Monday, March 28, 2011

Opposition Parties. Role

Mar 28, 2011  
More rookies 'a measure of opposition progress'
But voter support is key to cement momentum, says Low Thia Khiang 

By Kor Kian Beng

WORKERS' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang is cheered by reports that at least 40 first-time opposition candidates will contest the next election, and says it is a measure of the progress made by the opposition camp. But he urged voters yesterday to help cement this development by turning support into votes which ensure these candidates enter Parliament as elected MPs.

Mr Low, 54, said the opposition would otherwise not grow or be able to attract talented people who are keen on contributing to the political process here. 'If Singaporeans don't support the opposition and think, 'Never mind, I welcome you to contest but I will vote for the PAP', we could end up like the situation we had in 2001 or in 1997 where you didn't have much of a choice,' he said.

The opposition won four seats in the 1991 election, but only Mr Low and Potong Pasir MP Chiam See Tong retained their seats in 1997. In 2001 and since then, the opposition has been unable to build on the two elected representatives. He described this as a process of having taken 'a step forward, and three steps backwards'. Backing the opposition would ensure that Singaporeans would have a chance to exercise their right to vote, while elected opposition MPs would serve as a check on the People's Action Party (PAP) Government, he said.  

[The problem was the other two opposition MPs, Ling How Doong, and Cheo Chai Chen, were an embarassment to Parliament, to Singapore, and to the opposition. If the role of the opposition MPs is to be watchdogs to check on the PAP, then they should not behave like mad dogs. So the the three steps back were due to the flaws of the opposition MPs, not the fickleness of the electorate.]

Added Mr Low, the MP for Hougang: 'We have a competent government and a competent prime minister, but that doesn't mean there is no need for the opposition to play a role.'

[Chiam, Low, and Sylvia Lim has done well. I expect that Sylvia Lim would make a good MP, if she can convince the voters to vote for her. Chiam has had a good run, but I doubt he can win a GRC at his age. Or rather, why would the electorate in another ward want to vote for Chiam? In terms of what he can do for them it is unlikely that he and his team would be better.]

The PAP secured 66.6 per cent of valid votes at the election, compared with 75.3 per cent in the 2001 polls. Mr Low said voters were impressed, in particular, with the WP's slate of 20 candidates. Among these, 15 were graduates, 11 were from the post-independence generation, and 10 were professionals. The 2001 polls saw the WP field just two candidates: Mr Low in Hougang, and Dr Poh Lee Guan in Nee Soon East.

Yesterday, at least five potential new candidates accompanied Mr Low when he visited the Bendemeer Market and Food Centre. They included Ms Lee Li Lian, 32, the WP deputy treasurer who is a sales trainer; Ms Frieda Chan, 34, a social worker and WP central executive committee member; Mr L. Somasundaram, 48, an engineering lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic; Mr Toh Hong Boon, 31, a research officer at the Genome Institute of Singapore; and Mr Sajeev Kamalasanan, 41, an owner of an interior design company.

Sources say the WP line-up in the four-member Moulmein-Kallang GRC could include at least one from the group. Its team there could also include WP vice-chairman Mohammed Rahizan Yaacob, 55. He was in the WP's 'A' team that contested Aljunied GRC in 2006.

Potential WP candidate and former Rhodes scholar Chen Show Mao, 50, was expected at yesterday's walkabout but did not turn up. The Beijing-based corporate lawyer, who studied at Harvard, Oxford and Stanford, returned to Singapore at the weekend for party-related activities.

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