WP 'will keep close watch over Govt'

But Government should also be given time to fix shortcomings, says Low

WORKERS' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang believes the Government should be given time to correct its shortcomings, even as he pledged that his party will continue to cast a watchful eye.

And while policy changes are still in progress, heightened politicking will not help Singapore, he said in a letter to Punggol East voters, obtained by The Straits Times yesterday.

In an eight-page brochure posted to households, he highlighted the WP's track record in contesting every general election since 1957 and being a "credible and responsible opposition".

However, the veteran MP pointed out: "While the WP will scrutinise and press for accountability from the Government, it is also my personal belief that the Government should be given time to rectify the shortcomings and neglects pointed out to it."

Doing so would "serve the public interest better than continuing to agitate and raise political tension to gain maximum political mileage for WP", as it takes time for policy changes to take effect on the ground, he added.

But, it is "in the interest of Singapore" for citizens to balance a strong executive government with a responsible opposition in Parliament to act as a check and balance and protect their rights.

"WP offers to play the role and to make a positive contribution to Singapore," said Mr Low.

He noted two key areas where the presence of more WP MPs in Parliament has made a difference since the 2011 General Election, when he led a team to victory in Aljunied GRC.

One, ordinary folk now have more say in governance, an improvement from when the country was run by an elite class under the People's Action Party (PAP), with little accountability and transparency, he said.

Two, the WP has championed a more humane society, where a First World nation extends beyond materialistic and elitist goals. "We have seen some changes in that direction," said Mr Low without elaborating.

He reiterated WP's commitment to seeing Singapore progress and PAP improve. But WP must also "be ready one day to be an alternative choice for the people, especially if the ruling party should become incompetent or corrupt".

It is a pledge the party hopes to build on by sending its candidate Lee Li Lian into Parliament.

Ms Lee yesterday unveiled another part of her campaign platform in vowing to champion the welfare of the elderly.

The 34-year-old sales trainer has two proposals for improving their health-care needs.

First, she is calling for Medisave withdrawal limits to be lifted for patients above age 75 - a suggestion the WP had put forth in its 2011 manifesto.

Currently, there are caps on the amount which can be withdrawn from each person's account, such as a maximum of $400 a year for outpatient treatment of chronic diseases.

But Ms Lee pointed out that few people at that age would still have income from work to foot their medical bills.

Spending on their medical care - especially for long-term diseases like diabetes - "has already become a necessity", she told The Straits Times.

Second, elderly patients should not have to queue up at polyclinics to get referrals for subsidised treatment at public hospitals. She suggested expanding the existing Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), where patients satisfying certain criteria can get subsidised treatment at general practices.

Now, many elderly patients have to walk "quite a distance" or take a bus to the polyclinic to be referred, some arriving as early as 4am to beat the queue, she said.

This is "physically draining as well as troublesome for them", said Ms Lee, who hopes patients can just visit CHAS clinics near their homes to get referrals.