Singapore GE2020: Closer scrutiny in Parliament will help guide nation out of crisis, says WP in first Hammer Show

The Workers' Party's first online talk show on July 1. The Hammer Show will take the place of the traditional rallies during the hustings. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

SINGAPORE - With the Covid-19 pandemic far from over, and much more uncertainty in the road ahead, the time for change is now, said the Workers' Party (WP) in its first online talk show on Wednesday (July 1).

"In these uncertain and worrying times brought about by the Covid-19 crisis worldwide, and given the uncertain leadership demonstrated by the PAP 4G leadership, it is not the right time to give them a strong mandate; far from it," said the opposition party's Mr Dennis Tan, a Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) and WP's candidate for the Hougang single-member constituency.

On the contrary, said Mr Tan, it was time for Singaporeans to vote in more WP MPs into Parliament, so policies can be scrutinised to ensure Singapore comes out of the crisis "in the right way".

His comments came in the wake of calls by leaders of the People's Action Party (PAP) for a strong mandate from voters to tackle the challenges ahead.

Mr Tan, 49, said: "Remember: One more PAP MP does not make a difference. But one more WP MP will."

He was one of five WP candidates who took part in the first Hammer Show, broadcast on Facebook at 7pm.

The talk show featured other candidates contesting this general election - former researcher Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, who is being fielded in East Coast GRC, and equity research analyst Louis Chua, who is part of the WP's slate in Sengkang GRC.

Aljunied GRC MPs Pritam Singh and Sylvia Lim moderated the 40-minute long discussion, which, in line with previous WP campaigns, focused on the importance of having more credible opposition voices in Parliament, to prevent an echo chamber from developing. As at 9pm, more than 90,000 people had viewed the clip.

Mr Shariff, 54, noted that the PAP's majority in Parliament had allowed the party to push its agenda unchallenged, citing objections over the 2017 presidential election in Singapore.

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Major changes to the process resulted in, among other things, the election being reserved for candidates from the Malay community, which had not been represented in the office since 1970.

The changes, as well as the eventual walkover for Madam Halimah Yacob after the other candidates were disqualified, triggered considerable debate online and in physical forums.

Said Mr Shariff: "There was disquiet on the ground, but (the changes) were just passed."

Mr Chua, 33, said the role of a parliamentarian is to scrutinise a Bill before it is passed into law.

"We have to constantly think about whether or not a particular law is going to be beneficial for Singaporeans, and if it's not, it is up to us MPs to stand up and vote against it," he said. This is something that the PAP MPs, who have to toe the party line, may not do.

Mr Chua added: "It's really about ensuring that there is a system of checks and balances... and that we have that diversity of people willing to stand up against the rules."

The Hammer Show was the WP's first online talk show, which will take the place of the traditional rallies during the hustings.

Rallies have been banned because of Covid-19.

Walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning are permitted, but groups must not exceed five people and must abide by safe distancing rules.

While just three candidates were in the studio with the two moderators, three other candidates - Ms Nicole Seah, Dr Jamus Lim and Mr Gerald Giam - made cameos on the show through short clips in which they introduced themselves and some issues they stood for.

Ms Nicole Seah, 33, an associate director in a multinational marketing firm, directed her speech to those in her generation.

"Millennials, the strawberry generation. Some of you may be familiar with these labels that have been thrown at our generation. Today, I would like to speak directly to voters who fall within this age group," she said.

Calling on young voters to consider the future they want to see in Singapore, Ms Seah said: "A vote for us is a vote for fairness and balance. A vote for us is a vote for stability and a reasonable opposition. Vote for the best of both worlds."

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