Singapore: Citizens Discuss Politician's Extramarital Scandal

One of Singapore's socio-political websites, Temasek Review Emeritus, posted an article alleging that Worker's Party (WP) member and Member of Parliament for Hougang SMC Yaw Shin Leong had an extramarital affair:

TR Emeritus (TRE) has received several tip-offs from reliable informants that a core member of a reputable opposition party is allegedly involved in an extramarital affair with a married woman who is also from the same party.

This article led to plenty of gossip and speculation amongst Singaporeans, both in the mainstream media and on social media. New reports of alleged affairs with other women began to surface, claiming that Yaw had had an affair with a woman from his church, as well as a Chinese tuition teacher who had helped him translate his speeches.

Both Yaw and WP chose to remain silent instead of addressing the rumours, but on 7 February, 2012, the party put out a terse statement saying that Yaw had resigned from the party's Central Executive Committee (CEC):

The Workers’ Party wishes to inform the public that at the monthly meeting of the Executive Council on Tuesday, 7 February 2012, the Council accepted the resignation of Yaw Shin Leong from the party leadership. Yaw Shin Leong will cease to be Treasurer of the Party with immediate effect.

A photo Yaw posted on his Facebook page of himself working with colleagues over the Chinese New Year.

A photo Yaw posted on his Facebook page of himself working with colleagues over the Chinese New Year.

The party however assured the public, and especially the constituents of Hougang, that Yaw would continue to serve as Member of Parliament.

Many Singaporeans have been unhappy with the way the whole episode was handled by both Yaw and the Worker's Party, feeling that their silence indicated a lack of transparency and savvy in dealing with the media.

Ng E-Jay of SGPolitics feels that Yaw should either come clean or resign as MP:

In light of recent developments, I am forced to conclude that Mr Yaw’s alleged sexual behaviour has the potential to create conflicts of interests at both the party level as well as the constituency level.

As such, Mr Yaw should either come clean about the truth of his sexual indiscretions, whilst protecting the women involved from further embarrassment and harassment, or he should consider himself unfit for political office, and resign accordingly as MP of Hougang.

Some feel that Yaw's resignation from the WP CEC is an implicit admission of his guilt:

@jannajauhar: WP member Yaw Shin Leong seems to have problem staying faithful. #men

@sailesh88: This Yaw Shin Leong macam James Bond. Involved with a woman everywhere he goes

Alex Au of Yawning Bread points out that WP's silence in this episode reflects the lack of openness shown by the ruling People's Action Party (for which they have often been criticised):

If the party hopes Hougang voters will overlook the allegations at the next general elections — they are hardly likely to forget them — why doesn’t the party trust that Singaporeans will be understanding now?  Why not set an example of honesty and openness now?

Why is the Workers’ Party putting on the PAP’s (Singapore's ruling party) mask of sullen resistance?

However, Tan Kin Lian, who had contested in the Presidential Election 2011, supported Yaw and WP's handling of the matter:

“We have to respect the right as a citizen, including a public figure, to remain silent on private matters that do not affect the performance of their public duty.

There is no need to make further disclosures, as there is a need to protect the privacy of Mr Yaw's family.

The voters of Hougang will judge Mr Yaw at the next general election.”


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