Thursday, 24 January 2013

Punggol East By-election: WP Rally, 23 Jan

WP can act as insurance in case of corrupt regime: Low
Build up effective check and balance system, says party chief
By Kor Kian Beng, The Straits Times, 24 Jan 2013

WORKERS' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang swopped a defensive stance for full-frontal attack at the Punggol East by-election, questioning the durability of the Singapore political system and its economic policies.

He slammed the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) last night for being a poor shadow of its past over its recent lapses of judgment, urging voters to see the opposition party as an "insurance" in case of a corrupt regime.

He cited two unprecedented missteps as signs of the PAP's decline - the extramarital affair of Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer that triggered the by-election and the last-minute withdrawal of PAP candidate Steve Tan at the 2011 General Election.

In addition, the PAP-led Government has privatised essential services such as public transport, utilities and electricity, leading to profit-driven companies and rising costs of living for the people, he charged. He also criticised the Government for selling the management of these services to government-linked companies like Temasek Holdings.

For instance, he said, the Government has raised water charges on heavy users to cover the costs of developing and operating the water and public sewer systems, which were financed by taxpayers' money in the first place.

"Is this reasonable? Even if it isn't, there is nothing you can do because it is the Government. The only thing you can do is to settle the score during election."

Another beef he had was how the Government has defined lesser profits as market subsidies.

"Older Singaporeans tell me that the PAP Government now talks only about money, tries to use money to induce votes during elections, which has turned Singapore into a highly selfish and utilitarian society," he said.

These examples show that it is dangerous for Singaporeans to continue trusting the PAP like they used to in the past, said the WP chief in Mandarin as he wrapped up the WP's third and final rally for Saturday's polls.

It is also an increasing unknown, he added, whether ministers in the future PAP Government, after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong steps down, would be able to plan for the future and serve the people well.

"So, for your future and your children's future, we need to build an effective check and balance system and we must start now to prepare for a rainy day.

"Let WP gradually become steady so that when the time comes, we can play the role. Don't wait for PAP to be corrupt, and we have to riot on the streets. Singapore cannot take such turmoil," said Mr Low.

The party, which last night introduced new member Daniel Goh, a sociologist from the National University of Singapore, ended days of defending its performance in Parliament, after criticisms by PAP leaders.

Instead, going on the offensive, Mr Low urged voters to follow the example of Aljunied GRC voters, who had chosen, in the words of Hougang MP Png Eng Huat, to deliver a slap to the PAP during the general election.

"May the by-election provide a Punggol East slap that the PAP will never forget," he said.

Sale of town council software revisited
By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 24 Jan 2013

THE Workers' Party (WP) continued its attack last night on the business transaction between a company owned by the People's Action Party (PAP) and the town councils its MPs run.

Party chief Low Thia Khiang said that if the WP had not won Aljunied GRC in the 2011 polls, Singapore would not have known of Action Information Management (Aim) and that it does business with PAP-run town councils.

He said in Mandarin: "If we did not get elected in Aljunied, we wouldn't have known how the PAP town councils operate... (and) that the PAP can set up a company to do business."

The Aim saga started last month when WP chairman Sylvia Lim raised the issue of the sale of the rights of the computer software developed by PAP town councils to the company.

She did it in the course of explaining why her Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) did not get a banding for corporate governance in a government report card on town councils. She has since locked horns with Aim and the PAP town councils. The saga has led to a government review of the Aim transaction as well as the "fundamental nature" of town councils.

Last night, Ms Lim raised the issue again for the second day in a row. She rebutted a statement that Dr Teo Ho Pin, coordinating chairman for the PAP town councils, made on Tuesday night after she criticised Aim's termination of the agreement with AHTC.

Dr Teo had said it was AHTC which ended it, and the key issue was how well WP manages town councils.

Ms Lim pointed out that this contradicted his statement on Christmas Eve last month that it was Aim which ended the contract.

She said the agreement's termination clause does not give the town council the right to end it. But Aim could, if the town council membership changed.

She also said the bigger question of public interest was the sale of the software to Aim.

"The fact that the Prime Minister had seen it fit to order a review of the transaction shows there are serious questions and the public deserves answers," she said.

Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh raised some of these questions.

He asked for the number of companies PAP owns in Singapore and other countries, as well as the names of the companies and their directors.

Hougang MP Png Eng Huat promised that if another party won a WP ward, it would get the computer system "intact with the original software".

"The WP believes the interests of the residents must come above politics. We would never put a town at risk or make the residents suffer unnecessarily for political gains," he said.

WP: Immigration policy has led to many problems
By Elgin Toh, The Straits Times, 24 Jan 2013

WORKERS' Party (WP) leaders took the Government to task for the influx of foreigners since 2005, citing it as the root of many problems in Singapore.

The immigration policy has led to high housing prices, frequent MRT breakdowns and a lack of open spaces, they charged at a rally in Punggol East last night.

The country, they added, was losing its sense of identity.

WP chief Low Thia Khiang also restated the party's stand on population, in response to a comment by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean that the WP had avoided doing so.

He said WP was not an anti-immigration party. It welcomed those who could contribute to Singapore, but immigration must ultimately benefit Singaporeans.

On foreign workers, Mr Low also said his party's stand was clear: Singapore should not be over-reliant on them, and should not allow them to take away the rice bowls of locals.

"This is not protectionism but the responsibility of the Government to the people," he said.

Accusing Mr Teo of "misleading" voters when he said WP had been evasive about its stand on foreign workers, Mr Low said that he had fleshed out the party's view in Parliament last March.

He had argued then that a reduction in foreign-worker quotas should be calibrated by industry, depending on which ones needed them more.

In that debate, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said such a tailoring was difficult to implement, and accused WP of flip-flopping, since the party had previously argued that foreign workers dampened the wages of Singaporeans.

Mr Low was joined by Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh last night, who put the spotlight on the lack of greenery and open spaces as the result of population growth.

He cited the example of Pasir Ris residents unsuccessfully petitioning that a forest due to be cleared for an international school be retained.

He also slammed the Government for allowing housing prices to skyrocket, dismissing the government line that its cause - increased foreigner numbers - could not be anticipated.

He added: "Unlike other immigrant-friendly countries that have a countryside where citizens can retire to and relax in, this little red dot is all we have."

Punggol East candidate Lee Li Lian criticised the Government for its "short-sightedness": not planning infrastructure ahead of the influx, resulting in overused MRT services and its breakdowns.

Finally, WP chairman Sylvia Lim lamented the loss of a sense of home because of population changes: "Sometimes when I am crossing at traffic lights, I close my eyes and listen to people talking around me and can imagine myself living in a different country."

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