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GE2020: PAP’s Chan Chun Sing calls for careful scrutiny of opposition manifestos, as the parties ‘can possibly replace the Govt’

SINGAPORE — Mr Chan Chun Sing from the People’s Action Party (PAP) is scrutinising the manifestos of the three biggest opposition parties because should they win enough seats, he thinks that they could form a coalition government.

GE2020: PAP’s Chan Chun Sing calls for careful scrutiny of opposition manifestos, as the parties ‘can possibly replace the Govt’

From left to right: Ms Ang Yiting, moderator of a dialogue session among Mr Chan Chun Sing from the People's Action Party, Ms Hazel Poa from the Progress Singapore Party and Mr Kenneth Foo from the Workers’ Party.

SINGAPORE — Mr Chan Chun Sing from the People’s Action Party (PAP) is scrutinising the manifestos of the three biggest opposition parties because should they win enough seats, he thinks that they could form a coalition government.

However, Ms Hazel Poa of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) called his claim “an exaggeration”. Instead, she said the worry is that there will not be any opposition voices in Parliament after the General Election (GE) on July 10. 

Both Mr Chan, PAP’s second assistant secretary-general, and Ms Poa, PSP’s vice-chairman, were speaking on Thursday (July 2) evening at a dialogue organised by Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao.

Mr Kenneth Foo, a Workers’ Party (WP) candidate for the East Coast Group Representation Constituency, was also on the panel.

The session was moderated by Ms Ang Yiting, an editor of the Chinese Media Group’s NewsHub at Singapore Press Holdings. 

The three largest opposition parties in GE2020 are:

  • PSP, which is contesting 24 of 93 seats in Parliament

  • WP, which is contesting 21 seats

  • Singapore Democratic Party, which is contesting 11 seats

Mr Chan said in Mandarin: “From our point of view, we do not view them as the opposition. We view them as people who might eventually replace the Government after July 10. 

“The three biggest opposition parties, coming together, can possibly become a replacement for the Government. This has been the case in some other countries, that the skies may change. So I scrutinise their policies very carefully.”

PSP’s manifesto, he said, spelt out its policies’ advantages without stating their disadvantages.

For example, when PSP called for a review of Singapore’s free-trade agreements, such as the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), it failed to consider certain trade-offs, he said.

“If you want to re-negotiate with India, what can (Singapore) contribute? What else can India take from us? What do we offer up for exchange?” Mr Chan asked. 

In response, Ms Poa said that the Government should set some quotas, so that companies may tweak their business models instead of relying on cheap labour.

On WP’s proposals, Mr Chan said that the party did not specify how it would “foot the bill” should the plans be executed, for example, when it objected to an increase in the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The PAP government had planned to increase the GST from 7 to 9 per cent between 2022 and 2025. 

WP’s manifesto, released on Sunday, sketched out proposals on a number of issues related to education and social policies. It is also campaigning to cut the cost of living and to seek greater accountability for political and governance institutions.

Mr Foo of WP said in response that the Government had not specified revenue and expenditure projections for the remainder of the decade to explain the GST hike. He questioned whether a responsible opposition party can back the Government’s move without these details. 

He also said that some proposals in WP’s manifesto were budget-neutral and not everything required government contributions. Any resources invested in these moves are for the benefit of the people, he added.  

Ultimately, Mr Chan said that the key is to continue drawing investments into the country so as to improve employment opportunities for the people. 

“This GE is very different,” he continued. “It not just affects the affairs of the country, but it presents a strong message to the world — that while we attract investments and better jobs for Singaporeans, will others believe that there is a continuity to Singapore’s government and policies?

“To be honest, some of us might not have realised that GE2011’s outcome has shaken up some of the confidence that some companies had in Singapore.”

DIFFERENT TAKES ON NCMP SCHEME 

The Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme, a matter of debate during the election campaign, also came up during the dialogue session.

NCMPs are the “best-performing” losing opposition candidates who are given seats in Parliament. 

A viewer asked Mr Chan if the NCMP scheme was unfair to elected Members of Parliament, given that NCMPs do not have to manage town councils and they  enter Parliament via what the viewer described as a “back door”. And yet, they receive the same voting rights as elected Members of Parliament (MPs). 

Mr Chan replied that around the world, very few countries have a diversity of voices and are afraid of “hearing their own voices” in Parliament. The NCMP system guarantees that there are at least 12 such members in the House from the next term of government, up from nine.

Along with nine Nominated MPs, who provide alternative non-partisan views, there will be at least 21 different voices in the House, he explained.

It is PAP’s hope that with the NCMP and Nominated MP schemes, there will be better debates and mechanisms in charting the long-term direction for the country.  

Ms Poa, however, said that she remains suspicious of the purpose of the NCMP scheme.

PAP’s argument that there would still be opposition representation in the House because of the scheme makes it more difficult for opposition parties to do deeper work in a constituency.

This is because elected MPs bring to the House the voices of many people in the constituencies they represent, but NCMPs cannot do that.

Mr Foo said that WP does not support the scheme based on its principles, but it has had no choice but to take up NCMP seats in Parliament in order to survive within the system. 

This drew a rebuttal from Mr Chan, who said that WP need not accept the NCMP seats and could offer them to other parties if it thought that the scheme was not in its favour.  

'ALL VOTERS ARE IMPORTANT'

Separately, Mr Foo was asked by a viewer about WP’s absence from the Mandarin edition of a live televised debate on Wednesday night. The viewer questioned why the party did not even have a single proficient Mandarin speaker to field for the TV debate hosted by national media network Mediacorp. 

Earlier on Thursday, WP leaders Pritam Singh and Sylvia Lim had apologised for the party’s absence during that debate. The party had fielded a new candidate, Associate Professor Jamus Lim, for the English edition.

The four parties contesting the highest number of seats in the coming polls were each invited to send a representative to the debates. 

In response, Mr Foo said that when the party received the invitation to the Mandarin debate, it was already very late. After a party discussion, it decided against sending someone because a debate required someone with a strong proficiency in Mandarin.

Mr Foo then said that this should not be seen as a sign that the party does not care about Chinese voters. 

“Whether you are Chinese, Malay or Indian, you are equally important to the Workers’ Party,” he said. “If we did the wrong thing by not participating and this affected some people, we want to say we are sorry.”

Ms Ang, the moderator, then asked if the public would be wondering why Mr Foo was taking part in Zaobao’s Mandarin dialogue a day after the TV debate. To this, he replied: “Actually, you can tell that I am not very fluent (in Mandarin).”

Related topics

SGVotes2020 Singapore General Election Chan Chun Sing Opposition NCMP WP PSP

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