GE2020: WP's Pritam Singh, PAP's Chan Chun Sing pay tribute to retiring political opponents

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong (left) will be retiring as an MP, while former Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang is stepping down from electoral politics. PHOTOS: CHONG JUN LIANG, ST FILE

SINGAPORE - One-time political opponents paid tribute to top People's Action Party and Workers' Party (WP) stalwarts for their decades of service, a day after news broke that the veteran politicians were stepping down.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Friday (June 26) paid tribute to former WP chief Low Thia Khiang, whose party on Thursday said that he was stepping down from electoral politics.

Mr Low's successor, Mr Pritam Singh, also on Friday thanked Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who had said he would be retiring as an MP on Thursday after 44 years.

Mr Singh, in a Facebook post, wrote about a Parliament session in May 2018 when he went to take his newly allocated seat opposite the Government's front bench - the same seat Mr Low had sat in when he was party chief.

When Mr Goh walked in, Mr Singh said he got up from his seat to shake the former prime minister's hand. He said Mr Goh's first words to him were: "Congratulations on your demotion! Previously, you were sitting higher up, now you have come down!"

In his post, Mr Singh said: "I appreciated his good humour and it went some way that day to put things into perspective for me."

Mr Singh added that in the Parliament members' lounge, on more than one occasion, Mr Goh shared his thoughts with him on, among other things, issues such as the Government's position on the country's reserves, and how race was employed "cynically" in past elections by some.

Said Mr Singh: "I have my own views about many of these matters shared by ESM Goh. But I thought it said something of the man - the second prime minister of Singapore - to engage not just me, but my Workers' Party colleagues outside the Parliament chamber."

More recently, Mr Goh would always ask about how Mr Low was doing after his fall whenever he saw Mr Singh in Parliament.

Mr Singh said: "From all of us at the Workers' Party, thank you for your service to Singapore, ESM Goh."

Mr Chan, during a press conference to unveil new PAP candidates on Friday, was asked how Mr Low's decision to step down would affect the tone of the election and the PAP's deployments.

He said: "We thank Mr Low for his many years of service to the Workers' Party, and also to Singapore. And we hope that all of us will work together as a system to take Singapore forward."

Mr Chan, who is the PAP's second assistant secretary-general, was also asked for his comments on WP's slate of diverse and well-qualified new candidates.

He said: "For Singapore to continue to do well, we will need to all work as a team. And for every team, we must make sure that we continue to plan to bring in diverse people from different walks of life, to speak up and represent the interests and aspirations of all Singaporeans."

That is why the PAP, just like the Government, "will always have to plan for our succession". Mr Chan added that he is glad the Workers' Party has also planned for its own succession.

He said that just like in previous years, the PAP has "spared no efforts in bringing as diverse a slate as possible to serve fellow Singaporeans".

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