SINGAPORE — Leader of the Opposition and Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC, Mr Pritam Singh, delivered a speech in Parliament on Friday, discussing the Workers’ Party (WP) goals, their role in Singapore’s political landscape, and the challenges faced as an opposition party.

On the issue of foreginers in Singapore, Mr Singh emphasized the importance of transparency and information sharing by the government, citing the difficulty of obtaining information on Intra-Corporate Transferees under the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

He also called for the government to address issues like the growth of family offices and the influx of foreign wealth. Furthermore, he suggested that the 4G People’s Action Party (PAP) leadership should be more open and not dismiss the opposition’s requests for information, as this openness will be crucial for building a strong social compact with Singaporeans.

He said, “As that debate proved, getting the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government to reveal information on the number of Intra-Corporate Transferees from India that worked in Singapore upon the introduction of CECA was like squeezing blood from a stone. Parliamentary questions had been filed by the Workers’ Party on the issue from 2016 but forthright answers were not forthcoming.”

He warns that a lack of information can lead to emotional reactions and xenophobic attitudes. Singh also calls on the government to address emerging issues like the growth of family offices and foreign wealth influx.

He suggests that the 4G PAP leadership should be more open and not dismiss the opposition’s requests for information, as this openness will be crucial for building a strong social compact with Singaporeans.

On his proposal for an English requirement for Permanent Residents and citizenship applications in last month’s Committee of Supply debate, Mr Singh suggests fast-tracking foreign spouses with working English proficiency to aid family stability.

He emphasized that the proposal supports inclusivity and strengthens Singapore’s shared identity while aligning with the nation’s bilingualism policy, without favouring one racial group over another.

Alternative polices from Workers’ Party

In his speech, Mr Singh responded to accusations by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, arguing that if the Workers’ Party were merely advocating for populist and unrealistic policies, the Singapore government would not be considering their manifesto ideas on anti-discrimination legislation, minimum wage, and redundancy insurance.

He also provided details on some policies that the Singapore government has adopted, which were initially proposed by the WP.

These policies are:

  • Verifying educational qualifications of employment pass holders
  • Livestreaming parliamentary sittings
  • National hydrogen strategy
  • Equalized maternity leave of 16 weeks for single unwed mothers
  • BTO priority and full feature for non-selection
  • Imposing a charge for the use of plastic bags
  • Pairing of families to GPs
  • Flexible work arrangements

“If these proposals were not serious, why did the PAP take them onboard and devote fiscal resources to fund them and policy resources to implement them?” Mr Singh questioned.

Mr Singh highlighted that the true beneficiaries of the opposition’s proposals are not the Workers’ Party or the PAP, but the people of Singapore, and that the party welcomes the PAP’s adoption of their ideas.

Regarding the challenges faced by the opposition, Mr Singh pointed out the information asymmetries the WP faces in comparison to the ruling party, as they do not have access to the same resources, such as cabinet briefings, classified public surveys, and the civil service. This puts them at a disadvantage when coming up with alternative agendas and budgets.

Reality of politics in Singapore

“The political reality in the Singapore context – a combination of the first-past-the-post system, the size and footprint the opposition parties, certain grassroots organisations manned by PAP apparatchiks, and an Electoral Boundary Review Committee that comes under the Prime Minister’s Office, amongst other factors – all these reveal that the real prospect for a change of government during general elections today, conceals the advantage of PAP incumbency far more than the DPM cares to let Singaporeans in on.”

Despite these challenges, Mr Singh emphasized the importance of the opposition’s presence in Parliament as a necessary check on the PAP’s power.

“Singaporeans want an opposition to check the PAP because in their heart of hearts, we all know that ‘ownself check ownself’ is not realistic,” he said.

Mr Singh also emphasized the importance of a balanced political system and the necessity for an opposition presence in Parliament. He clarified that the WP is a small party with a long way to go, and its primary objective is to ensure that at least 1/3 of the seats in Parliament are not in the hands of the ruling party.

He cited an instance from 21 March when a constitutional amendment was passed with only 67 MPs present, including seven Workers’ Party MPs. Without their presence, the amendment wouldn’t have passed since only 60 PAP MPs were present.

“I want to emphasise that the Workers’ Party’s intention is not to block all changes to the Constitution proposed by a PAP Government. Far from it. If Constitutional amendments are in the interests of our people, we will support them. But if we assess that proposed changes to the Constitution are detrimental to Singapore and Singaporeans, we will speak against them and vote against them,” said Mr Singh.

Mr Singh then mentioned the need for inclusivity and unity, urging the PAP to rise above political partisanship and recognize the Workers’ Party’s contribution to the betterment of Singapore and its citizens.

“At some point, in the name of inclusivity and a united Singapore in the face of grave external challenges, I hope the PAP can rise above political partisanship and acknowledge the political contribution of the Workers’ Party towards the betterment of Singapore and Singaporeans,” he stated.

In his speech, Mr Singh reaffirmed the Workers’ Party’s commitment to raising alternative proposals and working towards defending the interests of Singaporeans and Singapore, despite the challenges they face.

“No matter the challenge or obstacle, the opposition must be focused and continue to endeavor, work for, and defend the interests of Singaporeans and Singapore, as equal and fellow Singaporeans – together in the same boat, rowing in the same direction,” he said.


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