A Time for “Sorry” Showmanship
This is not about Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s apology to the PM but the competition in “sorry” showmanship by Nicole Seah from NSP and Lee Hsien Loong the PM.
Last night, Nicole Seah from the NSP dramatically apologised to the Muslim community on behalf of the Chinese community for MM Lee Kuan Yew’s remark about Malay integration into Singapore society. The issue is not whether Malays have integrated well or not as that is subjective. The issue is that in the first place, the elderly statesman should not have said it, and since he wrote about it and was cornered into talking about it, he should have apologised sincerely and not give a “stand corrected” response.
“On behalf of the Chinese Singaporeans, I would like to apologise to the Muslim community for the comments that MM Lee made”
How did Nicole Seah do that apology? She did it in Malay and in English. Extremely suave political move. I checked with my Malay friends and her Malay accent isn’t great but the effort and more important the political showmanship was excellent. Without doubt, Nicole would do well in her advertising and political career as she is top notch in marketing her product – the NSP brand name. That she did it yesterday was probably timed as a teaser to attract the probably larger numbers of Malay voters in the Tampines GRC rally on Wednesday night.
Not to be outdone but in a more strategic national manner over the shortcomings of the PAP, PM Lee Hsien Loong also did his apology during the lunch time rally this afternoon.
“We are trying our best on your behalf. And if we didn’t quite get it right, If we didn’t get it right, I’m sorry, but we will try and do better next time”
On mistakes made by the PAP.
“But when it happens, then we should acknowledge it, we should apologise, take responsibility, put things right, if we have to discipline somebody we would do that and we must learn from the lessons and never make the same mistake again”.
The cynics would say that it is too little too late for apologies and humility, and the lunch speech was insincere. Whether it is sincere or not, it is also great showmanship because he is the PM and yet he is apologising. He did not use the term “stand corrected”, or “apologise” but the very basic and simplest yet hardest word to admit contrition, “sorry”. Now if Nicole Seah had used the word “sorry” instead of the more formal and distant “apology”, she would have scored better than PM Lee’s attempt at winning our hearts.
Public apology is an art form like in Japanese poltics where sobbing and deep bowing is expected at the very least. Done too little it is deemed insincere e.g. MM Lee’s “stand corrected”. Done too much and the offending party is deemed deserving of retribution instead of reconciliation e.g. a green light to voters to make the PAP pay for their mistakes. PM Lee’s lunch time “sorry”, not “apology”, might mark the PAP’s move away from the “Never apologise. Never explain” mindset at the eleventh hour before polling day, rather than months ago. Whether or not it is a ruse, the politics of “sorry” is just politics and I would give points to Nicole for being the first mover, and points to the PM for appearing more humble in his “sorry”. Also, I’m not casting my vote whether the person said “sorry” or not anyway. When I attend rallies, I’m going to listen to hard policies, not heart rhetoric.