Vivian and Shanmug had their differences but eventually became neighbors at Ridout Bungalow.

Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister K. Shanmugam debated each other on television around 1990 when they had a disagreement as seen in the following video clip.

At that time, the young Balakrishnan had not yet joined the People’s Action Party (PAP). Shanmugam was already a PAP MP.

In 1988 general election he joined PAP which contested in Sembawang GRC. The PAP team won, and Shanmugam became the MP representing Chong Bong Ward of Sembawang GRC.

During the debate, Balakrishnan questioned the government ministers questioning the loyalty of some sections of society to Singapore. Shanmugam, a trained lawyer, argued for the PAP government.

Vivian Balakrishnan: I belong to the younger generation. We have grown over the past 20 years with a good propaganda machine that has led us to believe that we are all Singaporeans regardless of race, language and religion.

Vivian Balakrishnan: In recent times, government ministers have questioned the loyalty of certain sections of our society to this nation. The government is concerned with different reproductive rates among different races. You talked about raising the deficit in these reproductive rates, playing games with these statistics and numbers, how to ossify the racial proportions in Singapore.

Vivian Balakrishnan: “When you first question loyalty as your first role model for stability, you cannot expect people to be loyal to you. That’s a surefire way to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

K Shanmugam: I want to go back to the questions raised by Vivian. For the first 25 years anyway, the focus was on developing that common culture, a strong bond and of late, the emphasis may have shifted a bit and moved to emphasize individual cultural identities. Realizing that we lose what little we have by trying to create something. Therefore, it may be more of a dissent than a propaganda machine that puts forward a certain line and tries to arrive at a first level of common unity, and then from there tries to cultivate individual cultural identities, and hopefully commonality. Cultural identity develops slowly.

Vivian Balakrishnan: How can one question one’s faith and come to the first stage?

K Shanmugam: If you want faith, you cannot question faith. But at the same time, if you feel, now I’m not saying that you agree or disagree with this, but I’m putting this as a hypothesis if you feel that there is a certain reality matrix, it’s better to face it and see how. Can you deal with the problem or is it better to avoid talking about it?

Vivian Balakrishnan: That is the problem. What evidence or facts does the government have to issue a statement questioning the loyalty of certain sections of our society?

K. Shanmugam: I don’t think such a statement was ever made. I think some people feel the same way. You probably know why. And I think the response is blown out of proportion to questioning partial loyalty.

After that debate, Balakrishnan also joined the PAP 10 years later and made his political debut as part of a five-member PAP team contesting Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC in the 2001 general election. When the GRC went uncontested, Balakrishnan immediately became MP by walkover.

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Today, Shanmugam and Balakrishnan have become neighbors at 26 and 31 Ridout Road respectively.

Both are luxurious colonial bungalows leased by the PAP government. Both the ministers have chosen each other as neighbours.

Joining together in PAP helps to reconcile differences.

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