Singapore — By many accounts, the first debate for this year’s General Election went in favour of the Workers’ Party’s Jamus Lim, an economist contesting on the WP slate in the new Sengkang GRC.
Professor Lim went head to head with the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) Dr Chee Soon Juan and Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Mr Francis Yuen.
A newcomer to politics, Prof Lim said that he “enjoyed the debate” and that it should occur more frequently.
Prof Lim came away with the quote of the night when he said: “The truth is, in all likelihood, the PAP will have this mandate by the end of this election, and I think what we’re trying to deny them is not a mandate. What we’re trying to deny them is a blank cheque. That is what I think this election truly is about.”
At our political debate last night, I emphasized that the #workersparty, as a responsible and loyal opposition, is not…
By the following day, PAP candidates Chan Chun Sing and Indranee Rajah fired back, saying that, due to accountability to Singaporeans, the party will never have a blank cheque.
They also again brought up the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme, which they say provides a sufficient guarantee that diverse and opposing perspectives will be present in Parliament, whether or not opposition MPs win in the elections.
The PAP duo, who are part of its team in Tanjong Pagar GRC, were on a walkabout at Pek Kio Market when reporters asked them about Prof Lim’s “blank cheque” remark.
Mr Chan denied the premise that this is what the GE is about and underlined the PAP’s accountability to Singaporeans.
A report in straitstimes.com on Thursday (July 2) quoted him as saying: “In governance, the PAP is accountable to the people always, whether it is election (time) or not.”
“I don’t think there is anything such as a blank cheque, as if the PAP can do anything without accountability. I don’t think that’s a correct characterisation. Everything that we do, at every step of the way, we have to be responsible to Singaporeans, their welfare, their well-being, and we have to be responsible for the long-term survival of the country.”
Ms Indranee said that, as long as the NCMP scheme is in place, the PAP has no blank cheque. “The PAP will never have a blank cheque, because no matter what happens, the Constitution guarantees at least 12 opposition seats at the minimum.”
She mentioned this again in a Facebook post, also on Thursday (July 2), writing that at least 12 opposition seats are guaranteed by the Constitution, and that “NCMPs will have equal rights and powers in Parliament as constituency MPs”, thanks to an amendment made in 2016.
She added that “alternative voices to provide checks and balances is hardwired into our system”.
However, the WP has said many times that this is not the point, with former NCMP Dennis Tan, now contesting in Hougang SMC, calling the scheme “the poisoned chalice of PAP-style democracy”.
Mr Tan spoke about the dangers of the scheme, since it prevents opposition leaders from having any real “roots in the community”.
He added: “Let’s not forget the ultimate aim of the PAP to promote the NCMPs is to ensure that no other party can lay roots into each constituency.
“As a former NCMP, I appeal to all voters not to be deceived by the PAP’s intention for NCMPs when you go to the ballot box. Please vote for sufficient opposition constituency MPs”.