Straits Times: Key parties to skip opposition forum

WP, SDA parties among those not attending event organised by SDP

• BY KOR KIAN BENG

THE need for unity and identifying the future direction of the opposition in Singapore are among issues to be discussed at a forum on Saturday – but several key parties are giving the event a miss.

The meeting, organised by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and titled Opposition – Where To?, will also address questions such as what parties are doing to build confidence and support among the electorate, and whether greater cooperation is necessary to attract votes.

A posting on the SDP’s website listed five panellists: Reform Party (RP) chairman Ng Teck Siong, Singapore People’s Party (SPP) chairman Sin Kek Tong, National Solidarity Party (NSP) president Sebastian Teo, SDP chairman Gandhi Ambalam and Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) secretary-general Desmond Lim.

Potong Pasir MP Chiam See Tong, who is SPP’s secretary-general and SDA’s chairman, and Hougang MP Low Thia Khiang, the Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general, are not involved.

The duo are the only elected opposition MPs in Parliament along with WP chairman Sylvia Lim, who is a Non-Constituency MP.

The absence of Mr Chiam and Mr Low prompted some queries on the SDP website, with one person saying: “Cheers to SDP for organising such (a) forum. The two opposition MPs should join in. Where are they?”

When contacted, WP organising secretary Yaw Shin Leong said the party received the SDP’s invitation last week but did not respond to it. He declined to comment when asked for the reason.

Mr Chiam’s SPP is not being formally represented at the forum.

Mr Sin, its chairman, is attending in his private capacity, but said he did not object to the SDP billing him as SPP chairman: “I said I have no objections because you can’t hide these things.”

The SDA – a grouping of the SPP, Singapore Malay National Organisation and Singapore Justice Party – will also not be represented.

This despite Mr Lim being listed as a panellist.

He told The Straits Times that he was not going as he had to attend a Potong Pasir grassroots event on that day.

The SDA is not sending a replacement as it requires a meeting and the consensus of its executive council, he added.

“There are other opportunities to work together in the future,” said Mr Lim, who is also SPP’s assistant secretary-general.

Echoing this sentiment was the NSP’s Mr Teo, a business consultant.

He, too, may skip the forum due to work commitments in China this weekend. He said the party would have to discuss whether to send a replacement.

“Things cannot be perfect all the time. We can always find other opportunities,” he said, but added that the forum was a good occasion for opposition parties to foster greater understanding.

Mr Ng of the RP, set up by late opposition politician J.B. Jeyaretnam, confirmed that he would be attending the forum.

The event at the Copthorne Orchid Hotel will also discuss the role of civil society and the blogging community, whose representatives include former WP member Chia Ti Lik and former NTUC Income chief executive officer Tan Kin Lian.

The SDP’s Mr Gandhi declined to comment when contacted for more details on the event and its participants.

kianbeng@sph.com.sg

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