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GE2020: WP sees ‘ample opportunity’ to work with PSP if they take up NCMP seats: Sylvia Lim
THE Workers’ Party (WP) is open to working together with the government and other opposition parties to ensure good outcomes for Singaporeans, the party’s leaders said on Sunday, a scenario that could see the party collaborating more closely with the election’s “top loser”, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP).
The PSP is likely to be offered the remaining two Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) seats in Parliament, since its narrow loss in West Coast GRC with 48.31 per cent of the votes made it the best performing loser at last Friday’s General Election (GE).
At WP’s first post-election press conference, chairman Sylvia Lim said: “In that sense, there will be ample opportunity, in the coming years for us to work collaboratively as much as possible with any party who should decide to take up the NCMP seats, if it’s not WP, to move the agenda forward and to play our role as a constructive opposition.”
PSP chief Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who led the party’s five-member West Coast GRC team, had previously said he will not take up the NCMP seat if offered. Another of Dr Tan’s teammates, assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai, has also publicly declined the opportunity to take up the seat. The two NCMP positions could be filled from the West Coast team’s remaining three members, which includes Hazel Poa, Jeffrey Khoo and Nadarajah Loganathan.
The next “best loser” is WP’s East Coast GRC team, which took 46.59 per cent of the votes there.
WP staged a historic victory at the GE – taking Aljunied and Sengkang GRCs as well as the Hougang single-seat ward – that helped the party secure 10 out of 93 seats in Parliament.
It is the first electoral outing for WP secretary-general Pritam Singh, who took over the top job in 2018, but he has played down his role in the party’s good showing. Instead, Mr Singh, who has been officially designated Leader of the Opposition, paid tribute to former chief Low Thia Khiang for laying the groundwork that has helped the party to secure a second GRC, nine years after it claimed its first.
“A major reason was because of the very foundation that Mr Low had laid and leaders that came before me had made, leaders like Sylvia Lim, to create this culture in the WP of a rational, responsible opposition,” said Mr Singh, the new Leader of the Opposition.
“So whatever has been achieved in this election is not mine to parade or brandish about,” he said.
Responding to questions on whether WP’s victory could signal the beginning of a two-party political system in Singapore, Mr Singh said Singapore’s system is “quite unique”, given the existence of the NCMP scheme.
“It’s not as if the WP has taken a quantum leap in Parliament after these elections, there is a long way to go, and I think our MPs need to earn their stripes in Parliament,” he said.
He also cautioned against being complacent, noting that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) “will try its hardest” to take back the three constituencies it has lost at the next polls.
“That means we have got to work even harder to make sure that we reach out and serve the people honestly and sincerely,” Mr Singh said. “Some of these analysts you speak about may be getting a bit too confident, but we have lived with the PAP all our lives and we know how powerful they are.”
Earlier during the virtual press conference, WP’s Sengkang team led by He Ting Ru said they are working with the Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Councils to ensure a smooth handover.
The new Sengkang Town Council will be a standalone one, separate from WP’s Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, Mr Singh said, explaining that Sengkang has the economies of scale that will allow it to operate as such. However, given that the handover is still in progress, the party has advised residents with municipal issues to contact their existing town council before the handover is complete.
Ms He added that the team is currently not allowed to hold Meet-the-People sessions during phase two of Singapore’s reopening. Residents who need help in the meantime should contact the team via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), she said.
WP’s Sengkang team, which includes first-time candidates Jamus Lim, Louis Chua and Raeesah Khan, garnered 52.13 per cent of the votes, defeating a PAP team helmed by labour chief Ng Chee Meng and included a total of three political office-holders.
As for whether the four newly-elected MPs will take on the role full-time, Ms He said the team is still discussing this and will make their decision known soon.
For more of our Singapore GE2020 coverage, go to bt.sg/ge2020.