If you don't say what you mean, how can you mean what you say. We're not talking about what Eliza Doolittle learned from Professor Henry Higgins here, but the integrity of a trained lawyer who's profession depends on the accurate usage of words. In court or out of court. Law minister Shanmugam told reporters, "I wasn't suggesting that only Government-endorsed candidates can be influential . I want to be absolutely clear that any such suggestion would be wrong." Some of the guys taking down notes must have soiled themselves with trepidation, whilst speculating who will be charged for quoting him out of context.
So what did he actually say? At a Institute of Policy Studies forum. Shanmugam on Friday, the Law Minister spelled out how the advice of a "highly influential" wise and knowledgeable elected president can be rubbished: "If he is someone who commands little or no respect of the Prime Minister, then of course, the influence is limited." Earlier, he alluded to another qualification that the elected president, even if he had substantial experience, must be "trusted and respected by the Prime Minister." No wonder many Singaporeans are confused as to what the Elected Presidency is all about. If all the guy wants is a pet poodle - think George Bush and Tony Blair in the Iraq war WMD charade - why not cut to the chase and say so?
Asked whether it was correct of the Government to endorse candidates, for instance, by painting pretty pictures about one candidate as if he was silver haired Gandalf coming to the rescue of Helm's Deep, and ignoring the hidden skeleton of his son's shady evasion of his National Service obligation, Shamugam replied, "I'm not quite sure that amounts to active endorsement. The Prime Minister can say what he likes about any particular candidate, or for that matter, ministers." Okay, it is getting clear that he is no authority on etymology, not bothered about modern understanding of linguistic evolution and the relationships of languages, but he should at least be cognizant of the political IED equivalent of kicking in own goals. Like how Goh Chok Tong torpedoed the ministerial careers of Wong Kan Seng, Mah Bow Tan and Raymond Lim (not that we miss this lot of over paid incompetents anyway) by singing the praises of saint George.
The irony of of the wordplay in session is that Shanmugam actually proffered this advice to the candidates, "Just make sure that what you say to the people is consistent ... Don't say things you can't do." To which we may add the Clintonesque repartee, "Define consistent".