SINGAPORE — Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general Pritam Singh has dismissed the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) scenario that the three major opposition parties could form an alternative government at the General Election.
The Aljunied group representation constituency (GRC) candidate has instead urged voters to put this “fearmongering” in historical perspective, saying that such a scenario – posed by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing during a Lianhe Zaobao online debate session on Thursday – is unrealistic.
“I think it’s important to take a historical perspective to this,” Singh said, when asked by a reporter for a response at a doorstop interview after a walkabout at Marine Terrace Market on Saturday (4 July) with the WP’s candidates for Marine Parade GRC and WP chairperson Sylvia Lim.
“It took 16 years after our independence for the opposition to win even one elected seat. And 23 years after 1988, when the GRC system was introduced, for the opposition to win one GRC.
“So let’s put this fearmongering in perspective. I hope that historical look-back is helpful in terms of how realistic this prospect that Minister Chan paints is possible. I don’t think it’s possible at all.”
Singh was referring to the WP’s J. B. Jeyaretnam winning the Anson seat at a by-election in 1981 – breaking the PAP’s dominance in GEs for the first time since Singapore’s independence since 1965 – as well as the party winning Aljunied GRC in 2011, the first time a GRC went to an opposition party since 1988.
Response to entering fray of 10m population debate
At the interview, Singh was also asked by another reporter to respond to the PAP accusing him of “opportunistically” jumping into the fray of the ongoing 10-million population debate.
In a media release on Friday, the ruling party took issue with Singh asking why the government couldn’t have said earlier that the population would be well below 6.9 million in 2030, let alone a “mythical 10 million”.
“It is baffling that Mr Singh should ask this question. During the Committee of Supply in February 2018, Minister Josephine Teo had said that our population would be significantly below 6.9 million in 2030. She repeated this in the Committee of Supply in February this year. Was the Leader of the Opposition not scrutinising the Minister’s statements?” the PAP media release said.
At the doorstop interview on Saturday, Singh said he had made his comments in response to a query from a reporter. “I didn’t jump into this - it was a doorstop and one of you asked me this question.”
“Let me make the Workers’ Party’s position clear: When we deal with public discourse, I think it’s very helpful, in fact it’s critical, that we all deal with objective information. So in that sense I think there is no disagreement between myself and all other candidates from the Workers’ Party,” he said.
He added, “Population is very sensitive issue and I can understand why it has ruffled some feathers...When the population White Paper came up, there was a line which said, ‘look we’re going to review the population size at the end of the decade’. But when I asked the question in the Parliament this year, ‘when is the review going to take place’, the answer (from the government) was ‘we already did it in 2018’. I’m not sure how many of you knew there was a review of the population policy in 2018.”
“I think if there’s more signature for the public to understand what the government is thinking, what is its way forward, I think that will be helpful.”
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