By Loke Hoe Yeong/ photo by Terry Xu
NSP rally at Choa Chu Kang Stadium, 3 May 2011
“Where were you in the past five years?” National Solidarity Party (NSP) candidate Ms Nicole Seah asked the PAP. “Why was help only given last week?” She was referring to recent cash handouts that Singaporeans received, and on the National Wages Council’s call for wage increases on Saturday.
These actions, coupled with PM Lee’s apology to Singaporeans earlier that day, was due to the pressure faced by the PAP during election campaigning, Ms Hazel Poa said in Mandarin. “This pressure has to carry on beyond the elections… with opposition MPs in parliament,” she added. “This is the national duty of opposition politicians.”
Speaking at their rally at Choa Chu Kang Stadium under the rain, NSP candidates were responding to news that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said sorry to Singaporeans for the PAP government’s mistakes. At his lunchtime rally at Boat Quay earlier that day, PM Lee cited a range of mistakes from the prison escape of Mas Selemat to the Orchard Road floods, while also acknowledging his government had not done enough on public transport and in controlling housing prices.
“The PAP finally admitted its mistakes today,” said Mr Yip Yew Weng, to which the rally audience chanted: “Too late, too late!”
Concrete proposals: independent commission on ministerial salaries
Other hot election issues were also raised at the rally, supported by well thought-out proposals put forward by the husband-wife-team of Ms Poa and Mr Tony Tan.
An independent commission that decides ministerial salaries should be set up, said Mr Tan. “And civil servants should be paid more than the ministers – they are the ones who make things happen,” he added.
Mr Tan’s impassioned delivery of these proposals was met with an equally fiery response from the audience. He also spoke on the pressing need to further ensure social mobility and inclusivity, and on the PAP government’s oversight in not being sufficiently prepared to tackle overcrowding and integration issues in Singapore with the influx of immigrants.
“We must put pressure on the [PAP] government to get it right, especially when they don’t get it right,” he said.
Ms Poa raised issues on government subsidies and support for public services. The cost of living is controllable by the government, she said, and wages need to grow faster to keep up with inflation.
Greater effort must also be made by the government to enforce employment rules, she added, relating abuses by employers to under-declare their employees’ pay in order to obtain more employment passes – only to hire more foreign workers at an even lower pay.
The need for ministerial salaries to be pegged to the median salary of Singaporeans – and not on GDP growth – was also emphasized by Ms Poa and Mr Tan.