Low hits out at PAP 'missteps' in final WP rally

THE battle for Punggol East was raised a notch yesterday as party leaders moved into the final stage of campaigning ahead of Saturday's by-election.

The Workers' Party saved its fiercest attack for its final rally last night, with party chief Low Thia Khiang accusing the ruling People's Action Party of losing its way.

After going the entire campaign without taking aim at former Speaker and MP Michael Palmer - whose resignation over an extramarital affair triggered the by-election - Mr Low cited the scandal to show that today's PAP was not the PAP of old.

"I feel that our complete trust of the PAP in the past is dangerous," he said, urging voters to back WP candidate Lee Li Lian so that his party could be an effective "insurance" against the PAP.

But PAP leaders were determined not to cede any ground to the WP, coming out to emphasise some of the good work of the Government.

A day after the WP accused the PAP of not doing enough for the elderly, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong assured senior citizens that the Government would always ensure health care would be affordable for them.

Speaking at a clan event last night, he did not refer directly to the WP but said: "The important message is that our senior citizens will always receive the necessary health-care services without having to worry about affordability...

"If they have problems with their bills, do let the hospitals, public institutions, health-care institutions know. We'll find different ways to help them."

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob also mentioned what had been done to support the elderly when she met reporters after a walkabout with PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon.

Still, the bulk of the salvos were from the WP yesterday. Having lost out in the ballot for a rally site today - the last day of hustings - its leaders were in attack mode at their third and final rally.

They criticised the PAP over the town council saga once again, with Mr Low saying Singaporeans would never have found out about the contract with Action Information Management if the WP had not triumphed in Aljunied GRC in the 2011 general election.

The sharp tone was quite different from that on Tuesday night, when he spent the bulk of his rally speech defending his party's record in Parliament and addressing criticism that the WP was arrogant.

He said that the WP did not participate in talks with other parties because he felt the diversity within the opposition ranks made unity inconceivable. Many opposition leaders disagreed, with some saying yesterday that simply agreeing to avoid multi-cornered fights like the one in Punggol East could be a step towards unity.

The PAP and Reform Party hold their last rallies tonight. Tomorrow is Cooling Off Day, with no campaigning.

The WP said it will not have an assembly centre for its supporters to await the results on Saturday night. Mr Low's advice to his party's supporters was: "Stay home, watch TV and wait for good news."