Sunday Times: Workers’ Party unveils party manifesto

Opposition party’s first policy paper since 1994, it is released now as elections are coming, says WP chief

T. Rajan


WORKERS’ PARTY executive council members (from left) Mr James Gomez, Dr Poh Lee Guan, secretary-general Low Thia Khiang, chairman Sylvia Lim, Mr Mohammed Rahizan Yaacob and Mr Tan Wui-Hua took turns to read the new party manifesto to the media.
PHOTO: EDWIN KOO

THE Workers’ Party (WP) yesterday unveiled its new party manifesto, which among other things, called on the Government to keep the basic cost of living down.

In a sign of the opposition moving into high gear for the next general election, the party presented its proposals on various national policies such as education, health and housing.

Party chief Low Thia Khiang said the WP had launched its manifesto to update its stand and proposals on policy issues. The MP for Hougang added: “We are releasing it now as it is time for a review of our position, and also because elections are coming.”

The 52-page manifesto, titled You Have A Choice, is the first to come out of the party since 1994. It lists out a raft of proposals on almost every area of Singapore’s policy infrastructure, from the civil service and judiciary to defence and the environment.

Asked to comment on the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government’s latest workfare package to help low-wage workers, Mr Low said the Government should have acted earlier.

But he added: “I do not want to belittle the workfare package by saying it is an election gimmick. It is a policy initiative to help the low-income and elderly group, and I welcome that.”

Yesterday, Mr Low and five other executive council members presented the manifesto to the media at WP headquarters in Syed Alwi Road.

Party chairman Sylvia Lim, 40, focused on labour policies and legal matters. She floated proposals such as barring ministers from holding office in trade unions, and having a minimum wage. “These are fundamental things we believe in,” she said.

Dr Poh Lee Guan called for transport, health care and housing costs to be kept low. The Government, he suggested, could set up a basic hospitalisation insurance scheme to supplement existing schemes like MediShield.

Mr James Gomez, Mr Tan Wui-Hua and Mr Mohammed Rahizan Yaacob spelt out the party’s stand on areas such as education, arts, economic policy, environment, national security and sports.

For example, they pushed for the workload of teachers to be reduced, and the goods and services tax on basic necessities to be abolished.

Mr Low said the manifesto showed that the WP was serious about these issues, but stressed that he remained realistic. “We are not aiming to be the alternative government…but we do provide a choice, a credible option.”

With one MP established in Parliament, the WP is seen by observers as one of the biggest contenders in the coming polls. Ministers and PAP MPs recently acknowledged that the opposition appears more prepared this time round.

PAP MP Ong Seh Hong (Aljunied GRC) said he welcomed “worthy opponents” in the polls. “If they take the elections seriously, then I think it’s good for us, good for them and also good for Singaporeans.”

Additional reporting by Peh Shing Huei

trajan@sph.com.sg

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