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Singapore GE2020: Balance in Parliament still important as Singapore fights Covid-19, says WP chief Pritam Singh

SINGAPORE – The balance in Parliament remains important even as Singapore fights Covid-19 together, said Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh on Saturday (June 27), as he urged Singaporeans to vote to ensure there is a credible opposition in the House.

Speaking at the party’s candidate introduction press conference, Mr Singh noted that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) will have a strong mandate even if the WP wins all the 21 seats it is contesting.

“The PAP are going to contest in 93 seats, the Workers Party is contesting in 21 seats, and that leaves us potentially 72 seats in PAP’s hands. I’m not sure whether that equates to a weak mandate. I think that’s still a strong mandate for the PAP,” he said.

“So what I believe Singaporeans should also consider is, as all of us collectively fight Covid-19, what about the balance in Parliament?”

Mr Singh also responded to a question about how the WP would react if their candidates find themselves in the same circumstances as PAP candidate Ivan Lim, who has been criticised online by some who say they have had bad experiences with him in the past.

He said all candidates fielded by his party are observed for a period as volunteers and then as party members before they are considered for elections, but even then, there is no guarantee that they will not have skeletons in their closet.

Most WP members start out as volunteers before they become full members and this process allows the party leaders and senior party members to observe and make judgement calls about a person, before they decide if he or she is “able to serve the public wholeheartedly”, Mr Singh added.

He said the party has on occasion also spoken to the employers and friends of potential candidates.

But he added that there is “no fail-safe mechanism out there” and what the party can do is to make decisions based on all the information it has.

The WP introduced five candidates on Saturday, three of whom are contesting their first election.

Mr Nathaniel Koh, 36, was a former member of the WP’s youth wing and served as an election agent for the party in 2015 in the now-defunct Sengkang West SMC.

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The IT professional who works at security systems supplier Dormakaba Singapore has been married for six years and his first child was born in September last year.

Mr Koh said he joined the WP in 2009, when he was still a student at the Singapore Management University as he believes having diversity in Parliament is crucial to the long-term success of Singapore.

Asked what issues he would like to raise in Parliament, he said more needs to be done to encourage families to have children.

“It’s not necessarily about monetary incentives, like the baby bonus. We have to look at social incentives as well,” he said, adding that policies must encourage both parents to care for their newborns and give them more time for childcare.

Mothers who want to re-enter the workforce after childbirth should also be encouraged and enabled to do so.

Ms Tan Chen Chen, 38, a contracts administrator and trained quantity surveyor, said she had been volunteering with the party in the Bedok area after the previous election in 2015.

Speaking in Mandarin throughout the press conference, the mother of a three-month-old said property prices are an important issue today, especially to young Singaporeans.

She said the prices of Housing Board flats has risen to the point that young people starting out with salaries of between $2,000 to $3,000 will find it difficult to afford a home.

Ms Tan added that the high prices may make it more difficult for today’s young people to have enough to retire later on as they may have to dip into their CPF savings to pay for the flat, and that this is an issue she would like to raise in Parliament.

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Lawyer Fadli Fawzi, 40, said he was concerned about the “powerless and marginalised” in Singapore, which he described as a country where power is concentrated in the hands of one party.

He said he “always had a soft spot for the underdog” and had attended opposition rallies since his youth.

“They would always fight hard but they would always lose. But when they won, such as in Aljunied in 2011, it was something special. I guess I saw part of myself in that struggle – always having to fight harder and facing more difficulties to earn your place in the world.”

He added: “This is my promise if elected: I will serve my constituents and the people of Singapore by speaking out for the powerless and speaking truth to power, and I will do this to the best of my abilities,” said Mr Fadli, who is also a town councillor at the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council.

The other two candidates introduced on Saturday had contested in the 2015 general election.

Mr Kenneth Foo Seck Guan, 43, ran in Nee Soon GRC and his team lost to the incumbent PAP, with 33.2 per cent of the vote.

The deputy director in a charity organisation has been a legislative assistant to party chair Sylvia Lim since the start of last year.

Mr Terrence Tan, a lawyer and director at the firm Robertson Chambers, will turn 49 on Nomination Day. He contested Marine Parade GRC in 2015 and his team garnered 35.9 per cent of the vote.

He is the deputy organising secretary in the WP’s central executive committee.

At the session, Mr Singh also said that the WP’s manifesto will be released on Sunday (June 28).

This is the third round of candidate introductions by the WP. A final round on Sunday will complete its slate of 21 candidates.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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