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Pritam: Government more responsive with elected opposition MPs in House

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Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh said that, with Singapore's ageing population reshaping its society and labour force, it is important to have a credible opposition party in Parliament to speak up for workers.

Singapore

WHEN members of the opposition are voted into Parliament, the government becomes more responsive and sensitive to the concerns of the people, Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh said on Wednesday, as he wrapped up the party's nine-day campaign ahead of the July 10 General Election.

He said he and his team have been trying to persuade Singaporeans why the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme is not a healthy option for Singapore, as it does not allow opposition MPs to embed themselves in the community, causing them to be disconnected from the ground.

"I understand Emeritus Senior Minister Goh (Chok Tong) has mentioned it's an outrigger for Singapore's democracy. I think it's an outrigger for the PAP," he said.

Mr Goh, who is stepping down after 44 years in Parliament, said on Saturday he was one of the architects of the NCMP scheme, which he described as a "stabiliser" for Singapore's electoral system.

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NCMP positions are offered to the best-performing opposition-camp losers from the hustings to ensure a minimum number of opposition voices in the House. After this election, they will have the same voting rights as elected MPs.

Mr Singh said that, with Singapore's ageing population reshaping its society and labour force, it is important to have a credible opposition party in Parliament to speak up for workers.

"We also know local labour force, resident labour force participation will peak this decade, and that will mean the ratio between locals and foreigners in the economy may be up for review," he said.

With such changes, he said it is important to have a good team of MPs, including opposition MPs, who can work towards good outcomes for Singapore.

He reiterated the challenge of canvassing amid a Covid-19 pandemic, adding that there is a "real risk" of Parliament becoming dominated by MPs from the ruling People's Action Party.

"My concern in that sort of a situation is (that) the solidarity that is required to keep our country together will weaken," he said.

While he agreed that social media has to some extent allowed the party to reach out to a wider audience, he said it would be dangerous to make the mistake of mistaking online support as actual support, adding that the party's focus has always been to work hard on the ground.

Meanwhile, WP's social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Telegram, have seen a flurry of posts, photos and videos the day before Cooling Off Day, when campaign activities are prohibited.

Among them, two videos recorded in Mandarin and Teochew by former chief Low Thia Khiang, who is stepping down after 29 years as an MP, garnered the highest number of shares and likes of the day.

His trademark Teochew rallies are said to be one reason for his popularity among his former constituents in Hougang single-member constituency (SMC). In the videos, he expressed disappointment that he could not personally thank his supporters or speak 'live' since physical rallies have been disallowed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He emphasised that while he is stepping down, he is not retiring from politics; he said he will impart his knowledge to the younger generation and help groom politicians in the art of parliamentary debate.

Appealing to voters to support the party and encourage younger, qualified, hardworking Singaporeans to join WP, he said: "We cannot allow the PAP to implement policies at their sole discretion, increase the charges as and when they like."

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