Singapore GE: Heng Swee Keat’s move to East Coast GRC shows PAP takes WP’s challenge seriously, says Pritam Singh

Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh and Dennis Tan speaking to the media on June 30, 2020. — TODAY pic
Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh and Dennis Tan speaking to the media on June 30, 2020. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, June 30 — The fact that the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) first assistant secretary-general Heng Swee Keat is helming the team contesting East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) “sends an important signal” that it is taking the Workers’ Party’s (WP) challenge seriously, said WP secretary-general Pritam Singh.

It was announced on the morning of Nomination Day today that Heng, who was the anchor minister in Tampines GRC, was leaving his ward to contest in East Coast GRC.

The 58-year-old’s other team-mates are incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) Maliki Osman, 54 and Jessica Tan, 54; former Fengshan Single Member Constituency (SMC) MP Cheryl Chan, 44; and new candidate Tan Kiat How, 43, the former chief executive of the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

They face a WP team comprising former National Solidarity Party member Nicole Seah, 33; former researcher Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, 54; Singapore Cancer Society deputy director Kenneth Foo, 42; lawyer Terence Tan, 48; and wealth advisory firm director Dylan Ng, 45.

“I would say we take their challenge equally seriously, which is why we put a strong slate of candidates in East Coast,” said Singh, the leader of Singapore’s largest opposition party, today.

He was speaking to the media near a coffee shop at Block 322 Hougang Avenue 5 — the unofficial gathering point for the party.

Singh said he expects this GE, which is held during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, to be a difficult one as the WP will be going against an opponent that is not only “well resourced”, but fights hard at every election.

However, he said he has “full confidence” in his team.

“I think they will do well for the Workers’ Party,” said Singh. “I think they will prove to voters that they’re no pushovers and that they will be prepared to fight for the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans — not just in Parliament, but in the constituency and in their town councils as well.”

‘Careful not to fall into a trap’

Also present with Singh was the party’s candidate for Hougang SMC, Dennis Tan, 49.

The outgoing non-constituency MP (NCMP), who has held the post since 2015, spoke about the limitations of the position.

“Singaporeans must be very careful not to fall into this trap of thinking that a non-constituency MP is the solution for an alternative opposition,” said Tan, who will be going up against PAP’s Lee Hong Chuang, 50.

Yesterday, PAP’s Indranee Rajah pointed out that the NCMP scheme guarantees at least 12 opposition MPs.

It was increased from nine in 2016, when constitutional amendments were also made to give them equal voting rights as full MPs.

While Tan agreed that he was able to speak up on a range of issues, he pointed out that the position prevents opposition party members from sinking roots into the constituencies.

For example, Tan said he was not allowed to hold events in Fengshan SMC, where he lost against PAP’s Cheryl Chan during GE2015.

On the other hand, he said that within the WP’s constituencies, losing PAP candidates are allowed to “make use of a lot more facilities” than the WP are.

If Singaporeans continue to believe that the NCMP position is the solution for an alternative voice, Tan said there is a “very strong chance” opposition party members will never be able to sink roots into a particular constituency because they are not allowed to.

This will just increase the “super majority” of the PAP in Parliament, said Tan, and this could be problematic, as it would not give opposition party members the political experience they need.

“One day... if the PAP were to fail or do very badly, how is another party going to take over as the government?” said Tan.

“Will Singapore want that kind of scenario? That would be disastrous.” — TODAY

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