By Farah Abdul Rahim
SINGAPORE: The Workers’ Party is still standing by its manifesto, even after the People’s Action Party fired salvos at it over the past few days, saying it will tear Singapore’s society apart.
Meanwhile, political watchers say the ongoing debate between the parties has fuelled even more election speculation.
A week after the release of the Workers’ Party’s manifesto, the People’s Action Party urged it to rethink its position on what the ruling party has called its “four time bombs.”
These are proposals to do away with grassroots commmittees; dropping the ethnic quota policy for public housing and the Group Representative Constituency Scheme; doing away with the Elected Presidency; and a call for more subsidies for the poor, without indicating where the money for this was coming from.
And it is not just the party bigwigs but also PAP MPs who have voiced disappointment over these proposals.
Said Halimah Yacob, MP for Jurong GRC, “It is quite irresponsible the way that they have proposed certain things, like for instance, dismantling certain structures, the RCs — criticising the RCs and certain other structures that we have put in place in order to promote a strong multi-racial society, ethnic integration.
“I don’t think we should take these things lightly. And on this goal, I think I’m a bit disappointed that this is the way that they have approached some of these issues.”
But the Workers’ Party has defended the proposals in its manifesto, which it says is the result of two years of hard work.
Said Tan Wui-Hua, president of the Workers’ Party Youth Wing and member of the WP Manifesto Committee, “They have not put down in very defined terms why the four issues are a time bomb. They are just saying it’s a time bomb and it will destroy the social fabric of the entire country.
“We genuinely feel these four issues are issues the people on the ground would like to see changed. Therefore, we speak for the people and we feel it’s good for the nation. So the truth is, now if they say it’s bad and we say it’s good, we let the voters decide.”
Political watchers say the way the debate between the two political parties has evolved has taken them by surprise.
But they also noted that the debate has stirred up interest among many Singaporeans in the Workers’ Party manifesto.
Political Science Assistant Professor Suzaina Kadir says such debates are healthy.
She said, “The opposition in Singapore needs to think strategically, have a manifesto and provide an alternative framework, and has to be debated publicly. It could certainly be the case the manifesto cannot hold and is potentially problematic but when you have a debate like that in the open, then people have a sense of not just broad motherhood statements, but concrete policies, so people can decide on a far more mature level.”
But one thing is clear — the debate, has fuelled even more election talk.
Dr Suzaina explained, “It fuels further speculation among us that elections are coming; that’s why you’re getting the kind of reactions you’re getting. I can’t say it’s a sure sign; it comes together with a lot of other signals political observers look at. I think what’s curious about this whole incident is, it has come in a matter of days after several announcements that people have taken to imply elections are coming. When these events occur one after another, it reinforces people’s beliefs that something is about to happen.”
Meanwhile, other opposition groups like the Singapore Democratic Alliance have declined to comment on this debate. – CNA /ct