SINGAPORE – Now that the Workers’ Party (WP) has 10 MPs in Parliament, it cannot just continue to question and ask for changes to government policy, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Saturday (July 18).
“It is also their duty to put forward serious policy alternatives to be scrutinised and debated,” Mr Wong said at a press conference at the People’s Action Party (PAP) headquarters in Bedok to give the party’s reading of the election results.
He added that while the WP has told voters that its aim is to provide a stronger check on the PAP government – rather than to take over as the government – this is because it “is a message they know voters want to hear”.
“The WP says that their long-term aim is to deny the PAP two-thirds of the seats in Parliament,” said Mr Wong.
“But I have no doubt that they want to displace the PAP and form the government one day – except that they find it inconvenient to acknowledge this now,” he added.
The WP’s win in Sengkang GRC in the July 10 general election means it now has an unprecedented 10 of the 12 opposition seats in Parliament.
The remaining two seats, for Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs), will be taken up by Ms Hazel Poa and Mr Leong Mun Wai of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), whose West Coast slate emerged as the best losers in the general election.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the morning after the election that WP chief Pritam Singh would be formally designated the Leader of the Opposition and given appropriate staff support and resources.
PM Lee had also said that he looks forward to the 10 new opposition MPs and two NCMPs participating in and contributing to parliamentary debates, as well as to the national debate, as Singapore deals with the coronavirus crisis and economic fallout.
On Saturday, Mr Wong said details of the support to be given to Mr Singh are still being worked out, and will be announced by the Government and Parliament when ready.
He added that there is nothing wrong with having the ambition to one day form the government, as that is what political parties in parliamentary democracies exist for.
“To win over voters’ confidence and support in order to win power, form the government and carry out their policies – it is part of a democracy at work,” he said.
“So we must be clear-eyed about this.”
With the hustings over, elected representatives should now focus on their parliamentary work, which is to scrutinise and rigorously debate not just government policies, but also any alternative policies that the WP or NCMPs may wish to surface, added Mr Wong.
Part of that process entails identifying the costs and downsides of any proposed policy because it is impossible to satisfy everyone, and “at the end of the day, someone has to bear the costs”, he added.
“What we need to do is to understand policymaking is difficult work,” he said.
“It may not have the same emotive appeal as an election rally, but now we come to the hard work of governance and governing Singapore – for the good of all Singaporeans and for the future of Singapore.
“So we hope, whether it’s PAP or the Workers’ Party, we can, in Parliament, have these rigorous debates, constructive debates that will enable better policies to be made for the betterment of all.”
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