By The Way

Football, vaccination centres and getting social media right: What politicians are up to this week

The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series. PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM ALVIN TAN/FACEBOOK, MARIAM JAAFAR/FACEBOOK, SCREENGRAB FROM TAN SEE LENG/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series.

In this edition, we take a look at politicians' fascination with football, the closure of vaccination centres, and also Manpower Minister Tan See Leng's social media game.

Look out for the latest edition of the series every Friday, and check out past ones here.

Just for kicks

With both the Premier League and the Champion's League seasons just over, it was no wonder that football was on the mind of politicians here.

When Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Nadia Ahmad Samdin and Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai had lunch with Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin as he kicked off his four-day visit to Singapore, they chatted about "politics, succession, collabs between our two countries, instability in the world, and of course football", Mr Tan said in a Facebook post.

Among the group were Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur fans, said Ms Nadia in her own post about the meal, but that did not get into the way of football diplomacy.

Judging by the pictures of the smiling quartet, they definitely had a ball of a time.

Mr Khairy - here as the Lee Kuan Yew Exchange Fellow from Tuesday to Friday - also met up for coffee with Leader of the Opposition and Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh.

Asked about the tete-a-tete by reporters, Mr Khairy said the goal was really to get a diversity of views and to build relations with as many as possible. He said in a Facebook post in Malay that he was glad for the opportunity to meet Mr Singh and "to hear their preparations for the upcoming elections".

Mr Singh said on Instagram: "Always good to meet a Manchester United man."

Meanwhile, while his parliamentary colleagues were chatting about football back home, Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng was lucky enough to actually score "a brace" while on a trip to Paris with friends. He met two football greats - legendary English striker Gary Lineker and Dutch Surinamese midfielder Clarence Seedorf.

Closer to home, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong got to mark two milestones with local football hero Fandi Ahmad, who turned 60 and launched his biography Fandi: Honour and Sacrifice in the past week.

In his own free time later, he continued to roll with the theme of the day at a kickabout with his weekend football buddies. "Super happy (and now super aching too!)" he said on Instagram.

Going forward, perhaps he can consider recruiting his colleague Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Alvin Tan into the football team. It looks like Mr Tan was also playing football that day, and posted a video of himself doing knee kicks "to...relax".

Vaccination centres close

With 92 per cent of the total population in Singapore already vaccinated against Covid-19 and 76 per cent having received booster shots, many vaccination centres set up during the pandemic are no longer needed.

This past week, as staff at the various vaccination centres packed up to leave, politicians went by to thank them for administering Covid-19 vaccines over the past year and keeping people safe.

Tampines GRC MP Cheng Li Hui and her colleagues bought Nasi Ayam Panggang from Geylang Serai for the staff at the Tampines East Vaccination Centre.

She said she was thankful that the nurses, doctors and other staff had gotten along "really really well" with the staff at the community centre where the vaccination centre was set up.

"The doctors, nurses told me they really enjoyed working in the centre and it has such positive vibes. Those who went to other centres would tell me they would standby to click the screen during roster time so they can be in our centre," said Ms Cheng.

"Thank you past and present staff who helped at our centre. It took a lot of dedication to do what you did. You will be missed and a super duper thank you for your contributions."

Sembawang GRC MP Mariam Jaafar, meanwhile said her good byes and thank yous to the staff at the Woodlands Community Club Vaccination Centre with McNuggets, french fries and apple pies from McDonalds, while Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Chong Kee Hiong gave out little treats to the staff at the Bishan Community Club Vaccination Centre.

Ms Mariam and Mr Chong said they were grateful for the tireless contributions the staff have made in the past year.

Goodbyes are never easy, but they must all be hoping that there will never be a reason for such vaccination centres to be set up again at such scale.

Getting the social media game right

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng may not be a millennial, and is in fact one of the older ministers in the People's Action Party's fourth-generation team.

But judging from his Facebook posts, he seems to be more than capable of holding his own in the social media department.

In an ask-me-anything, or AMA, video which got 3,700 views, he answered questions about how many hours of sleep he gets a night, who his best friends in Parliament are, and how the Government will help people improve work-life balance, deftly mixing pleasure and work.

Then, there is also that video of him singing Hokkien song Sio Bak Zhang, which translates to Hot Dumplings, by singer Teresa Teng for the Marine Parade community celebrations for Dragon Boat Festival. "I tried my best to sing with 'fillings' and I hope you enjoy the festival!" he quipped in the post.

Considering that his favourite Harry Potter quote is one from Professor Albus Dumbledore, who said "it is not our abilities that show what we truly are, it is our choices", what inference should one draw from his social media choices?

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