Former Member of Parliament (MP) Lee Li Lian said that the most important reason she joined the Workers’ Party (WP) was to show fellow Singapore citizens that there is nothing to fear in standing with the opposition.
Ms Lee made this remark in a video published by the WP on Wednesday (24 June), a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called an election. She said: “I joined the WP for many reasons but the most significant one was to show the rest there is nothing wrong in standing with the opposition. There’s nothing to fear.”
The longtime party member added: “I hope to see more Singaporeans interested in politics, in things that affect them. And not to feel that there’s nothing much they can do. Everybody has a part to play.”
With a background in finance, Ms Lee joined the WP’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) in 2008 after some time volunteering on the ground. Since 2014, she has been the Organising Secretary on the party’s Executive Council.
In the 2011 General Election, Ms Lee was fielded for the first time and stood as WP’s candidate in Punggol East SMC – a ward that was part of the neighbouring Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC in the election prior. Although she lost to the ruling party incumbent Michael Palmer, who was later made Speaker of Parliament, she garnered an impressive 41.01 per cent of votes – a remarkable feat for a fresh face standing in a single member ward.
In December 2012, however, Michael Palmer resigned from his parliamentary posts due to an extra-marital affair and his ward was left vacant.
In the ensuing by-election, Ms Lee was picked as the WP’s choice to contest the ward and she faced a rare four-cornered contest, with new PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon – a colorectal surgeon who had just joined the PAP three months prior – and two other opposition parties joining the fray.
Ms Lee emerged the victor at the polls with 54.50 per cent of the vote in January 2013 and became the first female opposition politician to control a single member ward in Singapore’s history. The win also marked the second time since 1981 that the WP had captured another parliamentary seat after a by-election.
Ms Lee was fielded to defend her seat in the 2015 General Election, which was held months after Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew passed. The PAP fielded six-term MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Charles Chong in Ms Lee’s ward and the WP was narrowly defeated with 48.24 per cent of the vote compared to the PAP’s 51.76 per cent.
Although Ms Lee was offered a Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) position by-virtue for being the best-scoring losers of the election, she declined the offer and the seat went to the WP’s candidate for East Coast GRC, Daniel Goh.
Ms Lee remains an active WP member and is expected to be fielded as part of the WP’s team in the new Sengkang GRC, that has absorbed her Punggol East SMC.
The WP was the only elected opposition party in Parliament in its last term, holding a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and a Single-Member Constituency (SMC) with six elected Members of Parliament (MPs).
While it contested 10 wards in the last elections, it is said to be planning to stand in only five wards this time. It reportedly has its sights set on East Coast GRC, Marine Parade GRC and Sengkang GRC, on top of plans to defend its Aljunied-Hougang stronghold.