Goh Meng Seng, who was part of the Workers' Party's Aljunied GRC team which contested in the 2006 General Election, has resigned from the party. The news of his resignation is not on the scale of Donald Rumsfeld's but nevertheless I was quite surprised.
What follows is Goh Meng Seng's reasons for his resignation in his own words. In his clarification, he refers to two reports by TODAY & Straits Times who are part of the pro-PAP govt news media. Nonetheless for the benefit of readers, I've re-produced both the reports below......
My Resignation from Workers' Party
I did not expect to write this so soon as I wanted to wait until the present parliamentary sitting is over before I make any public statement on my resignation which I think is not news worthy at all, but may be a distraction to Sylvia Lim's maiden speech in parliament.
Anyway, for some reason, the ST reporter got to know about it sooner than I desire. I granted the interview with the view that it is better to make it clear right from the start rather than allowing the reporter to write with all sorts of speculations in mind.
The following are just some facts that I need to clarify:
1) I resigned from Workers' Party on the day when the misinformation of I threatening to sue an internet forummer was reported in Today. This is due to my private assessment on the damage done to WP's public image despite the fact that I have clarified the facts on the matter to the Today's reporter. I guess Today will never make any reports on misinformation about any PAP MPs or ministers with their clarifications put side by side. Well, this is life in Singapore.
2) For some reasons, ST chose not to report the specific reason I gave them about the damage done by the Today's report on the misinformation (though with my clarifications by the side).
3) Neverthless, damage has been done on WP's image. I have talked about the importance of accountability for all my adult life and I think in view of the situation then, I will have to practice what I preach. It is a matter of personal integrity to me. If I do not practice what I preach, on what moral grounds do I stand when I question the ruling party about accountability in their governance?
4) This is the reason that I resigned. The speculation proposed by the ST reporter that I quit because I am unhappy about the rules which are going to be implemented (over internet engagement) is totally unfounded. It is only healthy that people have diverse views about anything in a political party. The most important thing is that, at the end of the day, we will come to a consensus and move on from there. It would be a total disaster for a political party to have members agreeing 100% on everything everytime.
5) None of the CEC members have requested me to resign over this matter. In actual fact, some has tried in private to convince me to stay on. My heart felt thanks to them but I think it is an important political point to be made.
6) For those people who like to speculate all sorts of things and come up with all sorts of conspiracy theory, they will be very disappointed. This is a simple resignation over a simple reason.
The most common reaction from people is that I am quitting politics altogether. Some will be relieved and some will be disappointed to learn that this is definitely not the case. ;)
My political vision and dream is to work towards an alternative political system for Singapore, to initiate positive change or reform to Singapore's political system. Joining a political party to provide meaningful political competition to the ruling party is merely one of the many ways or possibilities in achieving this goal.
I have written in this blog about the delimma between the choices of partisan politics and NGO's role of creating more political awareness among the populace. In order for the reform to the political system to be successful, it will need the backing and support of Singaporeans. This could only achieve when the political consciousness and awareness of our citizens are raised to a certain level.
Beside exploring the idea of forming or joining NGO, I have even explored into the possibilities of forming an independent alternative private think tank for all alternative parties. Political parties need policy research capabilities in order to perform their duties effectively. PAP, as the ruling party, has the support of the government funded think tanks to provide them this policy research capabilities. Alternative parties are deprived of such much needed resources.
I could even help out any political parties in various areas so to help the system grows. There are so many other ways one could contribute to the ultimate aim of reforming the political system beside standing in the frontline as a candidate during GE.
Of course, I may not discount the possibility of joinging any political party again or even form my own political party in future, but I think there are so many options available for anybody who want to do their part in initiating changes to the political landscape!
Goh Meng Seng
An update: An intense debate & discussion is taking place here at Sammyboy.com.**********Workers' Party netiquette comes under fire
TODAY, Wednesday • October 25, 2006
Tor Ching Li
SOME Workers' Party members have recently become entangled in an Internet forum "brawl", with mudslinging and name-calling aplenty — to the extent of sparking a thread on the Young People's Action Party online forum entitled "WP members being complained (sic) on internet forums". This has garnered more than 80 postings since Oct 14.
One netizen, Mohammad Razari — who claims to be a third-year Singapore Polytechnic electrical engineering student residing in Hougang Ave 1 and says he is a former participant in WP's outreach programmes — sent a complaint letter to WP chairman Sylvia Lim and secretary-general Low Thia Khiang, citing what he thought to be unacceptable online conduct by WP members such as party webmaster Goh Meng Seng.
He said Mr Goh, a computer retail businessman, was narrow-minded to have called a forum participant "scheming" and "lacking in integrity" after "losing an argument". He also thought Mr Goh had threatened to sue another forum participant for implying that Mr Goh visited the www.sggirls.com forum.
In general, WP members were accused of being "argumentative", attempting to "sow discord" between various party supporters and even of taking the guise of online "clones" — or posting replies under alternative usernames — to "influence perception".
These online rumblings are reflected on Sammyboy threads called "Complaint letter to WP Central Executive Committee" and "Any respond (sic), follow up from Sylvia and WP?" with more than 40 and nearly 200 postings respectively.
When approached by Today for a response, Mr Goh clarified he had "categorically said (he) will not sue" the forum participant for his misinformed statement. He explained the SG Girls forum shared the same database as www.sgforums.com, and that he does not frequent the former site.
As for his harsh words used on the forum participant, Mr Goh said: "What I said could have been harsh but you have to look at it in context. People who argue with me will find me argumentative. But since his agenda is questionable, I am not going to engage him in discussions any more."
Mr Goh, who has been active in the forum scene since 2003, said he still thinks Internet forums are a good venue to answer critics and eventually win them over. Nevertheless, he added that postings on such freewheeling forums "have to be taken with a pinch of salt".
As with all things online, not every posting can be taken at face value. WP Youth Wing president Perry Tong recently filed a police report after someone impersonated his identity on the Sammyboy online forums — also on Oct 14, coincidentally.
In the impersonated posting, "Perry Tong" sent WP member "Melvin Tan" a message that read: "We must keep 'forumers' here constantly updated about WP activities. Keep clear of mudslinging and personal attacks. I have already instructed Meng Seng and Andrew to stop."
In an email response to Today, WP chairman Ms Lim said: "We are aware that there is activity in the Sammyboy forums involving WP members. Such communications are engaged in the personal capacity of the members concerned as we have not appointed any official spokesman for Internet communications. The official position of the party is to be found on our website and official statements issued."
Ms Lim added the party is reviewing some existing "general guidelines" for office bearers regarding Internet communications, "with a view to issuing some guidelines to all members".
In view of the online backlash to WP's presence, Internet observer Siew Kum Hong said: "One really has to be very disciplined and restrained when participating in such forums. If one engages long enough in such a medium, it is inevitable there will be a backlash from the community. It's then a question of how one deals with it. This is probably why you don't see the PAP MPs engaging in such Internet forums."
In channels such as blogs or websites — which are employed by PAP MPs, such as the www.p65.sg site — one can control one's message and how one chooses to engage the public, he said.
Nanyang Technological University Associate Professor in Political Science, Prof Ho Khai Leong believes both extremes — that of the MPs' aim to "reach, teach and preach" and the netizens' mission to "analyse, scrutinise and criticise" — will help mould cyberspace.
He said: "Both these approaches, in their extreme forms, will no doubt invite criticisms, which I think is healthy. As political blogs and bloggers and forumers mature and become more mundane — as we are seeing in many blogs — the more serious and thoughtful blogs and forums will make the more absurd and outlandish ones irrelevant in our everyday discourse of politics in cyberspace."**********Senior WP member quits over Net fracas
Senior Workers' Party member Goh Meng Seng takes responsibility for tarnishing the party's reputation by making critical remarks against online forum participant
Straits Times, Wednesday, November 8, 2006
By Peh Shing Huei & Ken Kwek
Senior Workers' Party member Goh Meng Seng has quit the party, taking responsibility for Internet postings he said had tarnished the WP's reputation.
"I need to be accountable for it," said the 36-year-old, who was part of the WP's Aljunied team in the last polls.
However, sources say he was also unhappy with impending party guidelines to curtail members' postings on the Internet, a claim he denied.
Mr Goh, an active netizen, had attracted brickbats recently on online forums for harsh language, calling a forum participant "scheming" and "lacking in integrity."
A netizen even fired a letter to party chairman Sylvia Lim, complaining about WP members' online behaviour.
Mr Goh told The Straits Times yesterday: "It has created a bad image for the party and the party must come first. Someone must be accountable."
He stressed that he was not pushed out of the party and that his comrades had asked him to stay.
His resignation two weeks ago came as a shock to party members. He was a central executive committee (CEC) member and part of the WP's "A team" led by Ms Lim, which claimed 43.9 per cent of the valid votes in Aljunied GRC during May's General Election.
Mr Goh, who joined the WP in 2001, said it was not an easy decision to quit. "I may not be a veteran who has been with the party for over 40 years. But there is still an emotional attachment," he said.
"I have no regrets," he said repeatedly, adding in Mandarin: "Tian xia mei you bu san zhi yan xi." The Chinese proverb he quoted states that there is no banquet in this world that lasts forever.
He said he has not thought of joining another opposition party and will still help out with WP activities.
Ms Lim told The Straits Times last night the party is "always sad to lose people."
Added WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang: "I have to respect his choice. I respect the individual's choice, and he has made his contributions to the party in the past." He did not want to elaborate on the reasons behind Mr Goh's departure.
On the party's Internet guidelines, he said: 'There was some feedback from younger members of the party who are active on the Internet, that perhaps we should have certain "netiquette."
"Since it's something from the ground that younger members would like to see, the CEC will take it up and see what is the best we can come up with."