Pritam Singh: It could have been resolved with a phone call

In part 1 of this Supper Club interview, Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh talks about the Workers’ Party (WP) progress, town council work and that hawker centre saga.

Q: We're almost midway through this term of government. Looking back, has the WP delivered on its promises?

On Nomination Day, (WP chairman) Sylvia Lim told the public that if we are voted in, we would serve to the best of our abilities.We want to show Singaporeans that if you vote in an opposition party, it doesn't mean your town is going to descend into chaos.

If you compare the number of questions raised in Parliament for this 12th session to the 11th, the number of questions of public interest filed in Parliament has increased quite substantially, covering a very broad range of issues.

Do we always get straight answers from the PAP on these questions? Not necessarily. Is there room for improvement for the WP, be it in Parliament or at the constituency level? Most definitely.

Q: What are the key areas for improvement?

My personal opinion is it's been satisfactory. But one thing we're looking at now is, within the town council internal audit, beyond the statutory requirements of the Town Councils Act, for example, making sure the S&CC (service and conservancy charges) dollar is spent wisely.

We're looking at checks and balances even within our own systems apart from the yearly audit conducted by independent auditors.

Q: On leadership renewal in the WP, do you see yourself in the running for secretary-general in the future?

You know, when I joined the WP, I didn't join with the notion of being sec-gen or coveting any sort of leadership appointment. I thank the party for allowing me to contest as a candidate. It is something I will forever be thankful to the party and the party leadership for. The opportunity of public service through the WP is more than I could have ever dreamt of - and at this age in particular, being able to serve in this capacity, I'm very, very satisfied with that.

Q: The WP tends to have an image of being Chinese-dominated and appealing a lot to the Chinese-speaking ground. Has this image changed?

The WP now is not like the WP of the past. Especially after Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East, I think we are appealing to a very broad section of Singapore society, as any party that is establishing itself at the national level has to do. Because Singapore is a Chinese-majority country, it's almost inevitable that we'd appeal to that segment, but I think we are broader than that also.

Every WP member can bring in a member of any race and religion. I think it's probably healthy we do it that way rather than play up the racial dimension too much. I think we're moving away from that and in the WP, no matter what our race, the only way we can move forward and play a role as an effective check and balance is to rally together as a team, regardless of race, language or religion.

Q: Looking back, do you think the hawker centre cleaning episode could have been handled better?

It is my view that most Singaporeans would feel that this was an issue that could have been resolved with a phone call, being an issue ultimately of sanitation. But the last major article that The Straits Times ran on the issue revealed that the hawker representatives pushing the issue at Block 538 and Block 511 were PAP members.

I saw it as an administrative issue that could have been resolved in a very straightforward manner, but another party came at it from a very political angle. While I feel that communication between the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the town council could have been much better


Go to Singapolitics for more stories.