Speaking at the Workers’ Party Member’s Forum 2020, the party’s Secretary General, Pritam Singh opined that the urgency to amend the Elected Presidency was politically manufactured by the People’s Action Party (PAP).
He said, “The real risk appeared to be Tan Cheng Bock’s potential participation in the last Presidential elections, and the election of a President who was unlikely to be the PAP’s preferred choice.”
Mr Singh made the remarks in his speech, entitled “Why should I vote for the Workers’ Party?, highlighting the importance of the balance of seats held by parties.
He pointed out that the “numerical balance that the Prime Minister dismisses, on the contrary, absolutely counts because the PAP cannot change the constitution at its pleasure unless it has more that 2/3 of the seats in Parliament, like it can today.” and added that if PAP has less than two-third of the seats in Parliament, it will have to rationally persuade Singaporeans.
“It is an inherent checking mechanism in our parliamentary democracy against any ruling party that chooses to put its political interests first.” reminded Mr Singh.
Going back to the Elected Presidency example that Mr Singh used, he shared from his conversation with many minority Singaporeans when the Elected Presidency was amended in this term of Government – particularly those from the Malay community – that the demand for a Malay President was not a particularly pressing concern.
Most were in fact more enthusiastic about Malay MPs taking up ministerial appointments in high-profile Ministries than the Elected Presidency, shared Mr Singh.
Reality check on how much advantage PAP has on its hand, as the government and not to dismiss their work done
In his speech, Mr Singh made special mention of how significant, are the financial resources that the PAP government has at its disposal to implement effective policies for our people, along with how it timed its policy tweaks to coincide with the political calendar, with more to come at Budget 2020.
He pointed out:
- About 60,000 members on the CPF Retirement Sum Scheme have seen an increase in their monthly pay-outs. His father is one of them. He received a letter a few days ago, stating that he would be receiving $856 instead of $711 a month.
- His mother, a member of the Merdeka generation, paid no cash to get her teeth checked and cleaned at the polyclinic although she had to draw down her Medisave balances.
- Subsidies and qualifying income ceilings for infant care, pre-school and kindergarten programmes were also enhanced in January this year. Some 30,000 households stand to benefit.
Mr Singh also shared how a resident in East Coast GRC informed him in December last year that the government engaged Rysense, a Singapore-based research organisation to conduct a door-to-door survey, with a $10 NTUC voucher given at the end.
He used this to illustrate to members on how it would be “self-defeating” if PAP is referred to as uncaring government, following its shift to left after the General Election in 2011.
He opined that the call should instead be for “a better balanced Parliament with elected opposition MPs serving as a realistic and meaningful check on the PAP”.
Noting that the party is not in control of the national purse strings and what some Singaporeans ask to its members regarding what can the opposition do for them, Mr Singh was candid about how no opposition in any parliamentary democracy anywhere in the world can pass bills or to release data and statistics, for example on the number of PRs in the economy.
Mr Singh had earlier embroiled in debate with Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing during the Parliament sitting on 6 Jan. He asked Mr Chan several times to clarify employment data between 2015 and 2018, specifically how many jobs went to Singaporeans and how many went to PRs, and whether the government would share that data.
Mr Singh said in Parliament, “If the government’s approach is going to be ‘No, we are not going to provide that data’, can the Minister please share that detail with us here? Because it’s pointless for us to keep asking the question if the government is not going to provide that data.”
In response, Mr Chan said that he can get the numbers but asked, “What is the point behind the questions?”. But since the public backlash against Mr Chan’s behaviour and response to Mr Singh, Mr Chan revealed on Friday, partial information of what Mr Singh had asked for.
Mr Singh notes that the opposition’s role, in a democracy like Singapore or anywhere in world, is different – it is to make sure that the ruling party does not have a blank cheque to do whatever it wants.
“More NCMP seats will not perform the checking role to induce the PAP to change its political course. The opposition’s role is meaningful when voters elect an opposition with an elected mandate to speak for Singaporeans. An unelected opposition in Parliament cannot change the PAP. GE 2011 and the Government’s response to shift to the left proved that.” said Mr Singh.