Ko Siew Huey / Picture by Han Thon
In the latest episode of a public wrangle that has been playing out over the media, the Worker’s Party (WP) staged a vigorous defense of their vision of a “First World Parliament”.
Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam and Member of Parliament (MP) Indranee Rajah have criticized the WP for failing to identify the unique qualities of their model and suggested instead that their real intention is to block constitutional amendments and policies that they disagree with.
In response, WP Chairman Sylvia Lim said that their concept of a First World Parliament had already been clearly articulated at the launch of their campaign slogan, and that the latest remarks by the PAP members were made to confuse Singaporeans about the WP’s intentions.
She went on to reiterate what a First World Parliament should do:
- Scrutinize policy and ensure transparent implementation of legislation
- Hold government accountable for its actions
- Ensure an alternative government made up of parties with the necessary experience can be formed in the event that the ruling party fails
- Represent a mandate from diverse interests in society
- Ensure amendments to bills and the Constitution are not bulldozed through without proper debate
Referring to the Oath of Allegiance taken by Members of Parliament in which they promise to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution”, Ms Lim said that for any proposed amendments, “opposition MPs would have the duty to oppose them if they were made for partisan advantage.”
“Our track record will show that we are a pro-Singapore party,” she said. “You will see that we don’t just block any policy or any amendment. In fact we exercise our objections quite carefully only when we feel that there are legislation or constitutional amendments that are detrimental to national interest.”
On the challenge issued by Education Minister Ng Eng Hen for the opposition to give voters a real choice at this coming elections by forming an alternative government, WP secretary general Low Thia Khiang said that whether Singapore eventually adopts a two party or multiparty system is entirely up to the wishes of voters.
“It is not for the PAP to decide. Neither is it for the WP to decide. It is for the voters to decide. You must always remember that. I think the PAP is being very arrogant to ignore the will of the voters in an election,” he said.
Rebutting Dr Ng’s other point that the current system already allows for alternative voices in parliament and that by voting for the opposition, Singaporeans may unintentionally weaken the government, Mr Low was quick on the draw.
“I suppose it’s typical PAP,” he said. “They want some… noises in parliament but they do not want representation of people. They also don’t want Members of Parliament with the mandate to articulate the wishes and the voice of the people.”
Mr Low made the distinction between having a strong government and a strong system of government: “Strong system of government means that if the government fails, you have another government to be able to take over. That would give you more political stability and a more secure future than depending on one government.”
Employing a metaphor to illustrate his point, he said: “Like a car you need a spare tyre right? [If] You want to depend on four tyres and one punctures, that’s it, you can’t move.”
Read TOC’s report on the candidates introduced at the media conference here: WP introduces latest slate of candidates.