Pritam Singh gave a very interesting interview with Lianhe Wanbao (LHWB) over the weekend (7 Aug). He was interviewed as part of a series by the local broadsheet to highlight the challenges and personal reflections of our MPs since they entered politics.
(*For your background information, Lianhe Wanbao is a local broadsheet that caters mainly to the Chinese readers aged 40 year old and above.)
His interview is important because it’s one of the few times where we can get a glimpse of what the WP are thinking about. Although Pritam did not give much away, we sense that the Workers’ Party were rattled by the last elections results and have looked hard at themselves if they could have done better.
In our opinion, this is in stark contrast to some of the PAP members where they actually attributed success to themselves rather than the context (e.g SG50, LKY passing, etc).
That said, even after reading the interview, we are still unsure where the Workers’Party stand on bread and butter issues such as defence and social spending and even more importantly, what do Pritam Singh stand for?
Here were some of his moments during the interview. (Source: LHWB)
On the latest election results
“I was at Hougang Stadium, and I saw Punggol East volunteers looking disappointed. Our results in the 2011 GE were quite good and we won the two subsequent by- elections. So, many young volunteers and party members, including myself, had never got our mouths bloodied in defeat. It was an important lesson. I felt things would change dramatically any time, and it was important to stick to our guns. But sometimes however hard you try, the finish line is out of reach.”
“2015 was unique, as Singaporeans were down because of the passing of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, and recognised his many contributions.”
On Town Council Issues
He added that the WP’s internal analysis found that the Pioneer Generation Package had impacted many older Singaporeans, which was an underestimated factor. He felt that the town council issue was another factor, but “whether it did really have an impact on the votes, I am not sure, not as sure as I am of the effect of the Pioneer Generation Package”.
“The next few months are quite crucial for the town council. Besides ensuring smooth daily operations in serving residents, we have to rectify the issues raised in the Auditor-General’s report and audit all the previous transactions with former managing agent FMSS. If unlawful transactions are confirmed, as town council chairman I have a responsibility to recover that money with my team.
On walking the ground
“You really need to do house visits earlier. If you are interested in the constituency, you need to knock on the doors many years before a general election. This is an important lesson for all opposition members, which is that you should not think you will win the election by appearing on Nomination Day. It’s not that simple.”
On recruiting new WP members
“It depends on whether we can find enough candidates. Nowadays even blue-collar workers are more savvy about politics than we imagine them to be. They can tell if a person is sincere. If a candidate is not sincere, I think people will not vote for him even if he has excellent qualifications.”
He said the quality WP values most in a candidate is his ability to identify with the people and his love for Singapore.
“If you do not have a degree or excellent qualifications, but you can identify with the people and are passionate about serving Singaporeans, we are also interested in you. The most important quality is concern for the wellbeing of the people and the country.”
Which group does the WP represent?
“If you want to be a national party, you have to represent everyone. But obviously we have fewer elected MPs. When there is an imbalance of information and resources, we will do our best with what we have and play with the cards in our hand. But even with a poor hand, we will fight to be the voice of more Singaporeans.”
Is WP just a PAP-lite version?
“If we joined politics to oppose the PAP, then we would have to ask ourselves why we joined politics. One should join politics to improve the lives of the people, and if that means being criticised for being like the PAP, then so be it. My party colleagues and I have a responsibility to work for the good of Singaporeans, and we will work towards that, even if people say we do not oppose enough or are like the PAP.”
“I believe there is still room in Singapore for a rational, responsible and respectable opposition party.”
On Low Thia Khiang and the future of WP
“The WP is not a one-man show by Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang. He has been able to attract some people who love Singapore and believe in a diverse system.” “Mr Low has had the greatest influence on me since I joined politics. I observed him for many years before joining the party, got to know what he went through and his contributions to the WP. I respect and admire him a lot. But Mr Low does not say much, he illustrates his philosophy through action. He once told the Aljunied team
‘Please don’t let Singaporeans down’. We could not guarantee the election results, but he meant that we should do our best. It was a simple message, but it told us what we should do and what we were fighting for… he also encouraged everyone not to let ourselves down, and not to expect him to pat us on the shoulder. This was his old-school style of encouragement.”