I read with great interest over the recent calls by the public in support of embattled Ms Tin Pei Ling, a 27 year old Senior Associate at Ernest & Young who is slated to run on the PAP ticket in Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency (GRC).
Over the past few weeks, some members of the public, PAP candidates, some ministers and even our own Prime Minister have called for people to rally behind Ms Tin and to give her a chance to prove herself. Most of the arguments revolve around how age is no barrier to public service and that critics should not be too quick to judge her despite the electoral battle having not begun yet.
While I think that some of those arguments are fair, like how age should not be a barrier to a candidate’s willingness to enter public service, I feel that most of it were just arguing against a position that nobody have taken. Nobody (or at least not the majority) is calling for her to step out of the race because she is young, but rather most of the displeasure was directed at how she will most likely enter Parliament riding behind the coat-tails of Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong without securing a mandate based on her own merit and of course the unfairness of the Group Representation Constituency scheme itself.
Today’s Straits Times have a two page spread in their ‘Insight’ section discussing the very topic about age and public service. Many of the examples given was about how throughout Singapore’s early history, young MPs younger than Ms Tin today were elected into office despite their inexperience and age. Members like Chia Thye Poh who was 23 when he was elected, Lim Chin Siong, the man expected to be our Prime Minister, who was 22 when he first enter Parliament and even our own former Speaker of Parliament, Mr Tan Soo Khoon who was 27. Now, I felt it was pretty surreal reading the spread because if its purpose is to subtly convince would-be voters that Ms Tin being older than those Members, is more than qualified to lead age-wise, it actually did otherwise for me instead.
Those example MPs at that time were running as individual candidates and certainly didn’t have the benefit of a strong leader standing next to them, but yet they managed to pull through and convince their electorate that they were much more capable of representing them, then their much older candidates.
It is exactly in this spirit, why most people are calling for Ms Tin to prove herself by standing in a Single Member Constituency (SMC) like the warriors of those days.