SINGAPORE: The Workers’ Party (WP) has defended its performance in Parliament.
Speaking at WP’s second rally for the Punggol East by—election on Tuesday evening, party secretary—general Low Thia Khiang rebutted recent comments by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that the opposition party does not have alternative policies and strong views.
Mr Low also said that to expect a party with six elected MPs to form an alternative government "is premature and unrealistic". He reiterated that the WP will not oppose for the sake of opposing when policies are sound.
Saying that his party’s MPs have been active in Parliament, Mr Low went on to list issues that each MP has touched on.
For example, Chen Show Mao, who raised issues on integrated care for the elderly, Yee Jenn Jong, on pre—school education and Png Eng Huat on manpower issues.
Mr Low added that since the new term of Parliament in October 2011, the WP as a whole has raised issues pertaining to, for example, flood and drainage, immigration, public housing and COE bidding.
"PM Lee remarks that the Workers’ Party does not have strong views, perhaps he has not been paying attention to what the Workers’ Party has been raising. Is it because we have only 6 MPs in Parliament and their voice is not loud enough? Actually, bringing up issues in Parliament is one thing but whether the government is prepared to listen and to modify its policy is another," said Mr Low.
WP chairman Sylvia Lim also spoke at the rally. She raised the recent controversy over the sale of PAP town councils’ computer and financial systems to PAP—owned Action Information Management or AIM.
Prime Minister Lee has since asked for a review of the transaction and the nature of town councils.
Ms Lim said: "This episode illustrates the way Workers’ Party works. We will press the government on matters of public interest using all tools available including the parliamentary process. At the same time, if the government recognises the problem and takes some action, we will want to allow it the opportunity to put things right. This also illustrates the value of political competition in furthering the public interest."
WP’s candidate for Punggol East by—election, Lee Li Lian, also pointed out that the WP had a hand in some of the new policies introduced by the government.
For example, the move to introduce paid paternity leave, which she said the party had called for in its 2011 General Election manifesto.
She also touched on areas that she will work on if elected, such as improving bus services and asking for more amenities in Punggol East.
Ms Lee said she is best suited to serve residents’ needs as she has the experience of running a town council, having helped out in both the WP—run Hougang and Aljunied wards.
"Friends and residents of Punggol East, you worry about the cost of living like any other Singaporean. Many of you are here tonight. I hear your concerns. You feel the pinch of rising food prices, rising childcare and education fees, I understand your pain. Every increase makes it that much more difficult to care for yourselves, your children and your parents. I know what it means, I will listen to you and serve you to the best of my abilities," said Ms Lee.
The Workers’ Party will hold its third and final rally on Wednesday.
Responding in a Facebook post later, Deputy Prime Minister and anchor minister for Pasir Ris—Punggol GRC Teo Chee Hean said that WP had avoided taking a stand on major issues in Parliament. He cited examples such as population and foreign workers, saying that these were areas that needed tough trade—offs.
The minister also said that having another WP MP in parliament "will not help the quality of debate and decision making for Singapore" if they did not offer credible alternatives.
Mr Teo added that PAP MPs offered "many more constructive suggestions", and that they have also been "prepared to take a stand, and speak for measures, even difficult ones".
He said that MPs have to serve their constituents and not just speak in Parliament, and urged Punggol East voters to decide which candidate had the best plans for their constituency and can serve them best.
Separately, chairman of the PAP Town Councils Teo Ho Pin reiterated that AIM was awarded the contract after an open tender by PAP Town Councils to centralise software to maintain the current IT system and help develop a new system.
He added the transaction brought benefits and savings to the town councils and that AIM did not make any financial gains from the transaction.
Dr Teo said it was the Aljunied—Hougang Town Council (AHTC) which terminated the contract, and not AIM.
He added Ms Lim herself has admitted that the AHTC’s arrears are high and that this has nothing to do with AIM or the changeover of the IT system, and that the AHTC could do better.
Hence, Dr Teo said, the key issue is about the performance of the town councils and how well they are managed by the Workers’ Party.
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