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GE2020: Workers’ Party leaders apologise for absence from Mandarin live TV debate

SINGAPORE — The top brass of the Workers’ Party (WP) has apologised for not sending a representative to a live Mandarin debate on national television on Wednesday (July 1).

GE2020: Workers’ Party leaders apologise for absence from Mandarin live TV debate

Taking part in a live televised Mandarin debate on July 1, 2020 during the General Election campaign were (from right to left) Mr Bryan Lim, Mr Leong Mun Wai and Mr Ong Ye Kung.

SINGAPORE — The top brass of the Workers’ Party (WP) has apologised for not sending a representative to a live Mandarin debate on national television on Wednesday (July 1). 

WP secretary-general Pritam Singh said on Thursday that there were individuals in the party who make speeches and communicate effectively with residents in Mandarin, but “the proficiency required to participate in a live debate is of a higher order”.

The four parties contesting the highest number of seats in this General Election (GE) were each invited to send a candidate to the English and Mandarin editions of the debate. Former WP Members of Parliament Low Thia Khiang and Chen Show Mao are known for their proficiency in Mandarin, but they are not standing as candidates this GE.

The WP fielded a new candidate, Associate Professor Jamus Lim, for the English edition of the debate, which also featured Dr Vivian Balakrishnan from the People’s Action Party (PAP), the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan and Mr Francis Yuen from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP). 

For the Mandarin debate, PAP fielded Mr Ong Ye Kung, PSP sent its assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai and SDP was represented by its member Bryan Lim. 

Speaking to reporters before a walkabout at the Kovan Market and Food Centre in Hougang, Mr Singh said that he was very grateful for the support of the party’s supporters who speak only Mandarin. 

“I do have to apologise for the party not sending a representative to the Channel 8 debate yesterday... Thank you for your forbearance and understanding,” he said.

WP chairman Sylvia Lim later repeated the apology in Mandarin. 

WP’s absence from Wednesday’s debate prompted public comments that it was a missed opportunity to reach out to Mandarin-speaking voters.

When asked by TODAY to respond to this, Mr Singh said that he understood the sentiment. “We have to be upfront with our people. We can do better and we should do better.” 

He added that WP has had no real difficulty reaching out to Mandarin speakers in the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency, which has been held by WP since 2011. 

Mr Singh gave the assurance that WP would continue trying to attract bicultural Singaporeans who can take part in such debates, but said that they have to be interested in public service first and foremost. 

He also said that the party would send a representative to a Mandarin dialogue organised by Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao on Thursday. He declined to disclose who the party is sending, saying only that the person is an election candidate.

In a Facebook post later on Thursday, Lianhe Zaobao said that the dialogue on Thursday evening would feature the PAP’s second assistant secretary-general Chan Chun Sing, WP member Kenneth Foo and PSP vice-chairman Hazel Poa.

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