SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang traded verbal blows yesterday over the opposition party's approach to politics, which Mr Lee described as "breathtakingly cynical".
The feisty 15-minute sparring began when Mr Low jumped up from his seat to rebut Mr Lee's speech on the President's Address.
Among other things, Mr Lee had said that it was "striking" that the WP leader's response to the Address had nothing on the substance of the Government's programme, "no critiques, no suggestions, no alternatives, nothing".
Clarifying, Mr Low said he had focused on the topic of constructive politics but that the other WP MPs would talk on other subjects.
He also took issue with Mr Lee's criticism that the WP had flip-flopped on the foreign worker policy.
On Monday, when he was accused of flip-flopping on foreign workers - asking for more of them to be allowed in 2012 then calling for a freeze in last year's Population White Paper debate - Mr Low denied it was the case. He called on the other side to file a motion to fully debate the issue.
Yesterday, Mr Lee did not let the matter rest, countering that Mr Low's denial was "simply false" as the Hansard would prove it. And, he added, the call for a motion was worth considering.
He said: "The WP did flip- flop."
Mr Low: "I don't think we have flip-flopped. I have explained in this House some misunderstandings of the speeches I have made. And in any case I also noted that when the PAP has to make a policy U-turn, they called it policy shift. I don't know whether that is a shift or is a flip-flop."
Mr Lee responded: "When we make a shift, we acknowledge the shift. When the Workers' Party changes position, they pretend they haven't. That is the difference."
The Prime Minister went on to say that while it was up to Mr Low to organise his party as he wished, as the leader, he should have a stand on the big issues: "Is the Government doing right, is it doing wrong, do you agree with the Government, do you have a better view or do you abstain or do you abstain from abstaining?"
Mr Low's response: The Government had solved some problems but it is still work in progress for other problems.