In a press statement released on Thursday (Nov 14), newly minted Singapore People’s Party (SPP) chief Steve Chia has said the opposition must not exist for the sake of opposing to be a constructive force, echoing recent remarks made by the leader of the Workers’ Party.
In a Facebook post published on Wednesday (Nov 13), Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general Pritam Singh said the WP believes the opposition plays a “check and balance role” and that his party aims to help build a better Singapore for all Singaporeans, not to destroy its political opponents.
Laying out his party’s approach to politics, Mr Singh said: “The Workers’ Party fundamentally believes that an opposition plays an important check and balance role and is an integral part of our parliamentary democracy, no matter which party is in Government and whoever is represented by the opposition.
“To that end, our objective is not the destruction of our political opponents. It is beyond the horizon – a better Singapore for all Singaporeans. The way the WP approaches opposition politics is a reflection of this. We believe this approach is one that Singaporeans, even PAP supporters (who we also must level with and persuade rationally) endorse – a loyal opposition.”
Mr Singh also said that opposition unity remains a challenge since different parties have different ideologies and approaches. Referring to his predecessor Low Thia Khiang’s words in 2013 that opposition unity in Singapore is difficult, if not impossible, Mr Singh said:
“…not every opposition party believes the same thing. As a small political player in our landscape, the WP must get its political purpose right. To a large extent, this explains why opposition unity – notwithstanding friendly discussions and relationships amongst opposition members – remains a real challenge.”
In his second press statement since he was elected party leader, the new SPP secretary-general Steve Chia echoed Mr Singh’s views, asserting that the SPP too, believes in playing a check and balance role and that opposition unity can only be achieved if the various parties share the same values and vision. He said:
“One of the key roles of the Opposition is to act as a check and balance on the policies of the Government, by speaking up for Singaporeans. This is to ensure that Singapore and Singaporeans are always at the heart of the Government’s policies. Where possible, the Opposition should also propose alternative policies.
“It is vital that the opposition are loyal to Singapore and fellow Singaporeans. As Mr Chiam had said in Parliament, “…above all, in the Opposition, we must be good and patriotic Singaporeans.”
“In order to be a credible, competent and constructive force, we must not oppose for the sake of opposing. As I had said in the 10th session of Parliament, “if Government policies are good, what is there to oppose. But if it is not, we will be the first to oppose it.”
“We believe in the need for an honest, constructive and harmonious approach to politics. Thus, being a loyal opposition for Singapore and Singaporeans is a key value that SPP has always stood by.
“While we value opposition unity, we also understand that the opposition can be united only if we share similar values, practices and have the same vision for Singapore.”
Mr Chia – a former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) – took over the reins of the SPP from veteran opposition politician Chiam See Tong earlier this month when he was elected secretary-general by party cadres.
84-year-old Mr Chiam decided not to contest the party’s latest internal election for the first time in 23 years, effectively bringing his 40-year political career to an end.