SINGAPORE: The Workers' Party's (WP) gambit of fielding its top candidates in Aljunied GRC is not meant to force on residents an “emotional dilemma”, but to offer them the choice of having the best slate of Opposition voices in Parliament to act as a check on the Government, said party secretary-general Low Thia Khiang.
The party's “Dream Team” on Friday night addressed voters for the first time at ground zero of what is shaping up to be the hottest battle of this General Election, and Mr Low said the WP was “going for broke” in order to snare a GRC “for the future of democracy in Singapore”.
The long-time MP for Hougang – who left the safe haven of his single-seat ward to lead the WP's “Dream Team” in Aljunied, and has vowed to refuse the Non-Constituency MP seat should he lose – refuted his opponent Foreign Minister George Yeo's remark that the WP's move went “against the spirit of democracy” as it forced the 143,148 voters of Aljunied to choose between looking after their own interests and pushing the larger Opposition cause.
Mr Low, 55, retorted that “nothing is more against the spirit of democracy than the GRC (system)”, a system which is in the People's Action Party's (PAP) self-interest.
He cited the example of the PAP's last-minute induction of Dr Chia Shi-Lu, who became an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC via a walkover. Since being introduced in 1988, after vote swings against the PAP saw two Opposition members enter Parliament, the GRC system has become “like a rubber band, quite elastic”, growing from three members per GRC to a maximum of six, Mr Low noted.
He told the crowd: “Let me tell you, if no Opposition is able to break through a GRC, you will be forever shackled under the system. The power to vote will be just symbolic and your voice will be limited.”
Others among the WP's five-member team – Mr Low, party chair Sylvia Lim, top corporate lawyer Chen Show Mao, post-graduate law student Pritam Singh and counsellor Faisal Abdul Manap – weighed in also.
Mr Chen, 50, said Aljunied voters should not have to bear the burden of looking after the Opposition's larger interest and – borrowing Mr Yeo's words – exhorted them to look after themselves like everybody else.
“We appreciate your kind consideration but please, please, first look after yourselves,” he quipped.
“Don't worry about the Workers' Party. How can you make your life better? Please, go ahead, don't be shy.”
He urged them to ask themselves if they were better off compared to five years ago, or more hopeful for the future. Did they believe, with the WP providing competition in Parliament, they would get better policies? To the last, Mr Chen declared: “I am sure of it.”
Ms Lim said she could understand that some Aljunied voters might be worried that casting their votes for the WP could mean losing a good minister in Mr Yeo, and that his talents might be lost to Singapore.
But, she pointed out, even if Mr Yeo were defeated at the polls he would still have a “bright future” – as the chairman of a government-linked organisation or an ambassador-at-large like Professor Tommy Koh, perhaps.
“So don't think of voting for the WP as voting against George Yeo. Think of it as helping him into early retirement,” she said, drawing chuckles from the crowd.
Mr Singh, 34, meanwhile likened star football players to ministers – Manchester United did not collapse without Wayne Rooney, for instance.
Ms Lim also took issue with Mr Yeo's criticism of the WP. Disturbed by how the party had described voters as their “secret weapon”, the PAP minister had said: “I would not use them as though they are instruments to be chosen or discarded.”
Said Ms Lim, 46, last night: “If the PAP really respects voters' needs and wishes, why does it keep re-drawing boundaries after every election based on the voting results?
“Why don't we ask the voters in Kaki Bukit who have not moved house for 25 years but have been kicked around from Eunos GRC to Marine Parade and now Aljunied? Who is the one using the voters as instruments to be chosen and discarded?” –
Channel News Asia