First World Parliament Parliamentary Opposition Indeed

This post is part of a running series about the General Elections.

In the 2011 General Election, the Workers’ Party (WP) did the impossible and captured a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in Aljunied that gifted them 5 seats in Parliament.

The conquerors were Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim, Muhamad Faisal Bin Abdul Manap, Pritam Singh, and Chen Show Mao.

Aside from their unprecendented feat in the electoral history of Singapore, the Workers’ Party also made several smart moves in the last 4 years, that certainly merit them another shot at being the main in-Parliament Opposition again.

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1. Party members with impressive resumes waiting in the wings

The WP have even more qualified candidates waiting to be unveiled for the coming General Election.

Some examples are National University of Singapore (NUS) Professor in Sociology Daniel Goh, Lawyer Dennis Tan, Chief Executive Officer of Spire Group Leon Perera.

WP rode on the qualifications of Chen Show Mao — a lawyer who graduated from Harvard, and was a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford — to help capture Aljunied GRC at the previous General Election.

MustShareNews have covered the three potential candidates in greater detail on another of our article that reveals 20 potential candidates you should look out for in the coming General Election.

2. Rational stance of the Workers’ Party

At the 2011 General Election, WP contested under the manifesto of bringing a First World Parliament into Singapore.

When elected, the WP lived up to the call by keeping rational and cool-headed in the Parliament. In fact, WP even managed to make the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) look bad on several occasions.

Earlier this month (14 July), a debate in Parliament between the WP and the PAP ensued when the WP put across some questions to the ruling party, whose Members of Parliament (MP) failed to understand the concept of answering questions.

WP MPs were also arguably the more rational in the Parliament, especially when PAP grabbed the opportunity to lash out at the WP.

One example was when National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan un-parliamentarily suggested that the Workers’ Party should be punished harshly for the AHPETC saga.

At 0:49 of the video

and in the good old days, they may even commit hara-kiri

– National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan

Needless to say, the reaction of both the WP and the PAP MPs were unimpressed. Low Thia Khiang’s reaction can’t even be explained in words —

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3. Successfully continuing their momentum from the 2011 GE

After the success of the General Election in 2011, the WP continued their streak by winning the Hougang SMC by-election and the Punggol East SMC by-election in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Hougang SMC

Hougang was already captured by the WP in the 2011 General Election. However, MP of Hougang SMC, Yaw Shin Leong, left the party and vacated the Hougang seat after being embroiled in extra-marital affair allegations.

The Hougang by-election was subsequently called, and WP successfully retained the seat through Png Eng Huat. PAP’s Desmond Choo again failed to wrest the Hougang seat, after the 2011 General Election loss.

Punggol East SMC

A second by-election was called for the Punggol East SMC in 2013, after the PAP MP of Punggol East, Michael Palmer admitted to having an affair with a grassroots member in the Punggol East branch of the People’s Association (PA).

The subsequent Punggol East by-election was competed by 4 political parties — the Reform Party, Singapore Democratic Alliance, the People’s Action Party, and the Workers’ Party.

Despite the heavy opposition presence in the by-election contest, WP’s Lee Li Lian was able to convincingly emerge victorious with a majority margin of 10%.

WP’s ability to continue their momentum in the 2011 General Election into two by-elections cemented their status as main opposition in Singapore.

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4. Residents of Aljunied GRC felt no difference

Despite the Aljunied- Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) saga hampering the WP for much their 4 years in the Parliament, the WP was still able to play the role of Mythbusters and helped Singapore bust the myth that only the ruling party is capable of taking care of Singaporeans.

The Straits Times reported that the lives of residents in the AHPETC were largely unaffected by the saga.

When interviewed by The Straits Times, Lily Ho, a resident in Aljunied GRC, said that there is no difference in the condition of the constituency compared to when it was run by PAP.

But what is there [experience in living in an Opposition ward] to tell? The void decks are still swept and the rubbish is cleared.

– Resident of Aljunied GRC, Lily Ho

When asked about her opinion on the AHPETC saga by The Straits Times, Mdm Ho played down the significance of the AHPETC saga.

Of course I know about that matter. It’s been in the news for months. But like I said, the neighbourhood is being taken care of, so I don’t worry that much.

– Lily Ho

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5. Asking the questions that matter

Apart from being able to behave rationally in the Parliament, WP also raised valid points and concerns in the Parliament on big national issues.

Population White Paper

The ruling party introduced the Population White Paper in 2013, which set sights on having 6.9 million residents in Singapore by 2020. The paper causes an uproar among Singaporeans who took it to the streets Hong Lim Park to protest about the white paper.

WP also opposed to the White Paper, introducing their very own WP Population Policy Paper — in effect forcing the PAP to ensure that the 6.9 million figure is only a worst-case scenario and the focus of the Government will always be on Singaporeans above all.

Electoral Boundaries

It was also Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Yee Jenn Jong of WP who took the initiative to question Prime Minister Lee on the status of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) that represents the first formal steps toward any General Election in Singapore — albeit the response he got was not very nice.

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Deserving of a second stint?

Well, the Workers’ Party made a great effort in the past 4 years trying to live up to their billing as the first Opposition party in Singapore to have be elected into a Group Representation Constituency (GRC).

Despite the intense scrutiny under the ruling party, WP managed to fare pretty well in their first attempt at handling a GRC.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister Khaw are the epitomes of the ruling party closely and constantly scrutinising the WP in the last 4 years.

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Check out the smart moves and the dumb moves that the other contesting Opposition parties have made since the last election as well.

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Featured Image via Workers Party
With reference to Yahoo SG, Channel News Asia, Channel News Asia, The Straits Times, The Straits TimesAsia One, Asia OneToday Online