SINGAPORE – Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh on Saturday (July 11) pledged to do his best as the Leader of the Opposition, responding to the announcement by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that the WP leader would be appointed to a newly-created position and be given staff and resources.
Posting on Facebook the morning after his party made historic gains at the general election, he wrote: “I look forward to serving as the leader of the opposition and will carry out my duties to the best of my abilities. I will endeavour to ensure that the Workers’ Party under my leadership will remain loyal to Singapore and all Singaporeans.”
The WP had won Sengkang GRC in one of the surprise results of election night and it also consolidated its majorities in Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC.
It was Mr Singh’s first outing as party chief, and he had entered the election aiming to defend the party’s home turf, but by the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, it became clear that he had led his party to another breakthrough.
Speaking to reporters outside his party’s headquarters at Teambuild Centre in Geylang, Mr Singh stressed the need for the party to keep grounded.
He said: “I think there’s a lot of work to do and I think we’ve got to work hard, we’ve got to keep our feet grounded. This is something that I’ll be repeating to all the winning candidates through the course of tomorrow and the weeks that come because there’s a number of things that need to be done.”
On a night that saw raucous celebrations by WP supporters in Hougang, Mr Singh was serious as he said: “I am very grateful to all the voters in Hougang, Aljunied, Sengkang for trusting us with their vote. But I am also very humbled, and I’m not feeling euphoric at all in fact.”
During the hustings, Mr Singh had raised the spectre of an opposition wipe-out in Parliament, drawing criticism from the People’s Action Party that it was an election ploy.
“When I was suggesting to the public that there is a real risk of a wipe-out, I wasn’t kidding,” he said on Saturday, repeating that he had expected a difficult election.
“So indeed the result is a pleasant surprise I would say for the WP.”
But his biggest satisfaction is that people have “become au fait with our brand of politics”.
The WP had campaigned on the platform of more diversity in Parliament, persuading voters that it would be a constructive presence in Parliament.
It is a brand of politics that the party had represented since 2001, when former party chief Low Thia Khiang first took over at the helm and sought to shape the WP as a responsible opposition party that would provide rational criticism and scrutiny of policies.
Mr Singh said many before him had played their part in building this reputation for the party.
“It’s the duty of the current leadership team to continue that tradition and to make sure that the WP is a party relevant for Singapore and Singaporeans.”
The message seemed to have resonated with voters, who sent 10 WP candidates into Parliament. In Aljunied GRC, the party won with 59.93 per cent of votes, and in Hougang, it got 61.19 per cent of votes. In Sengkang, its team of one former candidate and new faces won with 52.13 per cent of the votes.
Commenting on the increased number of WP parliamentarians, Mr Singh said: “I think that number is still far short of the one-third that is significant for being able to make a strong position on constitutional amendments Bills. It’s still not a quantum leap if you know what I mean.”
“So I think we should still focus on strengthening the party as an organisation and speaking up in Parliament intelligently and thoughtfully such that we actually represent people on the ground.”
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