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WP apologises for not taking part in televised debate in Mandarin

THE Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh has apologised for the party's non participation in the live, televised debate in Mandarin on Wednesday evening, but said this did not indicate difficulty for the party to reach out to the Mandarin-speaking population.

"We have individuals in the party who can make speeches in Mandarin, communicate effectively with residents in Mandarin, but the proficiency required to participate in a live debate is of a higher order," he said. Mr Singh, who is a member of his party's slate in Aljunied GRC, was speaking to reporters outside Kovan market and food centre before his team began its campaigning activities on Thursday morning.

The party will, however, field a representative to take part in a live discussion organised by Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao, which will be streamed on YouTube at 6.30pm on Thursday.

Asked if not attending the debate on Channel 8 was a "missed opportunity" for the party, Mr Singh said he understood that sentiment and agreed that the party can do better. He added that the party will continue to try to attract bicultural Singaporeans to join WP.

Despite this, he said the party has had no difficulty reaching out to the Mandarin-speaking population in Aljunied GRC, adding that residents have been very supportive in the last nine years since the party took the group representation constituency.

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"They've been wonderful to us, they've been very supportive. I speak very rudimentary Mandarin, and they're always very encouraging to me," he said.

He was also asked for his response to Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan's comment that WP is "PAP lite".

During the live televised debate in English aired on Channel 5 on Wednesday, Dr Balakrishnan told WP's candidate for Sengkang GRC Jamus Lim: "I read your manifesto and actually, to be honest with you, we could have written the same manifesto. And that's why people have called the Workers' Party 'PAP-lite' or 'PAP-like'."

In response, Mr Singh said it is "expected" that the People's Action Party would try to make this point a part of its electoral strategy.

"If that was the case, I hope the PAP takes up all our manifesto points and introduces them into their agenda, because I think that would really change the shape of Singapore, and we’ll have a more caring and compassionate society," he said.

Asked if this suggestion could mean to voters that voting in a WP MP would be no different from voting in a PAP MP, Mr Singh disagreed.

"Did any PAP MP file a question on the Keppel Marine scandal? I think voters should think about why not. Did any of them step up to consider the other perspective to bills like Pofma? I think these are relevant questions that Singaporeans need to ask," he said.

He added that based on his experience in the party, Singaporeans do want an opposition to scrutinise the PAP, but they are very discerning as to the type of opposition they want.

"We’ve tried very hard to take that perspective onboard, and we have created that sort of culture within the party of an opposition that is credible, not just locally but internationally as well. And we are proud to stand as Singaporeans in spite of being in the opposition," he said.

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