The rallies

PAP's track record - as seen by the ruling party and opposition

The People's Action Party (PAP) and five opposition parties sparred in a televised forum last night, with both sides presenting contrasting narratives of how the ruling party's track record should be judged.

The PAP's representatives to the ChannelNewsAsia forum - Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong and MP Denise Phua - urged Singaporeans to assess, not just the PAP's report card, but the performance of every other party as well.

Said Ms Phua: "I believe the PAP's report card is not perfect, but it has presented the best report card of what I see out of all the political parties in modern Singapore."

In contrast, party leaders and candidates from the Reform Party (RP), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), National Solidarity Party (NSP) and Singaporeans First (SingFirst) all gave the PAP a failing grade and stressed that they needed to be voted into Parliament to help fix the problems.

Workers' Party's Leon Perera, representing the largest opposition party, appeared to want to split the difference. He said that the PAP had improved and become more responsive since the 2011 General Election.

"Since the 2011 GE, the Government has made major and good policy shifts and U-turns... This is not to the credit of the Workers' Party, but thanks to the confidence of Singaporeans to vote for change."

Most of the debate focused on two issues - immigration and cost of living - in an indication of what might feature on the hustings. Those same two issues also dominated a Chinese-language debate that had aired an hour earlier.

The opposition parties attacked the PAP in particular for the influx of foreigners that they said had displaced Singaporeans from their jobs. Both SingFirst chief Tan Jee Say and NSP candidate Lim Tean called for a quota on foreigners.

The RP and SDP also called for a minimum wage to prevent employers from importing cheap labour, and also as a tool to address inequality and the rising cost of living.

SDP chief Chee Soon Juan said that he did not think Singaporeans begrudged new immigrants, but were simply upset at the lack of planning for infrastructure.

Mr Wong said the issue of foreign workers is an emotive one that happens not just in Singapore but everywhere else in the world.

"We understand this," he said. "And whatever we do, from the PAP point of view and the Government point of view, we do it with the best interests of Singaporeans at heart."

While the debate largely remained civil, it got heated midway through when Mr Wong and Dr Chee had a brief exchange over the latter's charge for contempt of Parliament after appearing on a Select Committee on healthcare costs back in 1996.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'PAP's track record - as seen by the ruling party and opposition'. Print Edition | Subscribe