Singapore GE: Reform Party’s Jeyaretnam and Workers’ Party counter PM Lee’s comments at lunchtime rally

A video image of Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam (left) and replies from the Workers' Party were posted on social media in response to Lee Hsien Loong's speech July 6, 2020. — Images via TODAY
A video image of Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam (left) and replies from the Workers' Party were posted on social media in response to Lee Hsien Loong's speech July 6, 2020. — Images via TODAY

SINGAPORE, July 7 — Kenneth Jeyaretnam, secretary-general of the Reform Party (RP), published a video yesterday saying investors would welcome a strong opposition that would "shine a light on accountability and transparency on the workings of government.”

The 61-year-old, who is contesting in Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC), was responding to People’s Action Party secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong’s lunchtime rally at Fullerton Square yesterday. 

The Workers' Party also countered some of the Lee's points made during the rally.

During the 45-minute rally, PM Lee, 68, who is also prime minister, said that maintaining Singapore’s reputation internationally is crucial for its survival.

“Then multinational corporations will invest in us, other countries will take us seriously, and Singapore has a place in the sun. Otherwise, we will just fade away and be forgotten, like so many city-states in history,” he said, adding that investors will scrutinise the results of the upcoming general election and act on their conclusions.

To that, Jeyaretnam’s argument was that investors decide on whether to invest in a country based on “strong governance controls.”

“Let me tell you, as someone who has worked in the hedge fund industry and financial services for 25 years as an investor, you would not invest in a hedge fund if you thought that those buying the positions were able to price them, mark them to market and do the office trades and accounting all-in-one,” he said in the video posted on Reform Party’s Facebook page.

“So when investors look at Singapore they would welcome a strong opposition that is able to shine the light of accountability and transparency on the workings of government, in particular on financial affairs.”

He added that the current “system is rife with conflict” as PM Lee is the head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, and his wife Ho Ching is the head of state investment firm Temasek Holdings.

GIC has a portfolio of US$100 billion (RM428.44 billion) and Temasek, S$313 billion (RM961.3 billion), based on information from their websites.

Jeyaretnam also noted that Goh Soon Poh, who was appointed as auditor-general last year, is the wife of Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How.

Such conflicts of interest is “egregious” and that investors would find Singapore more attractive if it has a system of checks and balances, he added, urging people to vote for the opposition because it is “not only in investors’ interest, it is in your interest.”

“PAP has no new ideas From the ‘70s, to the ‘80s, to the ‘90s, to now, they still peddle the myth that Singapore will collapse if there is even more than a token of opposition in Parliament,” he said.

Jeyaretnam is now serving a 14-day stay-home notice due to Covid-19 regulations, after he returned from the United Kingdom on June 24. 

He had previously asked for a waiver not to serve the notice but was not granted one from the authorities due to public health reasons.

WP’s replies to rally speech

Yesterday, the Workers’ Party (WP) also released several sets of  responses on its Facebook and Instagram accounts in response to Lee’s lunchtime rally.

To Lee who said that opposition parties have been “completely silent” on how to tackle Covid-19 in the past six months and in this election campaign, WP highlighted seven policy proposals made in the party’s manifesto related to the ongoing pandemic.

These include forming an independent medical advisory board and expanding testing to the larger community. Its manifesto also stated that the code for contact-tracing mobile application TraceTogether should remain an open source and gather only data that is absolutely necessary in order to protect the privacy of Singaporeans. 

An independent commission of inquiry should be convened to examine the lessons learned from the Covid-19 crisis, it reiterated. 

“Our Covid-19 experience thus far informs all Singaporeans that the decision-making processes of the fourth-generation or 4G leadership of the PAP leaves more to be desired. It must be checked by a constructive opposition,” WP said.

During his rally speech, Lee asked what contribution will the opposition make in Parliament if they get elected. He also cautioned voters not to be confused by the signals and vote for the opposition if what they really want “is a PAP MP to look after your constituency and town council, and a PAP Government to look after Singapore.”

Lee added that Singaporeans should not be “taken in just to have more choices” and urged voters to carefully decide because their futures are at stake.

In response, WP said that it does not oppose for the sake of opposing. It would act as a check-and-balance and oppose the Government’s agenda only if “decisions are being made for reasons other than the national interest.”

The party also noted that Aljunied-Hougang Town Council has taken good care of its residents, and its financial statements were “given a clean and unqualified opinion last year and received a green banding for corporate governance.”

It said of how the opposition’s contribution is needed in Parliament in the next term of government: “A number of national issues of long-term priority will surface for discussion and debate in the months and years to come. These will require parliamentary scrutiny and challenge if necessary.” — TODAY

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