Singapore—In writing about why he has been persistent in asking the Government for the breakdown in numbers in the local and foreign workforce in Singapore, opposition leader Pritam Singh described himself as a “political moderate,” which may seem surprising to some, since he is after all, the secretary-general of the Workers’ Party (WP).
Even in the ‘About’ section of Mr Pritam’s Facebook page, under ‘Political Views,’ he has written ‘Moderate,’ which indicates that he espouses neither extreme-left nor right-wing ideas or means of effecting the changes he wishes to see.
While the symbol of the WP is a hammer, which historically represents the working class and has been traditionally identified with a more socialist ideology, this is not the case with Mr Pritam and the Workers’ Party.
In fact, according to a 2018 article in The Straits Times (ST), the party was founded in 1957, WP was founded by David Marshall, Singapore’s first Chief Minister in 1957, as a moderate alternative to the left-wing (PAP) and the right-wing (Labour Front).
Mr Marshall was succeeded as the head of WP by J.B. Jeyaretnam, who became the first opposition MP after Singapore gained independence, and then by Low Thia Khiang, who the ST says is credited for having attracted more educated and younger party members, including Sylvia Lim, the current party chairperson.
Mr Low was succeeded by Mr Pritam, who is now 43, after his term as assistant secretary-general from 2016 to early 2018.
Mr Pritam’s philosophy is summed up in his biography page on the WP website:
“Pritam feels that Singaporeans must take ownership of their country by participating actively in the processes behind policy-making and nation-building. A large part of this entails thinking and speaking openly and freely, while continuing to respect the multi-racial and multi-religious pillars of Singapore.
Pritam believes that a system of checks and balances, transparency and accountability will improve standards of governance in Singapore and strengthen our national fabric.
He is convinced that a vote for the Workers’ Party best represents the answer to a more sizeable and worthy presence in parliament in the future. Like his party colleagues, Pritam looks forward to serving Singapore and Singaporeans.”
In other words, Mr Pritam believes in participating in processes that are already established in governance, for example, and legislation, as key to building the society he envisions, as opposed to holding demonstrations, rallies or similar forms of protest.
In 2011, Mr Pritam was part of the WP team that made political history. Mr Low, Ms Lim, Mr Singh, Chen Show Mao and Faisal Manap became the Members of Parliament for Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC), the first time opposition candidates won a GRC from the PAP. Notably, WP won over a team led by then Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Yeo.
WP was able to keep their seats in the 2015 GE, although with a smaller margin than their 2011 win. -/TISG