he had written a letter to The Straits Times Forum, saying: "Many Singaporeans are now fluent in both English and Mandarin. It would be stupid for any Singapore agency or NTU to advocate the learning of dialects, which must be at the expense of English and Mandarin."

Mr Chee was responding to an article where a Nanyang Technological University don opined that children were losing touch with dialects.

Mr Chee had then signed off the letter in his capacity as the Principal Private Secretary to the then Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

Some netizens took issue with Mr Chee's use of the word "stupid", saying it was condescending and uncalled for. Harsher critics called him "a hypocrite" and questioned his ability and sincerity in reaching out to the elderly in his constituency.

Yesterday, Mr Tan - who was also once the Principal Private Secretary to then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong - took aim and asked: "Will he be fielded now that he has been exposed as someone who says one thing in government but says something else (later)? Ask (the PAP), if they still field him after this."


Mr Chee clarified his stance in a video interview with 938Live posted on Friday night. He said that dialect was acceptable for private use and a useful tool for communicating with elders and for cultural understanding.

If one wanted to learn dialect as a private initiative, from friends or a clan association, it was no issue.

But he reiterated his stand that dialect should not be taught in schools or classrooms. He said: "The national policy of focusing on English and Mother Tongue is still the correct policy because most of the students still focus on these two languages."

Commenting on the situation, political analyst Eugene Tan said: "Given that he is a first-time candidate and likely to be an office-holder if elected, there might be a negative impact on Mr Chee's campaign if the view that he is anti-dialect gains traction, especially in the heartland..."

This article was first published on August 16, 2015. Get The New Paper for more stories.