SINGAPORE: As a debate about the intent of the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme continues to simmer, Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh on Thursday (Jul 2) questioned the People's Action Party's "magnanimity" in highlighting the scheme.
"Why is the PAP so magnanimous in offering additional NCMP seats? I hope this is something every voter reflects on," said Mr Singh.
"The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Did any PAP MP file a question on the Keppel Marine scandal? Would any of them step up to consider the other perspectives to Bills that pop up?"
In response to a reporter's question on whether the party will continue to take up NCMP seats, Mr Singh said: "It's a very speculative question at the moment, but I'm sure you know we will have to address these matters after polling day."
The NCMP scheme guarantees the opposition a minimum number of seats in Parliament. For the next Parliament, if the number of elected opposition MPs is fewer than 12, the "best losers" from the opposition will be given a seat in the House to make up the number.
On Wednesday, WP's Hougang candidate Dennis Tan called the scheme a "poisoned chalice", after People's Action Party (PAP) leaders told voters that there will be at least 12 opposition voices in Parliament even if no opposition candidates were elected.
Several WP members have taken up NCMP posts in the past, including Mr Leon Perera and Mr Gerald Giam, who were at a walkabout at the Kovan Market and Food Centre with Mr Singh on Thursday.
The two candidates are contesting in Aljunied GRC, replacing WP stalwarts Mr Low Thia Khiang and Mr Chen Show Mao. Mr Low, who is not contesting GE2020, was seen walking the ground with the refreshed WP team that also includes Mr Singh, party chair Sylvia Lim and vice-chair Faisal Manap.
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NO WP CANDIDATE AT CHINESE DEBATE
Mr Singh also apologised on behalf of the party for not sending a representative to a Channel 8 debate in Mandarin aired on Wednesday night.
The four parties with the most number of candidates contesting in the General Election were invited to send a candidate to an English debate and a Mandarin debate on Mediacorp channels.
Sengkang GRC candidate Jamus Lim represented WP in the English debate, sparring with the PAP's Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan and the Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Francis Yuen.
PAP's Ong Ye Kung, PSP assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai and the SDP's Bryan Lim took part in the Mandarin debate.
The two former Aljunied MPs who have stepped down, Mr Low and Mr Chen, are articulate in Mandarin, and Mr Low is known for being able to connect with Mandarin and Teochew-speaking voters.
"I'm very grateful for the support of our Mandarin-only speaking supporters ... We have individuals in the party who can make speeches in Mandarin, communicate effectively with residents in Mandarin but the quality of the proficiency required to participate in a live debate is of a higher order," Mr Singh said.
"The Workers' Party will continue to try to attract bi-cultural Singaporeans who can participate in such debates, but obviously we will place public service first."
Both he and Mr Perera emphasised that they try to engage residents in basic Mandarin and Malay.
Mr Perera said: "When we engage with residents we do try to have meaningful conversations ... engaging residents in rudimentary Chinese, rudimentary Malay as well as English, and I want to improve in both languages, I'm certainly trying to step up on that."
During the English debate, Dr Balakrishnan commented that the WP is now "PAP-lite" and that the Workers' Party uses PAP’s stand as a reference and takes a “half step to the left”.
Addressing the media's questions on the foreign minister's assertions, Mr Singh said: "I think Dr Balakrishnan also said that the manifesto could have been written by someone from the PAP ... if that was the case, I hope the PAP takes up all our manifesto points and introduce them into their agenda, because I think that will really change the shape of Singapore, and we'll have a more caring and compassionate society."