Straits Times: WP’s main issue: Is election necessary?

THE Workers’ Party will contest the General Election on one main issue: Whether the election is necessary.

Its secretary-general, Mr J.B. Jeyaretnam, announced this yesterday at his first election press conference at which he introduced en bloc the party’s line-up of 13 candidates. He also said that:

• He did not agree with the Singapore Democratic Party’s strategy that Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s offer to hold by-elections within 12 to 18 months should be an issue. “I’m afraid I must beg to differ with Mr Chiam See Tong,” he said. “The whole question of whether the PAP will hold by-elections in 12 months or 18 months is completely irrelevant and is a red herring.”

• The Workers’ Party was not out to form the government but would strive to reduce the PAP’s share of votes.

• The party could not get the candidates it wanted, so its slate for this election was only 13 compared to 32 in 1988.

• Co-operation among the opposition parties had failed to prevent a three-cornered fight in Jurong between the Workers’ Party and PKMS, its erstwhile partner in the 1988 General Election.

• The WP would campaign on the theme, Power to the People.

Mr Jeyaretnam started his two-hour press conference by making it clear that his party was not interested in Mr Goh’s offer to hold by-elections after Aug 31.

He described the offer as a move to divert the attention of the electorate away from the real “issue” of whether this General Election was necessary.

He said Mr Goh called for an early general election – “a complete misuse of public funds” – to get voters to give him a personal mandate and settle the internal party debate over whether he or his deputy, Brig-Gen (Res) Lee Hsien Loong, would make a better Prime Minister.

But he said he did not have any hard evidence to back up his contention that there was an internal leadership tussle.

His contention, he explained, was based on public “utterances” by Mr Goh that he wanted public endorsement of his style of governing without changing the programmes outlined by Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The Workers’ Party, he said, would urge Singaporeans to reduce the PAP’s share of the votes and give a clear signal that the PAP should not “play games” with their votes.

“I hope that as of Sept 1, we will see the PAP vote slump from 60 per cent to 56-57 per cent. This will not help Goh Chok Tong. I’m sorry for him. I told him not to call the elections. But I’m afraid that is an irrelevant consideration. We will deal with whoever is there.”

(The PAP won 63.2 per cent of the valid votes cast in the 1988 election).

Referring to the decision by Mr Jufrie Mohamad to quit the SDP to re-join the WP and stand as its candidate in Eunos GRC, he said it was not unusual for politicians to switch parties.

Mr Jeyaretnam’s parting shot: “With all due respect to Mr Chiam and the SDP, the one party which the PAP has to contend with is the Workers’ Party. And the PAP knows it.”