Singapore Ministers speak funny. No I am not saying they are jokers. Come to think of it, when was the last time we heard a Minister telling a joke? Ok maybe a few years ago when Vivian Balakrishnan described flooding as ponding. (LOL! Even my spell-checker indicates that the word doesn’t exist). But seriously. Singapore Ministers don’t tell jokes. But I digress.
Singapore Ministers speak in a slow, controlled and deliberate manner that is so painful to watch. Maybe they want to sound intelligent. So they speak as if they are simultaneously checking with the dictionary and grammar book in their heads. They have to find that impressive big word and form the perfect sentence. And in so doing, they become expressionless. Robotic. And whatever charisma that they have is being sucked out by the need to be precise.
Chan Chun Sing is a good example of this. When he speaks, his face doesn’t move. And his eyes are fixed to the distant horizon. To a land long time ago when Thesaurus ruled the earth. He is intelligent no doubt. You cannot argue against his impeccable CV. But my laptop is intelligent too. But it is inanimate and I don’t listen to it much. Just the other day it prompted me to update my anti-virus. No thanks. I am clean. But I guess that’s how intelligent people speak. I don’t know. I don’t have intelligent friends.
And therein lies the problem. Your constituents don’t speak the way you do. Not all of them are Rafflesians or ACSians or scholars from the Ivy League. The only time they hear of Cambridge is when they have to sit for their GCEs. Ask them to speak in Queen’s English and their minds wander to Queen Street. Aah Queen Street. I miss the laksa over there.
In order to connect with your constituents you have to speak in a way that they will understand you. Do not over-think what you going to say. Throw away the imaginary dictionary that’s in your head. It’s alright to have a not-so-perfect-grammar. Your constituents will not notice. Don’t say things like `Each Singaporean and Permanent Resident above 18 will get $250 GST rebate to offset the rising cost of living due in part to the rising cost of housing, transportation and food which is beyond our control due to the increasing external pressure caused by the strengthening Singapore dollar’. You are not saying this in Parliament. You are saying this at Bedok Hawker Centre. They will say: `Huh?’ And that is just from the polite ones. You will not want to hear what the impolite ones say. Trust me. Instead, you should just say `We care. Here is $250 dollars for you’. And they will remember to vote you.
And remember to move your facial muscles, people! You are not ventriloquist puppets. And when you speak with a blank unmoving face, you appear stern, grim and uncompromising. Like a father chiding his children. Not many people like to be chided by their fathers. I don’t. I have daddy issues. So when you speak, learn to emote. Blink. Smile. Frown. Appropriately of course. Don’t smile when you are announcing an increase in taxes no matter how gleeful you are thinking about the amount of extra income you going to get. Be expressive. Show some passion. And don’t worry about wrinkles. We love our leaders to be a little wrinkly. It shows experience.
So next time you see Singapore Ministers speak. Don’t laugh. They are not joking. They just speak funny.
*Ben Afflicted is our resident madman. For safety reasons, he spends most of his time strapped in a chair in front of the TV and spoon fed by his Filipino maid, Desiree Constantica.