By now the name Chen Show Mao is no longer strange to Singaporeans. In particular, they should remember him as the charismatic member of the Workers' Party (WP) quintet who toppled the formidable PAP team which included the heavyweight Foreign Minister George Yeo in the Aljunied GRC in the General Election in May this year. He was quite modest in his pivotal role in bringing about the historic WP victory.
He brings along with him formidable credentials which even the ordinarily disdainful PAP leaders could only admire and respect. How could they be otherwise when Chen's credentials put him in a position superior to most, if not all, of the PAP leaders, including possibly the immodest PM Lee Hsien Loong himself. With his talent and international legal experience Chen is going to pioneer a political path for Singaporeans which will give the PAP leaders a run for their money trying to emulate or counter.
Chen showed his political dexterity when he made his maiden speech in Parliament yesterday (18-10-11). He showed himself no less effectively bi-lingual than the best of any such politicians that the PAP can muster. He spoke fluently in Mandarin and not only displayed political maturity but magnanimity as well when he deftly sketched out the relationship between the WP and the ruling PAP as he saw it by bringing back to present reality the royal court of Tang Dynasty China.
There was in Emperor Tang Taizong's reign in the Tang Dynasty a famous courtier Wei Zheng who was renowned for speaking the truth to the throne and was unafraid of offending the emperor. As a result of courtier Wei's fearless and far-sighted criticisms, the emperor introduced the Zhenguan golden era (贞观之治） that would become a model for China's future rulers. Mr Chen appealed earnestly: "In this 12th Parliament, I hope a wise ruling party can be Tang Taizong while we the WP can be Wei Zheng. Together we can create a prosperous era, one that is not dictated by a single ruler surrounded by 'yes' men". (The quotation of Mr Chen's speech is taken from the Straits Times)
Mr Chen's speech was described as mastery and commanded the attention of the almost-full House, including PM Lee Hsien Loong. That the House has rarely experienced such a dignified utterrance of a rising political star of Mr Chen's calibre is never in doubt. As a further proof of the respect he commands, Minister of State for Education and Defence Mr Lawrence Wong was careful in his speech to avoid the pitfall of irrational criticism of Mr Chen's speech. As if by intuition he also touched on the same theme of the relationship between the Government and the people. It was the PAP smart Alec Dr Teo Ho Pin who made some dissenting noise that he"did not know the difference (Mr Chen) has made" in defining the differences. (Mr Chen was making the point that political differences are not akin to divisions that will lend to time-wasting politicking and gridlock).
In conclusion there is a Chinese saying which fits exactly the character of Mr Chen Show Mao: Acquainted with things ancient and modern; Well versed in philosophy. (博古通今； 精通哲理）. There is a prediction that in Mr Chen Show Mao the highfalutin former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew will meet his waterloo.