Andrew Loh /
“At the start of [our] pre-election public outreach, I have brought up instances where the PAP has abused its power as a government to secure political advantage for the PAP, to perpetuate itself in power and to deny more opposition being elected into Parliament,” Mr Low Thia Khiang, Workers’ Party secretary general, told the packed field at Kallang Avenue on Monday.
“They have been very successful in the last 46 years in doing this,” he told the crowd.
This abuse of power has led to the opposition being unable to grow and develop, Mr Low said. He cited the increase in the number of people voting for the opposition but yet only two elected opposition members have been in Parliament the last two decades.
It is because of this “political reality” facing the opposition and “to help Singaporeans seriously contemplate the future for Singapore” that the Workers’ Party has chosen the election slogan, “Towards a first world parliament” for the general election this time. This is the vision the party is offering Singaporeans, Mr Low said.
“A first world parliament is one which is able to balance a strong Executive with a check and balance mechanism formed by a credible and responsible opposition which is given the mandate by the electorate,” Mr Low told the enthusiastic crowd. “This is the first step to stop further abuse of power by the PAP.”
Mr Low cited the People’s Association (PA) as an example of such abuse, through its network of Residents’ Committees (RCs), Citizen Consultative Committees (CCCs). “They also organize activities which PAP candidates are invited to attend so that these new candidates can build up rapport quickly on the ground,” Mr Low said. The party had brought up the matter in earlier rallies. “The PAP has yet to respond to the issue," said Mr Low.
He cited a recent example of a resident in Aljunied GRC who received a message some days ago from the RC.
"The message reads:
'I am the RC chair. I would like to circulate some election info to you, if it’s ok with you.'
The resident replied: 'Which party do you represent?'
The reply came back: 'Hi. We’re not representing any party.'
Then she [the resident] received this message on general election info: 'There’s a rally at Serangoon stadium from 7pm tonight.'"
“It was informing the resident of the PAP rally!” Mr Low said. “Why is the RC promoting a PAP rally?” he asked. The rally crowd then echoed “Kelong! Kelong! Kelong!” – the colloquial word for cheating.
Mr Low went on and raised two other issues which showed the abuse of power by the PAP government – why the PAP is able to have kindergarten branches while the WP could not; and why he, as an elected Member of Parliament (MP), has had to conduct his Meet-The-People sessions at the void decks for the last two decades, an issue he had also raised at a previous rally. “I have yet to get an answer from the PAP,” Mr Low said.
The GRC system and the issue of gerrymandering were also highlighted by the WP in its other rallies. “Again, no response,” said Mr Low, referring to the PAP. “Instead, we have MM Lee jumping up and down about the contest in Aljunied GRC.”
“But I think he has to watch his Tanjong Pagar GRC teammate, Chan Chun Sing, carefully,” Mr Low said, who referred to the answer Mr Chan had given when asked for his views on new PAP candidates not serving National Service (NS).
Mr Chan had said:
“For me, I don’t just ask where you come from. More importantly, I ask where you are going. In the past, if you have not been a citizen, you may not have contributed to NS, or maybe different walks, different sectors of society.” (See here at 3:40 mins.)
Mr Low took issue with Mr Chan’s comments. “Is he saying that National Service is not important? That it does not matter whether one serves National Service? I do not feel [it is] right that the PAP should fill a foreign talent who just became a new citizen without serving National Service as a candidate.”
“He is now trying to seek your mandate to represent the people in parliament,” Mr Low added.
Although Mr Low did not mention the candidate by name, it is apparent he was referring to Dr Janil Puthucheary, the PAP candidate for Punggol-Pasir Ris GRC, which is helmed by Mr Teo Chee Hean. Dr Puthucheary, 38, became a Singapore citizen three years ago – at the age of 35. The issue of his never having served National Service was a point of criticism among some Singaporeans. When asked about this, he had said that while it “is a fact” that he did not do NS, he however had “spent the last 10 years saving kids’ lives.” (Read here, here and here.)
Mr Low reminded the crowd of what Defence Minister Mr Teo had said in Parliament in 2006 on the matter of NS defaulters.
“Besides, the fact that they are talented and can contribute to Singapore does not detract from the fact that they have defaulted on their NS duties. Everyone, regardless of talent, must play their part in our nation's defence.” (Mindef)
“Mr Chan Chun Sing was the Chief of Army before,” Mr Low said. “How can a former Chief of Army publicly state something contradictory to the Minister for Defence?”
“I propose that we consider amending the Constitution for the qualification for male candidates for election, to reject those who have not served National Service,” Mr Low said, to loud applause from the crowd. “This is only fair to us. We have all done National Service, including myself, including Chen Show Mao,” he added, referring to his teammate for Aljunied GRC who was reported to have served his NS even before he became a Singapore citizen.
Mr Low asked if this was the attitude of Mr Chan, who is considered one of the new PAP candidates with the potential to be office holders to lead Singapore into the future, towards National Service, a duty which every male Singaporeans have the obligation to fulfill.
Mr Low then turned to the point he had made at the beginning of his speech – that Singaporeans should not allow one party to dominate their lives.
“We should not put all [our] eggs in one basket by voting in just PAP candidates, leaving the entire legislature to them, to operate, to allow them to dominate your lives,” Mr Low said. “We must not let them shortchange us!”
Ending his English speech, Mr Low urged, “If you are concerned about your livelihood, and our children’s future, then vote Workers’ Party, towards a first world parliament!”