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.

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5 responses

  1. KM

    We should all take note of one important point: LHL qualified his “apology” with a key word “IF”. Therefore, it’s still not a real apology because it seems to question whether they did any wrong in the first place.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:47 am

  2. Wang

    KM

    You are picking nits

    May 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm

  3. fakeapology

    We have seen it in movies. the villain only apologize when he knows his is going to loose, and if the good.guy bielieve it, the villain will counterstrike and will never have to put himself in such situation again.

    If he is sincere, he would have done this long ago. Voters do not be fooled.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm

  4. ICBM

    If I hit you hard and make you warded in the sick bay,and I told your family member: “IF I have done anything wrong, I’m SORRY.” Would you accept this??

    May 5, 2011 at 11:12 am

  5. Sincerity

    If he is really sorry,

    1. He should sack Wong Kan Seng and take back his 8 months bonus NOW. For Wong Kan Seng does not deserve any bonus for his bungle in the Mas Selamat’s double escapes.

    2. He should sack Yaacob Ibrahim, the man who sleeps in his job for the last 50 years, NOW.

    3. He should sack his own father who still keep threatening Singaporeans with his calculated callous “REPENT” or else …. threat, NOW.

    4. He should sack Goh Chok Tong for stirring up shit within his own party, NOW.

    5. He should sack the ex-Malaysian Khaw Boon Wan for impossing Means-Testing upon the poor and middle class and for wishing to send all our old folks to die in Johore Bahru, NOW.

    6. He should sack the clownish uncoth Lim Swee Say for taking Singaporeans as Fools, NOW.

    7. He should sack the Minister in charge of the Civil Service Teo Chee Hean for using taxpayers’ money to give to the civil service people including all the ministers 8 months bonus last year, NOW.

    8. He should sack many other useless PAP MPs who have not been speaking up for their constituents, NOW.

    9. He should sack his Minister for Manpower, the son of a Gan, for facilitating the ease of influx of foreigners into Singapore to take away our jobs, NOW!

    10. Last but not least, he should take the childish still wet behind the years though 27 years old Tin Pei Ling out of the Contest, NOW!

    May 5, 2011 at 11:26 am

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