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PM would know about SDP's Covid-19 comments if he was not so disconnected: Paul Tambyah

OPPOSITION parties have rebutted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's comments that the opposition has been ignoring the Covid-19 crisis on the campaign trail. 

Singapore Democratic Party chairman Paul Tambyah said of PM Lee: "If he was not so disconnected, he would have known that for the last few months, we’ve been giving comments, suggestions. We’ve also said explicitly that holding an election during a pandemic is very reckless and dangerous."

He was responding to Mr Lee, who had asked on Monday what contribution the opposition could make in Parliament if they were to be elected as Members of Parliament, and charged that "they've been completely silent on how to tackle Covid-19 both during the last six months and in this election campaign".

Dr Tambyah, who is contesting in Bukit Panjang Single-Member Constituency (SMC), was speaking to reporters together with Progress Singapore Party chief Tan Cheng Bock while on the campaign trail in Bukit Panjang on Tuesday morning.

The two opposition candidates had previously proposed a live televised debate with Mr Lee and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on the government's Covid-19 response, but the suggestion was turned down.

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Dr Tan said: "The important thing is that they think that we’re so incapable of managing Covid-19, but we’re going to tell them, 'Look, let’s let Singaporeans decide whether we have the capabilities and also the experience'."

Dr Tambyah added that he comes from the perspective of a specialist and researcher, while Dr Tan brings his experience as a general practitioner on the frontline. Together, they offer a "broader picture and a fuller understanding" of how to deal with the pandemic.

Separately, at Rivervale, Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh told reporters: "It’s a very convenient thing for the prime minister to brush everybody with the same paintbrush, but it’s Chapter 1 of our manifesto. And that should tell you how significant Covid-19 is as an issue for the Workers’ Party."

Party chairman Sylvia Lim, who is standing with him on WP's slate for Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC), said voters are being presented a false choice by the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), because there is no reason the government will not be effective in tackling Covid-19 with a Parliament that does not consist of only elected PAP MPs.

"If you look at what’s been happening around the world, you will see that there are actually many examples of countries that have been dealing quite effectively with the virus, which are robust democracies."

She noted, for example, that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden's party does not have a majority of the MPs in Parliament.

"The fact is that Singaporeans know that when there is a need to come together, they will, and they will support the government in handling the Covid-19 crisis - regardless of who they vote into Parliament."

Mr Singh was also asked whether Mr Lee's proclamation of commitment to see Singapore through the crisis together with Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam indicated a lack of confidence in the 4G leadership.

"You do hear these murmurings on the ground - the confidence people have in the 4G leadership, particularly how they handled Covid-19; for some people, there’s a belief that it leaves more to be desired. So I don’t think that it is an out-of-the-ordinary comment that we hear from members of the public. And indeed, it is also noteworthy that PM spoke about Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and Senior Minister Tharman still at the helm of the ship. I think there’s a significance in those comments," he said.

During the session, WP's team for Sengkang GRC also spoke to the media for the first time since its youngest candidate Raeesah Khan apologised for two controversial posts on social media that are now under police investigation.

Team leader He Ting Ru said the matter has come up in their interactions with Sengkang residents, who have expressed both support and concern for the matter.

Mr Pritam added that while he would understood the sentiments of those who want Ms Raeesah to offer a further explanation, he cannot let police investigations be prejudiced by further comments, adding that a review of the matter will be conducted.

For more of our Singapore GE2020 coverage, go to bt.sg/ge2020

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