SINGAPORE — Asked for his views on opposition unity yesterday, Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang revealed that he was under “a lot of pressure” for his party to join the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) when it was founded by veteran opposition figure Chiam See Tong in 2001.
However, he held on to his belief of building up the WP to offer Singaporeans a “credible choice”, he said.
“We built ourselves up and today, after 20 years, we are still talking about opposition unity,” he said at the WP’s first press conference to introduce its candidates for the coming General Election.
“WP has taken its own path and I believe that is the path on which we can build a credible party to offer Singaporeans a credible choice.”
That belief still stands today, said Mr Low. “I have made it very clear at the Punggol East by-election (in 2013) in my speech … that we have different objectives, different leadership,” he said.
Mr Chiam, now 80, was the founding chairman of the SDA. The alliance started out with four component parties: The Singapore People’s Party (SPP), the National Solidarity Party (NSP), the Singapore Justice Party (SJP) and the Singapore Malay National Organisation (PKMS).
In 2007, the NSP quit the alliance, citing its wish for greater room to manoeuvre. In 2011, Mr Chiam pulled his party, the SPP, out of the alliance after its council relieved Mr Chiam as chairman. Today, the SDA is made up of the PKMS and the SJP.
On the WP, Mr Low said that the party has made “good progress” in terms of party renewal — an is-sue which he said was always at the back of his mind. The public will be able to see the younger members gradually playing a more important role in the party, he added.
WP chairman Sylvia Lim acknowledged that following the 2011 GE, there has been heightened interest in the party.
On how the party chooses its candidates, Ms Lim said: “Time is a great teller.” The party would let potential candidates work the ground for a period of time — through helping with grassroots activities, for instance — to consider their suitability and where to field them.
Referring to the WP’s campaign theme “Empower your future”, Ms Lim said: “We also have to empower our own future as a party if we want to play a bigger role in the political landscape.”
Ms Lim also reiterated that the WP’s incumbents will stay put and defend their wards. She said this in response to former People’s Action Party (PAP) chairman Lim Boon Heng’s casting doubts yesterday on the WP’s declaration that it would keep its A-team in Aljunied Group Representation Constituency.
[This suggests that a) the A-Team believes Aljunied is still shaky; b) the other GRCs are not ready for WP to take over, and c) after the gamble on Aljunied, the WP is not quite ready to gamble again so soon.]
The PAP’s line-up in the constituency has yet to be announced, and Mr Lim, who has made several appearances in the Opposition-held constituency in recent weeks, has sidestepped questions on whether he could return to politics to lead the charge.
“I guess (Mr Lim) probably has been thinking through (the possibility of last-minute changes) himself,” she said. “We mean what we say.”