SINGAPORE: The Workers' Party will field candidates who can become competent Members of Parliament and who can manage town councils well in the next election, said party chief Pritam Singh on Sunday (Jan 19).
"The focus will be on quality candidates from a range of backgrounds and life experiences," he said at a WP members' forum on Sunday morning.
Such opposition MPs will raise citizens' concerns to Parliament and build up public service experience to become effective parliamentarians and town councillors, he said.
Laying out the party's direction ahead of widely expected polls this year, Mr Singh said that his speech would be about why the public should vote for WP.
While the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) holds the "national purse strings" and can implement effective policies for Singapore, the opposition's role is to make sure it does not have a "blank cheque" to do whatever it wants, Mr Singh said.
"The opposition’s role is meaningful when voters elect an opposition with an elected mandate to speak for Singaporeans. An unelected opposition in Parliament cannot change the PAP," he said, referring to unelected MPs who enter Parliament through the Non-constituency Member of Parliament scheme.
NUMERICAL BALANCE "ABSOLUTELY COUNTS"
He pointed out that having the right numerical balance in Parliament "absolutely counts", as the ruling party would not be able to change the Constitution at will if it did not have a two-thirds majority.
This is in response to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's comments to CNN last year, saying Singapore's key challenge in the next decade or two is whether it has competent leadership that works for Singaporeans, rather than achieving the "right numerical balance" in Parliament.
"The right numerical balance is not just a random number, it is an inherent checking mechanism for our parliamentary democracy against any ruling party that chooses to put its political interests first," he said.
Mr Singh used the rotation of races for the Elected Presidency as an example.
Conversations with minority Singaporeans showed that the demand for a Malay President was "not a particularly pressing concern", according to Mr Singh.
"Most were in fact more enthusiastic about Malay MPs taking up ministerial appointments in high-profile Ministries than the Elected Presidency," he said.
"In my opinion, the urgency to amend the Elected Presidency was politically manufactured by the PAP. The real risk appeared to be Tan Cheng Bock’s potential participation in the last Presidential elections, and the election of a President who was unlikely to be the PAP’s preferred choice."
Mr Singh also updated that the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) has an operating surplus of more than S$7 million for the current parliamentary term and about S$1 million of those funds will be used to improve connectivity and amenities in the town.
Party leaders Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang have been relieved of fiduciary duties in AHTC after a long-drawn out court case in which they were found liable for the misuse of public funds. WP has filed an appeal against the verdict.
Mr Singh added in his speech that while the public may want an elected opposition in Parliament, the party has to "earn our place and work hard" both in Parliament and in its town councils.
"We must always strive for greater heights at the town council level to continue building the public’s confidence in alternate political leaders," he said.