SINGAPORE - The first chapter of the Workers' Party's (WP) manifesto highlights policy proposals to tackle Covid-19, and that shows how seriously the party is treating the crisis, said the opposition party on Tuesday (July 7).
"I think it's a very convenient thing for the Prime Minister just to brush everybody with the same paintbrush," said WP chief Pritam Singh, speaking to reporters during a walkabout in Sengkang GRC.
Mr Singh said: "(Covid-19 is in) chapter one of our manifesto. And that should tell you how significant Covid-19 is as an issue for the WP."
The manifesto includes proposals on expanding Covid-19 testing and making free vaccinations against the disease mandatory when one is available.
Mr Singh was responding to comments made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his lunchtime online rally on Monday, during which he had said that opposition parties have not offered any suggestions on how to tackle the deadly scourge.
PM Lee also said that opposition parties "prattle on" about such proposals as a minimum wage or universal basic income, which are "fashionable peacetime slogans, not serious wartime plans".
But Mr Singh said the WP, which is advocating for a national minimum wage, is making no apologies for its policy proposals.
He said: "There are around 100,000 people, maybe more, maybe less, who are earning wages below what we think is a reasonable wage. And this is something that that the WP has believed in for many many years across many manifestos and it's something that we will continue to press."
WP chair Sylvia Lim also said at the same event on Tuesday that PM Lee was presenting a "false choice" to voters by asking them to give the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) a strong mandate so they could handle Covid-19 effectively.
"If you look at what's been happening around the world, you will see that there are actually many examples of countries that have been dealing quite effectively with the virus, with robust democracies," said Ms Lim.
She cited the example of New Zealand, saying its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's party does not have a majority of the MPs in Parliament.
Ms Lim added that Singaporeans will band together to support the government in handling the Covid-19 crisis, regardless of who they vote into Parliament.
She added: "There is actually no reason why the government will not be effective in tackling Covid-19 with a Parliament that does not consist only of elected PAP MPs."
Asked about a response to a call from the PAP for the WP to explain its stand on the Facebook posts made by Sengkang candidate Raeesah Khan, Mr Singh said that the party did not want to prejudice the police investigations.
"I also understand that there is some views out there which want her to further explain. There will be a time for this. My preference is of course to do it now, but because there's an ongoing police investigation. I cannot let those investigations be prejudiced by whatever comments I make or she makes," he said. "But certainly, I think there will be a review of this as I mentioned previously, and that will happen."
During the interview, the WP chief also highlighted its priorities for the new Sengkang GRC, which includes the setting-up of a new town council.
“Insofar as upgrading plans and all that are concerned, (the party) will have to take over the town council first, and get the feedback of residents to see the potential areas of improvement that we can consider,” said Mr Singh.
The PAP had last week similarly said it would set up a new town council within three months if elected in Sengkang GRC.