Just like you buy insurance before something goes wrong, Singaporeans should vote in a credible opposition party before faith in the ruling party is lost, said Mr Gerald Giam of the Workers' Party (WP) yesterday.
"You don't buy insurance policies when you meet with an accident. You buy insurance policies before you get sick, before you meet with an accident," he told reporters during a walkabout at Block 58, New Upper Changi Road. "(Similarly) it's important to build up a credible, responsible opposition party while we have time, and not when the ruling party has lost the support of the people."
Mr Giam, 37, is team leader of the WP's slate for the four-member East Coast GRC, which is expected to be hotly contested. He was responding to remarks by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a People's Action Party (PAP) lunchtime rally on Tuesday.
It's important to build up a credible, responsible opposition party while we have time, and not when the ruling party has lost the support of the people.
MR GERALD GIAM, on the urgency of voting in a credible opposition party
Mr Lee, the PAP's secretary-general, had dismissed WP's argument that a strong opposition provides insurance against the ruling party's failure, saying: "Insurance is good but you must buy the right insurance from the right company."
Mr Giam, whose WP team is taking on a PAP slate led by Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, 61, expects the PAP to return as the Government this general election. Even if the results are unfavourable to the ruling party, he wants it to govern in the interests of all Singapore. He indicated that WP, too, would play its part.
"If we are elected into Parliament, we will suggest improvements that can be made, and the ball will be in their court. And if they make the improvements, I'm sure the people will appreciate it.
"We (the WP) will appreciate it, as we are here to bring Singapore forward. We are not here just to score political points... We want to see the progress of Singapore as well." Mr Giam said his team has been getting good support in the course of its East Coast campaign. He said: "I hope (the support) will be... reflected at the polls in a few days' time."
Mr Giam also told The Straits Times separately that if elected, the WP team would like to retain the East Coast Town Council's managing agent to ensure continuity in services to residents.
But if EM Services, the managing agent, decides not to continue with its current contract, the WP will consider other options like direct management to prevent any disruption in estate operations, he added. "We will seek to have a smooth handover," he said.
The WP has been under the spotlight since 2013 over financial lapses at the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council.
The WP has said the lapses arose as some paperwork and information were not handed over by the PAP-run Aljunied Town Council. A company linked to the PAP also terminated its computer services shortly after the WP won Aljunied GRC at the May 2011 polls.
Mr Giam also responded to criticism that the WP was making a U-turn on its foreign worker policy proposals, saying the party supports the Government's tightening of foreign worker inflow.
"We feel there is no choice but to tighten the inflow because of the excesses of the previous decade, where a lot of foreigners were brought in (without) sufficient planning," he explained.
But businesses need predictability, and so the WP proposes the Government sets clear targets and timelines for reducing the foreign worker dependency ratios.
His team member, Mr Leon Perera, 44, also weighed in on the other ways the party is "nurturing and strengthening the local enterprise and SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) sector", which it sees as a critical national priority.