SINGAPORE — In the wake of unprecedented opposition gains, the aftermath of the 2020 General Election (GE) will also be a time of “soul-searching” for the way forward for the Workers’ Party (WP) in the next five years, as the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) remains a formidable foe, said WP chief Pritam Singh on Sunday (12 July).
Speaking to reporters in a virtual press conference alongside party chair Sylvia Lim at the party’s HQ, Singh was asked to comment on Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam’s remarks that it would be a time of soul-searching and reflection for the PAP.
“In terms of soul-searching, that's something even the WP has to do. I can't speak for the PAP, but obviously we have to look at the results very carefully and determine how the party wants to move forward for the next five years.”
The 43-year-old lawyer, who made history by leading the WP to claim 10 seats in Parliament with wins in Sengkang and Aljunied GRCs and Hougang SMC, struck a note of caution as he addressed a query on whether Singapore’s opposition parties have made progress. Alluding to the 1970 movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, about the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbour in World War II, Singh reminded those present that the PAP cannot be counted out.
“At the end of the movie, the Japanese high command is telling itself that it's very happy that it struck off so many battleships and all that. Admiral Yamamoto is in charge of the whole fleet, he basically said, Look, I have been to the United States, and I know what deep resources this country has, and how awesome it is.”
Singh, who holds a master’s degree in war studies, stressed, “The Workers’ Party will not be like the Japanese in World War II.”
Singaporeans have lived with the PAP all their lives, and they know how powerful they are, Singh said.
“I think we have to be very careful, we have to be very mindful of what we have, and we have to work very, very hard, and you have to appreciate that the PAP will try its hardest to take back Sengkang. It will try its hardest to take back Aljunied, it will try its hardest to take back Hougang. And that means we've got to work even harder to make sure that we reach out and serve the people, honestly and sincerely.”
Plans for Sengkang GRC
Earlier in the press conference, Sengkang GRC team leader He Ting Ru also addressed the media, alongside her teammates Jamus Lim, Raeesah Khan and Chua Kheng Wee.
The 37-year-old lawyer stressed that the team’s immediate priority is ensuring that the transition from the previous town council proceeds seamlessly, even as a new one is set up for the brand new GRC. The team is working with Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol town councils - which currently services the constituency - to ensure a smooth handover for managing agents, and has asked for handover meetings as soon as possible.
Sengkang GRC consists of now-defunct SMCs – Sengkang West and Punggol East – and the Sengkang Central ward from Pasir Ris–Punggol GRC.
The team is also working to develop a relationship with contractors and setting up a constituency Facebook account, said He. Singh added that it typically takes two to three weeks before a town is gazetted and its Members of Parliament officially become councillors on the town council.
Asked if the WP will be setting up a mega town council covering Aljunied, Sengkang and Hougang, Singh said, “The preference is for Sengkang to be run as a standalone town council. Sengkang, we believe, has the economies of scale that will allow it to stand as (one).”
On the possibility of the GRC’s managing agents pulling out, which happened when the WP won Aljunied in 2011, Singh said, “I don't want to prejudge this situation, but what I would say and what I can say is, I think we haven't met the existing managing agents yet, so I think we want to enter discussions in good faith, and we will wait for the meetings and we'll take it from there.”
The WP chief also referred to a recently released guide by the Ministry of National Development for the handover of town councils, in the event of a change in political representation, and also prescribes a process for mediation.
Singh concluded with a quote from former party chief Low Thia Khiang, which “still ring in my ears today”.
“He's always told me: Singaporeans don't want us to fail, so let's not fail them.”
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