TODAY: 20 years for Workers’ Party to match PAP?

Sec-Gen Low wants WP to be respected and reliable first

AS THE Workers’ Party celebrates this weekend its 50th anniversary, and Secretary-General Low Thia Kiang (picture) takes a measure of satisfaction with his party’s performance so far, he already has hopes for its 60th anniversary.

He hopes he will no longer be party chief by then.

It is a sign of the confidence he has in the prospects for the party, which was the best performer among the opposition parties at last year’s General Election.

Come WP’s 70th anniversary, he reckons it will be ready finally to match the quality of the People’s Action Party (PAP) and have a good go at forming Singapore’s government.

In a broad-ranging interview with Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao, Mr Low – who became WP secretary-general in 2001 – gave the PAP a definite “passing” grade. And he said that there is more space in Singapore politics now.

But he noted that the ruling party had the backing of many scholars to help draw up policies, while the WP’s resources and ability to mobilise people are limited. So, what the WP can do currently is propose refinements to government policies.

One of Mr Low’s main grouses about current policies is that they have not engendered sufficiently, in his view, a sense of belonging in the country.

“For example, in the debate on CPF, some people say: Might as well take out CPF and migrate,” he said in describing the sense of insecurity caused by a higher withdrawal age.

“Identification with a country is a feeling; it means that no matter what, I was born here, so I die here. I think Singapore has not reached such a stage of emotional identification.”

At this point, though, his main preoccupation is to make the WP a respected and reliable party.

“Our main aim is to … garner more support from the constituents, and make a breakthrough in the elections, especially in the Group Representation Constituencies. At the same time, we hope that the WP can play an important role in Singapore’s democratic process, and as a result, make the democratic process more competitive,” he said. “Politics should be about responsible politics. The opposition should be a watchdog, not a mad dog. That’s the right path for a political party.”

As for succession in the WP, when asked by Zaobao if party chairman Sylvia Lim would take over the reins eventually, he said it was for all the WP members to decide. He did say, however, why he did not invite the PAP to his party’s anniversary.

“When we had our 40th anniversary celebration, we did invite them, but they replied to say ‘thank you for inviting but we cannot attend’. So, I thought, don’t make things difficult for other people. So, we didn’t send an invite this year,” he said.

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