Minister Lawrence Wong said earlier on that the Workers’ Party (WP) cannot just continue to question and ask for changes to the Government policy, now that it has 10 MP seats in Parliament after its win in Sengkang GRC and Aljunied GRC at the General Election (GE).
“It is also their duty to put forward serious policy alternatives to be scrutinised and debated,” Mr Wong remarked at a press conference on 18 July.
Following his reminder to the WP, one netizen – who goes by the name Gerard Ong – called out the Minister on Facebook on 19 July, asking about his right to “admonish and remind” the alternative party that it cannot just continue to question the Government policy.
“Come on Lawrence Wong, the Workers Party MPs are not school boys and girls elected into parliament. Neither are you a school prefect watching over your charges.
“As elected MPs of course they have every right to continue to ask questions of the PAP government. That is their right and job to do so. Because if they don’t then they are not true representatives of the people who voted for them,” he wrote.
Noting that Mr Wong was elected into Parliament the same year as the WP’s Pritam Singh and Sylvia Lim were elected in 2011, Mr Ong highlighted “one big difference” to the Minister’s appointment as an MP in Parliament.
“You came in on the coattails of two ministers in West Coast GRC, while Pritam and Sylvia had to fight to their darndest with Low Thia Khiang and his team, to wrest Aljunied GRC from two cabinet ministers and one senior minister of state,” he explained.
Mr Ong went on to remind Mr Wong that his titles in politics are meant to be “reserved for the very few in Singapore’s parliamentary history”.
“Please stop acting as though you are the grand sage of the PAP with all the years of political wisdom and worldliness coupled with lengthy experience in parliamentary and contentious debates in policy proposals and issues,” he added.
Mr Ong also brought up about the blank cheque that the WP’s Jamus Lim mentioned in the political debate on 2 July, saying that “it resonated well with many Singaporeans”. He claimed that the WP has been working on the alternate policy proposals and will continue to do so despite the “inaccessibility of Government data, reports and statistics”.
“We live in hope that the newly elected opposition MPs will receive the respect and support that they are entitled to in a parliamentary democracy,” he remarked.
Mr Ong further noted, “PM Lee has said he will provide the necessary support and staff to Pritam. He also looks forward to the 10 new opposition MPs and two NCMPs participating in and contributing to parliamentary and national debates – we shall see if the PM and his cabinet will be truthful and respectful partners in this endeavor.”
WP’s chief Pritam Singh says the Party will continue to propose alternatives to existing policies
In response to Mr Wong’s statements, WP’s chief Pritam Singh took to his Facebook on 20 July noting that the Party will continue to propose alternatives to existing policies despite the constraints it faces.
“While the Government continues to have a 120,000-strong civil service as a potential resource for parliamentary debates, the WP continues to be primarily reliant on its volunteer base for its political work. Despite these constraints, we will continue to advance forward-looking suggestions for the welfare of Singaporeans,” Mr Singh wrote.
In addition, he said that the Party will encourage public conversations – such as the prospects of HDB lease decay – and will release public working papers to highlight issues that significantly affect Singaporeans.
Mr Singh also implied that the WP will continue to ask questions of the Government as part of its work in Parliament.
“Questioning any government of the day however, remains a fundamental role of a responsible opposition – not just in Singapore – but in any parliamentary democracy anywhere in the world. This duty is critical in holding the government to account and it will remain fundamental to the WP’s work in Parliament,” he added.
The WP’s chief asserted that the Party’s efforts in Parliament are centred on key bread-and-butter concerns such as jobs for Singaporeans, healthcare for seniors, and cost of living concerns, among others. While the key aspect of the WP’s focus will cover political issues that “have a direct impact on transparency, accountability, balance and fairness”.
“What remains to be seen is whether the approach of the PAP Government towards greater information sharing will turn in favour of greater openness. The extent to which realistic policy alternatives can be advanced both in public and in Parliament is also a function of the PAP’s approach to democratic politics,” he noted.