PUNGGOL EAST BY-ELECTION: THE OPPOSITION: REFORM PARTY

WP accused of being 'blindly obedient'

THE Reform Party (RP) made a last-ditch bid for the Workers' Party (WP) vote bank last night, attacking its opponent for being "blindly obedient" in Parliament.

Unlike the WP, which votes with the Government "on every issue that counts", RP candidate Kenneth Jeyaretnam promised to be the genuine voice of the voters.

"There is a general feeling here of disappointment with WP," he said at his last campaign rally in the Punggol East by-election.

He took issue with the WP's policy alternatives, saying they were decades old.

The older son of late WP leader J.B. Jeyaretnam said that he knew the ideas were dated as his father had sought his input as an economist in the 1980s and 1990s.

"The WP are probably still using that same manifesto I helped write as a student," said the Cambridge-educated economist.

The party is, therefore, unable to push the Government on its economic policies.

"Where were the WP when I wrote letters to the Finance Minister pointing out discrepancies in the Budget?" he asked.

The WP has also chosen the conservative path because it has seen how its former leader and his father lost everything for opposing the ruling People's Action Party, he said.

But he picked up a very different lesson. "I learnt about demo-cracy from my father. I learnt about justice. And I learnt about persistence," he said.

The troubles of his father also affected him, he recalled. Although he grew up in a bungalow with a chauffeur, domestic helpers and a pet dog named Bonny, it all disappeared when he was a young man.

"So mine was not the typical rags-to-riches journey... It was very clearly a riches-to-rags to one good suit and then hedge fund manager and now here I am," he said, stressing that he served his national service.

He left his wife and son in England to take over the party in 2009 and led an RP team to contest in West Coast GRC in the 2011 General Election.

"Some of you have told me that you admire my guts, but let me tell you I am not invincible. I am not Superman. I am an ordinary man. A Singaporean born and bred!" he added.

Earlier on, party chairman Andy Zhu had led the attack against WP, calling its current leaders "arrogant and ambitious".

"Kenneth had initially sought to join forces with the WP and

other opposition parties, but they alienated him in the same manner as they did to his father because they viewed him as a threat," said Mr Zhu, 30, a property agent.

The WP was afraid of Mr Jeyaretnam as it was afraid of his father, alleged Mr Zhu.

He also hit out at WP's stand that opposition unity is inconceivable. "They had little or no respect for others. They wanted everything for themselves," he said, although Mr Jeyaretnam had earlier agreed with the WP that unity is unlikely.

But their arguments were consistent on whom voters should plump for tomorrow.

"If you ignore the propaganda about two-horse races and you ignore the people telling you to vote against your heart, then you will come to see that I am the best option," said Mr Jeyaretnam.

joycel@sph.com.sg

tohyc@sph.com.sg