The People’s Action Party (PAP)’s secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong is giving voters a “false choice” between a government that can successfully lead Singapore through the COVID-19 crisis and having more alternative parties represented in Parliament, said the Workers’ Party (WP)’s chair Sylvia Lim.
There is “actually no reason why the government will not be effective in tackling COVID-19” alongside a Parliament that does not consist only of PAP members, she told reporters at a doorstop interview at Rivervale Plaza on Tuesday (7 July).
“If you look at what has been happening around the world, you would see that there are actually many examples of countries that have been dealing quite effectively with the virus who are robust democracies,” said Ms Lim.
She cited examples such as Taiwan and New Zealand — the latter of whom is led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose Labour Party does not have the majority of members in Parliament — both of which have been lauded for their COVID-19 response.
“Singaporeans know that when there is a need to come together, they will, and they will support the government in handling the COVID-19 crisis, regardless of who they vote into Parliament,” said Ms Lim.
Ms Lim was responding to a question on WP’s views on Mr Lee’s lunchtime online Fullerton rally on Monday.
Mr Lee said that alternative parties in a time of “danger and alarm” are “talking as if we can just keep to our old ways, and the crisis did not exist”.
“They show no recognition that we are facing the crisis of a generation. They have been completely silent on how to tackle COVID-19 – both during the last six months, and in this election campaign,” he said.
COVID-19, however, is the first issue touched by WP in its “Make Your Vote Count” manifesto, as seen in “Chapter 1: Tackling COVID-19 and Thriving in a Post-COVID World”.
The party dedicated eight pages to discussing issues currently met — and will potentially be faced — by Singapore and Singaporeans in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as potential solutions to such issues.
Among the recommendations made by WP in tackling the impact of COVID-19 include:
- Forming an independent medical advisory board to provide “alternative perspectives to the government’s medical team” and to avoid certain potential “blindspots”;
- Expanding COVID-19 testing to cover “more wide-spread community testing” including those who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms;
- Offering free vaccinations against COVID-19 to all residents to quickly build herd immunity against the virus;
- Suspending HDB public rent “until all forms of lockdown restrictions are lifted”, given that rental flat residents are often low-income;
- Convening “an independent commission of inquiry”, whose findings and plans will take into account public feedback to better prepare for future pandemics;
- Implementing more stringent laws against errant dormitory operators and improving the living conditions of migrant workers in dormitories to prevent the spread of infections; and
- Implementing a Redundancy Insurance scheme.
As recently as May, Ms Lim — in her speech on the Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Arrangements) Bill — highlighted the risk of holding an election during the pandemic, and questioned the government on how it can ensure the safety of candidates and voters throughout the campaigning period and on Polling Day.
Additionally, some of the proposals in WP’s election manifesto were already previously raised by WP’s Aljunied GRC candidate and former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera in his speech on the Resilience and Solidarity Budgets in early April.
The Straits Times reported in May that WP chief Pritam Singh had raised the issue of Singapore’s testing capacity in Parliament.
Then-Health Minister Gan Kim Yong replied Mr Singh: “We will need to look at how we can source for more test kits, both manufacturing locally as well as procuring internationally, to allow us to have more capacity to do so.”
“At the same time, we are also looking at materials (required) for the testing, such as the reagents that will be needed for the extraction of the RNA materials,” he added, noting that Singapore had been trying to ramp up its testing capacity from the 8,000 tests daily at the time to around 40,000.
Mr Perera asked the Health Ministry if it was seeking to test sewage for COVID-19. He also asked the Ministry as to when it expects a vaccine for the coronavirus to be ready.