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A motion on the achievements of Singapore women took a drastic turn when Minister Masagos had an intense exchange with WP MP Faisal Manap in Parliament over the tudung issue yesterday.

The exchange took place in a middle of a debate on supporting the aspirations of women in Singapore, after Faisal Manap had raised the tudung issue in an earlier speech.

In a nut shell, Masagos was taking Faisal Manap to task for constantly raising “divisive” issues such as the tudung issue, role of Malays in the SAF, and Palestine etc. You get the drift. Difficult issues that tend to put the government in a spot. That might drive a wedge by making these issues into what Masagos called a “state vs religion” matter.

Why keep focusing on such issues, Masagos asked, instead of focusing on issues that matter most to the Malay-Muslim community – education, housing, jobs. Why not focus on issues that are more important and constructive?

Now, Faisal Manap is a politician at the end of the day. While I’m sure that issues such as tudung, role of Malays in the SAF and Palestine do matter to many Malay-Muslims, I am also sure that Faisal Manap specifically raised these issues precisely because these were tough issues that would put the government in a spot. And to gain some political mileage out of it too by playing to the gallery. i.e. Faisal Manap is just being a politician.

E.g. remember the photo of him praying before a GE rally in 2015, which appeared on social media?

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Like what many other politicians do actually. Including PAP ones. Just that sometimes they are lousier at it – e.g remember. Koh Poh Koon helping an old auntie to carrying 32kg of old newspapers.

Yet, three points in defense of Faisal Manap:

1) Sole Malay Opposition MP

Now, the PAP is accusing Faisal Manap of raising “divisive” issues on a regular basis. The thing is, if not him, then who? There aren’t any other Malay-Muslim opposition MPs, so the onus is on him to raise certain issues that members of the Malay-Muslims want answers to.

Perhaps Faisal Manap wouldn’t need to raise such issues if Malay-Muslim PAP MPs have the guts to raise them in Parliament in the first place.

2) If not in Parliament, then where?

Masagos said that the government does not discuss such issues in public forums, such as Parliament, as they are sensitive and potentially divisive, and can be easily misunderstood because they are complex and difficult to resolve. Instead, Masagos said, the government addresses these issues behind closed doors with community leaders.

Not that we can’t discuss behind closed doors at times, but honestly, what’s so wrong about an elected representative raising issues that matter to his constituents in Parliament? And if we can’t have an open debate in Parliament, then where is a right platform for law makers to debate sensitive, but important stuff?

At least Parliament is a public forum where everything that’s said is recorded into the Hansard – so we know what exactly is said. As opposed to doing things behind closed doors all the time, where the public wouldn’t know what’s going on.

When can this society have an honest conversation about things, rather than sweep them under the rug?

3) Point about Zulfikar was a red herring

In his speech, Masagos raised the point about Zulfikar (remember the dude who was detained under the ISA last year for promoting violence and ISIS?) and Faisal Manap being at an event at the same time.

That was a classic red herring that is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand:

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Somewhat insinuating something else also. Which is an ad hominem:

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Nope. Not cool at all, Masagos.

That is all.

The end.