(UPDATE #1: Mr Singh has invited Mr Loh to meet up)
(UPDATE #2: Mr Loh has agreed.)
Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh may have gotten a bit more online engagement than he bargained for when he recently commented on the PAP’s engagement tactics on his Facebook page.
The trouble started when one blogger, Mr Andrew Loh, responded to the post by asking Mr Singh about the Workers’ Party’s(WP) own online engagement. The dispute quickly took a nasty turn and the two traded barbs over the course of the last 24 hours.
On Monday, Mr Singh posted a link to blogger Mollymeek’s entry on PAP’s efforts to engage the online community, which included Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s tea session at the Istana with Facebook fans and bloggers last week.
Mr Singh, who is from the opposition Workers’ Party, added his two cents’ worth, saying he found it “noteworthy” that three PAP MPs appeared in the session: Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin, Mr Zaqy Mohamad, and Ms Low Yen Ling.
“They are probably leading the government's effort to retake the the online space. Should we let them?” wrote Mr Singh.
Netizens swiftly weighed in, including blogger Mr Loh, who runs the website Publichouse.sg. Mr Loh, who is also a former WP member, asked Mr Singh to clarify what he meant by the question, and asked if WP would “lead the charge” in any reaction againt PAP's online engagement.
What ensued was a robust discussion between the MP and blogger, with Mr Loh attempting to pin down Mr Singh on WP’s commitment to online engagement.
Mr Singh, who is the vice-chair of WP’s media team, told another netizen, Jmm Limm, that while WP’s strength has traditionally been face-to-face engagement, WP could “improve our online signature”.
He then told Mr Loh that WP would “do its best given the resources we have.”
It prompted the following responses from Mr Loh:
Mr Singh rebutted by saying that this was an inappropriate comparison, and noted that WP MPs also do a lot of day-to-day municipal work.
He also issued a challenge: “You want change? Shut the PC down. Really. Join the struggle. contribute directly instead of indirectly,”
Mr Loh noted that Mr Singh also used to blog. He shot back that citizen journalism is worthwhile and not easy too: “So, please. While being an MP is a big job, it is not the only way.... And “join the struggle”? I think many people are - including all those citizen journalists out there. I think you do them a dishonour when you speak like that.”
It was here that the conversation really started to heat up. Both Mr Singh and Mr Loh took turns accusing each other of being "disingenuous". Mr Singh also went on to suggest that Mr Loh was "spoiling for a fight".
At this point, another netizen called George Wong stepped in and accused Mr Singh for being “offensive” in “attacking” Mr Loh.
This prompted the sharpest barb yet from Mr Singh. In it, he said Mr Loh's behaviour "borders on pathological". He also posed questions about Mr Loh's motivations.
"Maybe he can tell us why he left the WP after to two years? What really happened? Is it true that he was in the YPAP originally? Who is funding publichouse.sg?" he wrote.
Another Netizen later chimed in saying that it may not be best for a politician to make comments against a single person.
Mr Singh replied:
Thus far there have been no further posts by Mr Loh on this thread.
UPDATE #1: This afternoon, Mr Singh invited Mr Loh to meet up at Block 632 Bedok Reservoir Road. He made the offer on the Facebook page of the Every Day Party. Mr Loh has not yet replied to the invite.
UPDATE #2: According to Every Day Party, Mr Loh has agreed to meet Mr Singh.
The post from Mr Loh on the Every Day Party page:
Click here to see the original exchange in full.