Jalan Besar GRC: Opposition 'riles people up for polls'

The crowd at a PAP rally in Jalan Besar GRC last night.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The Workers' Party (WP) calls for the transport system to be restructured - but the People's Action Party (PAP) Government is already doing so, observed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night.

"This rooster, supposed to wake up before dawn - I think it woke up late this morning," he quipped, taking up Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong's analogy for the opposition's credit-claiming tendencies: like a rooster taking credit for the sunrise. It was one of several attacks on the WP by Mr Lee and the PAP's candidates at their Jalan Besar GRC rally on the last night of campaigning.

In a 40-minute speech closing the night, Mr Lee took a look at the opposition's "report card". All they have done was try to make people unhappy, he said. "They look for subjects which they think will annoy people, rile people up, so they dredge them up and make a fuss in elections - housing, transport, immigration, healthcare."

Mr Lee's response was to give a summary of his Government's work in such areas, saying: "What I say here, I say in Parliament, I say anywhere."

He charged that the opposition has been inconsistent.

For instance, during election rallies, WP chief Low Thia Khiang "says the Government's economic policy is so inhuman, so heartless" - yet in Parliament, Mr Low welcomed the direction of the Budget. And so did Mr Low's party.

Whipping out his smartphone, Mr Lee referred to the WP's website, which said: "Workers' Party supports progressive Budget, raises gaps and issues in Parliament.

"But when it comes to an election rally, wah, the tiger comes out. So fierce: PAP heartless, this, that, the other, don't care about people. Go into Parliament? Progressive Budget, very good."

Mr Lee also characterised the opposition's approach to government policy as wanting to have it both ways: "If it's good, ask for more. If it's no good, PAP's fault."

That leads into their electoral policy, he added. "If the PAP is doing no good, vote for us. We will punish the PAP... But if the PAP does good, it's also because of the Workers' Party. Vote for us. We go there, PAP will do even better."

This is a case of "heads I win, tails you lose", said Mr Lee: "Which bookie will offer you this?"

At the rally in Boon Keng, the PAP candidates for Jalan Besar GRC also criticised their WP opponents.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, the anchor minister on the slate, noted that WP East Coast candidate Leon Perera had said the election was about the PAP - a point he agreed on.

The WP's campaign has been about the PAP, said Dr Yaacob. "Their story is about the PAP because they have nothing to show for the four years they have been in Parliament."

He also cautioned voters against the WP's slogan, "Empower Your Future", saying: "They are empowering themselves and not you."

As to Mr Low's view that about 20 opposition MPs are needed for a healthy Parliament, Dr Yaacob countered: "It does not take 20 MPs to table a motion or a Bill. It takes only one MP, and a lot of guts and gumption."

Fellow Jalan Besar GRC candidate Denise Phua said voters should push politicians from all parties - not just the PAP - to work harder.

Continuing a line of attack taken at other PAP rallies, Ms Phua cast doubt on the opposition's commitment to residents on the ground.

She asked what opposition politicians have achieved for their constituents or Singaporeans, "other than filing questions in Parliament and making rowdy, great popular speeches at election rallies".

For instance, instead of talking about elderly garbage-collectors or cleaners only at election rallies, the opposition should seek them out and help them, and raise their plight in Parliament so that systemic changes can be made, she said.

Pointing to the WP's lack of local manifestos for the areas it is contesting, she further wondered if that was due to a lack of knowledge of residents' needs, or a lack of interest in them.


This article was first published on September 10, 2015.
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