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SINGAPORE GENERAL ELECTION

WP says it has brought a more responsive govt

It questions model where govt has hand in everything and says 20 Opposition MPs from one party is healthy
Thursday, August 27, 2015 - 05:50
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(From left) Mr Ng, Mr Koh, Mr Low, Ms Lim, Mr Goh and Mr Redzwan Hafidz at WP's first press conference for GE2015.

Singapore

THE Workers' Party (WP) on Wednesday urged Singaporeans to support greater opposition, which it said has brought about a more responsive government.

Like the ruling party, it also called on voters to reflect on the country's future with Singapore crossing its Golden Jubilee this month.

Secretary-general Low Thia Khiang argued that people must question if the current model of governance befits a country that is working in different circumstances from fifty years ago. In particular, Singapore's prevailing big-government approach came under scrutiny.

"The important question that the voter will have to think about is, first of all, whether it continues to be a good model for Singapore, where the political leaders cast a long shadow over every aspect of life, every aspect of society, organisation, profession," he said at a media briefing.

WP introduced its first batch of candidates on Wednesday, including three new faces: Daniel Goh, 42, an associate professor of sociology at the National University of Singapore; engineer Redzwan Hafidz, 30; and wealth manager at a Malaysian bank Dylan Ng, 40. The trio started their work with WP from about 2011. The fourth candidate is software engineer Koh Choong Yong, 42, who had contested Sengkang West SMC in the 2011 General Election, but lost.

Mr Goh, when asked about the touchy immigration policy, said WP does not want a situation where "immigration is treated as a way to cure whatever ailments" of society or some economic policy in the past.

Mr Low said most of the election candidates will be new faces, with the party having attracted more quality talent over the years.

WP's chairman Sylvia Lim said the party has seen more interest in the party after 2011, and has taken time to understand these individuals. "Sometimes, people may have a certain perception of what being an opposition party is like. Those of us who are in it will know that it's not just about elections, when the national attention is on you. Some people may even find that glamorous in a way. In between, it can be a real hard slog, especially when you're not elected."

Unveiling the party's campaign theme this year - Empower Your Future - Mr Low said Singapore has developed many local talents compared to the past, and asked if Singaporeans today have been engaged in the decision-making process.

He also pointed to the worries that some citizens may still have in suffering "repercussions" from political leaders. Dismissing the idea that he was playing up the fear factor among Singaporeans, he said people must shake off "psychological baggage".

"The voters have experienced this after 2011. After you voted in seven elected MPs from the Workers' Party, you have made the government work. Let's keep the government on its toes, for the benefit of Singapore," he said.

Responding to a later question, Mr Low said he personally felt having 20 Members of Parliament from one opposition party would be healthy in setting up checks against policies.

Ms Lim said: "We leave it to Singaporeans to judge, whether they feel that the government has become more responsive since 2011."

She added that it is not healthy for the government to be present in every sphere of life. "This whole climate of how things are run top-down... we don't see the need for government involvement in everything."

Mr Low acknowledged that how the party envisions the future of Singapore might not differ much from that of the ruling party, noting that WP is rational, and realistic. He also noted that WP has taken its own path among the Opposition parties, and has offered a credible choice today.

"But what is important is that when the country is walking towards a future, it cannot be too hasty in determining that this is the right path. This requires debate," he said in Mandarin.

Asked to respond to Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong's comment about a certain arrogance in WP, he said: "I remember Mr Goh Chok Tong also saying that perhaps you don't need the opposition to check the government. You need the PAP to check the PAP. Is that not arrogant?"

Ms Lim said the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council has completed its audit for FY 14/15, and will file the audited accounts in a few days. "When that updated information is available, we can have a good discussion at that point," she said. "During elections, I'm sure it will come out as well."