Pritam Singh & Calvin Cheng Are Old Friends & Were Never In Parliament At The Same Time
When politicians argue fervently over one issue or another in Parliament or espouse opposing views over social media, the public might wrongfully assume that the hostility plays out in real life.
After all, much like for skilled actors, it’s difficult for the general public to separate politicians from their political persona.
But politicians are everyday humans too, and as such they also form unlikely cross-party friendships. Now there’s one more to add to the list: Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh and former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Calvin Cheng.
Mr Cheng has revealed that he and Mr Singh are old friends.
They also caught up over a cup of Teh-C in Bedok Reservoir recently.
Pritam Singh invited Calvin Cheng to an opposition ward
In a Facebook post on Wednesday (18 Nov) night, Mr Cheng said Mr Singh treated him to Teh-C that day.
The venue was an unnamed kopitiam in Bedok Reservoir Road, which happens to be in Mr Singh’s ward of Eunos division, Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC).
As most Singaporeans know, the Workers’ Party (WP) has held Aljunied GRC since the 2011 General Election (GE), and it’s firmly an opposition ward now.
He joked that Mr Singh brought him there as he made a recently post about being “frightened” of opposition-held wards.
Pritam Singh & Calvin Cheng were ‘fairly close’
If you’re wondering how these 2 men seemingly from different places of the political spectrum know each other, Mr Cheng said that he and Mr Pritam were actually “fairly close”.
In fact, as Mr Singh was a fan of football club Manchester United, he used to tease Mr Cheng about his favourite Liverpool football club, which wasn’t doing so well at that time.
Now that the fortunes have turned for these clubs (with Liverpool winning the Premier League and Champions League recently), Mr Cheng said that Mr Singh can’t tease him any more.
Both men were never in Parliament together
Their friendship extended way back, before Mr Singh entered politics with the WP in 2010. He was then elected as an MP in 2011.
Mr Cheng was an NMP from 2009 to 2011, leaving his role just before GE2011.
That means both men were never in Parliament at the same time.
Calvin Cheng seen as pro-establishment
However, Mr Cheng is seen by some as having pro-establishment views, having made posts on social media that were deemed to be supportive of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), as well as some not-so-supportive posts about the WP.
For example, on 13 Nov he made a faintly sarcastic Facebook post about Sengkang MP Jamus Lim, who posted about Italian sweetbread.
In his post, Mr Cheng called Mr Lim a “celebrity MP”. He also referred to “bourgeoise folks”.
Mr Cheng followed this up with a post about another Sengkang MP, Ms Raeesah Khan, who had celebrated her birthday.
In the post, he claimed that she lived in a 3-storey bungalow in Eunos.
However, Mr Cheng has also written fairly positive things about the WP too.
In a Facebook post on Monday (16 Nov), he called the WP successful and focused on doing hard work on the ground without being populist.
He added that he’d rather this version of the WP succeed than opposition that’s “clownish and/or destructive”.
Of course, Mr Cheng has also made several controversial posts on social media, including one that advocated for the killing of terrorists and their children for good measure.
Pritam Singh & Calvin Cheng agree to disagree
Perhaps Mr Singh had asked Mr Cheng out to discuss his recent posts on the WP, who knows?
But what we do know that according to Mr Cheng, the 2 friends are willing to agree to disagree.
As they are “rivals not enemies”, they can still be friends despite their political differences.
They both agreed that Singapore must have a “centre” so that the nation can be politically stable.
On his part, Mr Cheng said he holds Mr Singh in high regard as a “moderate and loyal opposition”.
Other ‘rivals not enemies’
To be sure, Mr Singh has other people whom he’s “rivals not enemies” with.
One of them is Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, whom he’s met over lunch to discuss his role as Leader of the Opposition.
Though that may be considered a work meeting, Mr Singh has also played football with Mr Tan before.
Mr Tan, on his part, has also been committed to forging friendships outside political lines.
He was gracious enough to visit former WP chief Low Thia Khiang at home, days before GE2020.
Another example of cross-party respect was seen in the heat of campaigning for GE2020.
Despite the politically charged atmosphere, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan exchanged a fist-bump with Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam when their paths crossed during a walkabout.
Now, that’s the true spirit of sportsmanship.
Bodes well for Singapore
We’re glad that unlike the politically divided climate of countries like the United States, many of our politicians seem to have true respect for one another.
After all, just because people may have different views on many issues, doesn’t mean they can’t respect each other as fellow human beings.
As long as these cross-party friendships hold up, it bodes well for Singapore as a nation.
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Featured image adapted from Facebook.