By The Way

Stepping up engagements and having a tarik-fic time: 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: LAWRENCE WONG/FACEBOOK, WORKERS' PARTY/FACEBOOK, BAEY YAM KENG/FACEBOOK

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

In this edition, we look at which politicians are out and about, the hubbub over tea, as well as a Facebook post that caused some controversy.

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

Maskless in Singapore

It has been more than two years of interactions behind masks, and fist bumps instead of handshakes for all of us, including politicians.

So, many came out in full force last weekend, days after mask rules were further relaxed, to meet and greet the public.

The Workers' Party (WP) sent teams to its home turf of Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, as well as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's constituency, Ang Mo Kio GRC, to sell its Hammer newsletter.

Party chief and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, other MPs and even retired party stalwarts like former WP chief Low Thia Khiang and former Hougang MP Png Eng Huat turned up to help.

"Despite the erratic weather, we're glad to have met many residents in this area. Thank you to all who grabbed a copy from us! We hope to see you next week," the party wrote on Facebook.

To this, Facebook user Tan Kwong Moh said: "If good response, can contest AMK GRC in next GE."

Not to be outdone, Progress Singapore Party also had a busy weekend distributing mooncakes and The Palm newsletter in Ang Mo Kio, Marymount and Toa Payoh.

The party's youth wing also held its inaugural networking session with graduates from the National University of Singapore, an event it intends to hold every month to engage those between the ages of 17 and 35.

Meanwhile, People's Action Party MPs dived right back into activities held off by the pandemic, with some like Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Trade and Industry Alvin Tan celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival with residents at Pek Kio Community Centre in Tanjong Pagar GRC.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and the Environment Baey Yam Keng mixed work and play when he went cycling with songwriter Lee Sisong and sustainability group Green Buddies Singapore at Upper Pierce Reservoir.

"They believe in sustainability and are also avid cyclists to demonstrate green modes of transport," said Mr Baey, who is also chairman of the Active Mobility Advisory Panel. The panel looks at rules and norms for cyclists and personal mobility device users, among other things.

Reading the tea leaves

Between coffee or tea, it appears quite a few politicians here would choose the latter, based on a reading of their social media posts.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, in a video before his official visit to Malaysia this week, spoke about his fondness for teh tarik.

Malaysian Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz, one of the first people he was slated to meet, did not disappoint, and promised to be ready with a hot cuppa. "Of course, nothing beats our teh tarik," he said in a video on Facebook.

This teh tarik diplomacy appeared to have struck the right note, considering that the two men ended up strumming Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight on guitars made in each other's countries.

Mr Wong said in a Facebook post later: "This is what happens when the Singapore and Malaysian Finance Ministers hang out together."

Another tea drinker is Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling, who prefers her brew without milk.

"Great weather for a cup of warm teh-o at the newly renovated Blk 537 coffee shop!" she said in a Facebook post, about her drink of choice before her evening house visits.

Meanwhile, it seems Minister of State for Education and Social and Family Development Sun Xueling and Workers' Party MP Leon Perera prefer to enjoy their drinks with company.

Ms Sun advertised in a Facebook post a "Lah-teh", or tea drinking, session at the Shi Fu Eating House at Block 261 Punggol Way last Saturday, asking residents to join her, while Mr Perera dropped by a coffee shop in Serangoon Avenue 4 to catch the brunch crowd.

Besides quenching his thirst, the trip also paid off in other ways. He said in a Facebook post: "Obtained some great input on government charges and the BTO (built-to-order) queue system which I plan to study so as to raise suggestions in Parliament."

Say no to drugs

Former Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Ang Hin Kee, meanwhile, was left upset by leaves of another kind, more specifically of the genus cannabis.

Posting a picture of products with marijuana being sold in Thailand on his Facebook page, he said: "My major disappointment in Bangkok. From streets to malls, from coffee to cookies, even bbt," he wrote, with "bbt" being the acronym for bubble tea.

Thailand legalised the growing and consumption of cannabis in June, becoming the first Asian country to do so.

Mr Ang's post - coming shortly after Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling admitted to taking the drug while overseas and fellow swimmer Amanda Lim receiving a warning for a drug utensil in her possession - drew strong but mixed reactions from netizens.

Facebook user Jeffrey Goh, for instance, said he had seen friends consume drugs with irreversible effects on them, adding: "Agreed that such drugs is not recreational use."

Sharing similar sentiments was Hana Akari, who expressed concern that the marijuana lobby was getting louder: "Is our government strong enough to not cave in? We see the effects from all over the world... It's devastating. The economic benefits come at great cost to the society as a whole. Not everything is about money."

But others like Thaian Oliveira felt Mr Ang was being "kaypoh" (or busybody) about other countries, commenting: "Do you say the same about developed European countries that are doing pretty fine regardless of legalisation? What are your thoughts on cigarettes being legal and all over the place here in (Singapore)? Gambling? Extreme sugary food easily accessible for children?"

Mr Ang later edited his post, writing: "The content of my earlier post may have taken the attention away from my concern. Glad that we remain focused on keeping out substance abuse."

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