Low defends WP's showing in Parliament

WORKERS' Party (WP) secretary-general Low Thia Khiang defended his party's performance in Parliament last night following criticism from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Addressing the party's rally in Punggol East, he said the eight WP parliamentarians had done their share of questioning government policies and cited a long list of issues they had raised.

Mr Low's speech prompted a late night Facebook response from Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who said that unlike PAP MPs, the WP MPs had "avoided taking a stand on major issues, for example, population or foreign workers where tough trade-offs are needed".

"Have they offered credible alternatives on the best way forward? If not, having another WP MP will not help the quality of debate and decision making for Singapore," he said.

The PAP and WP are in a four-way fight for the Punggol East seat, which fell vacant after the resignation of PAP MP and Speaker Michael Palmer over an extramarital affair.

Visiting the ward last Saturday, PM Lee had criticised the WP team's performance in Parliament, saying he had not seen "strong opposition or alternative proposals from Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs) or elected opposition MPs".

Mr Low responded in both his Mandarin and English speeches last night, saying: "We will not oppose for the sake of opposing, when policies are sound and in the interest of the nation. But we will not hesitate to confront the Government when policies are not in the interest of the people.

"PM Lee is trying to mislead voters that WP does not have strong views in Parliament. Despite being slightly more than a year in their term, WP MPs are active in Parliament."

Mr Low named all the WP MPs, including the two NCMPs, listed the issues they had raised in Parliament, and said people could check the parliamentary records or visit the party's website for proof.

"Since the new term of Parliament sat in October 2011, WP as a whole has raised issues pertaining to flood and drainage, childcare, immigration and infrastructure, pricing of drugs at public hospitals, housing, high rental costs, foreign manpower inflow calibration, public transport, and taxi and COE bidding," he said.

But with only six elected MPs, it could not form an alternative government, even though it had a small team of professionals and academics to help scrutinise government policies. What it needed was to have more of its members voted into Parliament, to strengthen the party.

"I must thank PM Lee for reminding all of us that the WP is still not large enough to have the resources to make alternative policies," he said.

In her speech, WP chairman Sylvia Lim accused the ruling People's Action Party of using town councils to trip up the opposition, saying it had got to the point where residents "may become pawns for political gain or simply collateral damage".

On Facebook last night, DPM Teo said that unlike the WP MPs, "PAP MPs have offered many more constructive suggestions and have also been prepared to take a stand, and speak for measures, even difficult ones".

"MPs also have to serve their constituents and not just speak in Parliament. So voters should also ask which candidate has the best plans and can serve them best."

chanckr@sph.com.sg