TL;DR – That’s (not) what he said.
Who will be the next PM of Singapore? That’s a topic that always draws eyeballs. And many media outlets know it.
So when PM Lee or any of the frontrunners say anything about it, you can be sure that media outlets will write about it (yes yes… we are also guilty of it). But with media outlets trying to capture eyeballs, some will resort to click-bait headlines.
It started with a Reuters article that had this headline:
Singapore Minister says he is prepared to become next PM if called upon
Then some alternative Singapore news media sites
plagiarising parroting the Reuters headlines.
Ok. Maybe not completely parroting. Because the headlines of the articles on those sites actually named the minister.
Yes, that headline will certainly grab attention. But was that really the key message from that minister? Was it really what he’d meant to say? Here’s the context behind those click-bait headlines.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Chan Chun Sing, had a dialogue session over lunch with members of the Foreign Correspondents Association (FCA) this afternoon (30 Oct 2017).
He was asked for his views on the next PM. FCA president Sharanjit Leyl of the BBC asked him point blank: “Would you like the job?”
That was when Minister Chan replied:
“All of us have to be prepared to do the job when called upon.”
He also said that political leadership “is a responsibility to be borne, not a position to be sought”.
So, yes. We can understand that Minister Chan did say that he is prepared to be the next PM if called upon. But what he said also means that his colleagues in Cabinet are also prepared to be the next PM if they are called upon. Why did the headlines of those articles not highlight that instead? The headlines could well have read:
“Chan Chun Sing says all cabinet ministers prepared to be PM if called upon”
But no. Reuters and some of the alternative news media sites in Singapore chose to have a click-bait headline instead.
Which is a waste.
Because that isn’t the crux of Minister Chan’s message. The crux of Minister Chan’s message is better reflected in the headlines of Straits Times and Today.
The headline of the article in Straits Times is:
“There will be continuity regardless of who becomes next PM, says Chan Chun Sing”
While the headline in Todayonline is:
Direction S’pore takes will not be ‘diametrically opposite’ regardless of who is next PM: Minister Chan”
And that is really the crux of Minister Chan’s message. No matter who becomes the next PM, there won’t be major upheavals in Singapore.Minister Chan said:
“You can have confidence that there will be business continuity in Singapore… (and we will) constantly reinvent ourselves to stay relevant to the world”
In other words, regardless of who becomes the next PM, the international community and businesses can be assured that there will be a stable environment in Singapore for them to continue working with us and operating in Singapore.
Straits Times reported that MCI had sent out a media statement late last night.
In a statement sent to the media past midnight on Tuesday (Oct 31), the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) took issue with a news report by Reuters about the dialogue, saying that the wire news agency had run “a fabricated headline alleging Minister Chan Chun Sing had said he is prepared to serve as PM”.
Reuters had written that Mr Chan said “he is prepared to become next PM if called upon”, the MCI said.
Refuting this, MCI said Mr Chan had been referring to the entire fourth generation leadership, and not to himself, when he said “all of us have to be prepared to do the job when called upon”.
MCI added: “It is irresponsible of a wire agency like Reuters to fabricate quotes like this.”
On Tuesday (Oct 31), the day after the MCI statement, Reuters amended its headline to read: “Singapore minister says he, and his colleagues, all prepared to become next PM if called upon”.