WP by-election rally 22 Jan — Low explains why WP closes door to opposition unity
Written by Ng E-Jay
23 January 2013
In the WP by-election rally held on Tuesday, 22 Jan, Mr Low Thia Khiang explained in Mandarin why the WP has chosen to close the door to cooperating or uniting with other opposition parties. An English translation of this segment of his speech is attached at the end of this article.
During the rally, Mr Low also rebutted recent comments by PM Lee Hsien Loong that the WP does not have strong views and does not raise alternative policies.
Mr Low said that to expect a party with six elected MPs to form an alternative government “is premature and unrealistic”, and reiterated that the WP will not oppose for the sake of opposing. He also said that “if the WP is given the chance to grow strong, we will eventually come up a full set of alternative policies”.
Mr Low cited examples of issues each WP MP had touched on in Parliament. For example, Mr Chen Show Mao raised issues on integrated care for the elderly. Mr Yee Jenn Jong spoke about pre-school education, and Mr Png Eng Huat elaborated on manpower issues. The WP as a whole has also raised issues pertaining to flood and drainage, immigration, public housing, and COE bidding.
During the rally, Ms Sylvia Lim highlighted the recent controversy over the sale of PAP town councils’ computer and financial systems to the PAP-owned private company Action Information Management (AIM).
She also recounted how the WP, after winning Aljunied GRC in GE2011, was able to dig into documents showing how the PAP town councils have been managing HDB towns. She said: “While many of the systems and processes were sensible, many showed how political town council management has become. Residents have become pawns in a political game or simply collateral damage.”
Ms Lee Li Lian pointed out that the WP had a hand in some of the new policies introduced by the government, for example, the recent move to introduce paid paternity leave. She said: “WP pushed for 6 days paternity leave and government settled on 7. Next time we should push for 14, maybe we’ll get 18.”
Mr Low Thia Khiang’s reasons why WP does not cooperate with other opposition parties
This is an English translation of the Mandarin part of his speech where Mr Low explains why the WP refuses to cooperate or unite with other opposition parties.
During this by-election, before nomination day, the Worker’s Party was accused of being arrogant and dismissive of other opposition parties who wanted to contest Punggol East, and showed no concern about opposition unity.
Tonight, I shall talk to you about the problems regarding opposition unity. (Crowd applause, beat drums)
Firstly, if the opposition parties were able to unite, Singapore today would not have so many political parties.
To register and helm a political party is not difficult. But to dig one’s heels into the ground and persevere is not that easy.
Before and after our nation’s independence, there were already many political parties. But those that have persisted to this day, and have thrived and progressed, apart from the People’s Action Party, is only the Worker’s Party! (Very loud crowd applause and cheers)
Under the political climate of PAP’s one-party dominance, for the other parties to lift their heads high and grow, is a very, very difficult thing.
I joined the Worker’s Party in 1982. It was only after close to 30 years that I managed to see a little bit of advancement made! (Crowd applause)
I’ve interacted with a lot of Worker’s Party supporters. They wish to see Singapore develop democratically. But they are often disheartened, because the opposition is often bogged down with problems. I understand their disappointment.
The opposition parties are actually very complex, with different personalities, different leaders, different approaches.
The year 1991 can be considered a big step in our nation’s democratic development. At that time, we had four opposition MPs in Parliament. The Singapore Democratic Party was the strongest party. However, later the SDP went into strife. In the 1997 election, the PAP took the opportunity to lump all the opposition parties together, and use a single bamboo stick to knock down the entire ship! (Crowd applause)
At the end, four opposition MPs was reduced to just two. After that, the strength of the opposition parties went downhill.
After the 1997 elections, the WP decided to go its own way. Later, some opposition parties formed the Singapore Democratic Alliance. The WP also decided not to join them. (Drum beats and whistles)
In Singapore, anyone can form a political party and contest elections. All political parties have different directions and ideals, they won’t necessarily have the same views and approaches to policies. On the issue of what kind of opposition party is most beneficial for Singapore, the views are also divided.
Therefore, given Singapore’s current political climate, to want all the opposition parties to form a unified force is an impossible goal.
As the saying goes, “道不同,不相為謀”.
Political parties are like people — if they have different inclinations yet you force them to be together, what would be the outcome? Not only will there not be joy, but there will be misunderstandings.
Regarding opposition unity, the fear is that eventually, not only will they be unable to advance together, but they will splinter and become fragmented.
This kind of outcome will only make the people again lose faith in the opposition and become an impediment in Singapore’s democratic progress. (Drum beats and whistles)
The Worker’s Party insists on going its own path, a difficult path that has been criticized — this is not arrogance, nor is it a disrespect to other contestants, but is instead to avoid history repeating itself, to avoid disappointing the people again, to avoid unnecessarily hurting the people! (Very loud crowd applause and cheers)
The Worker’s Party aims to be a respectable, rational political party. We place importance on each election. The trust and support of voters are always reminders to us not to let them down.