It was all smiles and handshakes for the cameras on May 19 as Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya. This was PM Lee’s first official meeting with Dr Mahathir since Pakatan Harapan’s surprise victory in Malaysia’s 14th General Election.
Mr Lee signed a guestbook before the meeting, which was also attended by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. Also present were both prime ministers’ wives, Mrs Lee and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Ali, and Singapore High Commissioner to Malaysia.
In a congratulatory letter to Dr Mahathir on May 11, PM Lee had also written:
“We have had extensive cooperation with successive Malaysian Governments, and we had strong, mutually-beneficial ties and interactions during your previous term as Prime Minister. I am confident that under your leadership, our two countries can find ways to further strengthen and deepen the bilateral relationship.”
PM Lee described his meeting with Dr Mahathir as “warm and fruitful”. But while official rhetoric was one of co-operation, kinship, and goodwill, the PAP IBs, and to a lesser extent, the mainstream media painted a different picture.
The PAP IBs are in effect, an extension of the party and the unofficial mouthpiece for the government. If you ever wanted to know how the PAP Government truly feels about Malaysia’s new Government and its leader Dr Mahathir, look no further than the PAP IB sites on social media. In the weeks leading up to and immediately after Barisan Nasional’s historic defeat at the polls, PAP IB site Fabrications About the PAP has been hard at work churning out successive posts, attacking the Pakatan Harapan coalition, while white washing Najib’s supposed crimes. This is not a surprise given the historic rivalry between the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Dr Mahathir, and the friendly relations between the PAP and BN governments.
One-sided accounts defending Najib
Other sites like Shut Down TRS, have also joined in the fray with their notoriously cringeworthy photo editing skills.
But while the PAP IBs have focused on thinly veiled attacks against Dr Mahathir’s new administration, the mainstream media have been far more subtle, taking extra care to maintain its supposed standard of “fair and balanced reporting”.
The Straits Times article, “Cracks appear in PH over posts in new Cabinet“, hinted at infighting within the Pakatan Harapan coalition, just days after its victory against the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. The article cited an “unnamed source”, referred to as “a top PH leader”, alleging that DPM Wan Azizah disapproved of a Chinese person taking over the role of finance minister. The Straits Times article was swiftly dismissed. A senior PKR leader told Free Malaysia Today that the claims in the ST article were “completely fabricated and false”. Many netizens in Singapore called out the Straits Times for their apparent inaccurate and dishonest reporting.