PM-in-waiting Heng Swee Keat praised former Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang for his years of political service, in his first debate speech in the 14th Parliament of Singapore today (31 Aug).
Mr Low – who was the MP for Hougang SMC from 1991 to 2011 and the MP for Aljunied GRC from 2011 to 2020 – stepped down from electoral politics ahead of the most recent general election. The 2020 general election, which took place in July, was the first election in 32 years that Mr Low did not contest but he told the press that he was stepping down with no regrets as he feels that his work is done.
The 63-year-old said that he had set two goals for himself when he took over as party chief: To secure and renew the leadership of the party. He said he has achieved these goals.
In 2011, Mr Low left the Hougang Single-Member Constituency (SMC) and led a team to run in Aljunied GRC. He was successful and the party was elected in both Hougang SMC and Aljunied GRC in 2011 and 2015. In 2018, he handed over the reins of the party to Pritam Singh.
The WP won yet another multi-member ward, unseating three prominent political office-holders, in the 2020 general election – the first election the WP contested under Pritam Singh’s leadership. The party also successfully defended its Aljunied-Hougang stronghold and scored better than it did in previous elections, despite the absence of Mr Low from its slate.
While the WP clinched an unprecedented 10 seats in Parliament, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) suffered its second-worst result in the polls since independence.
Although Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in the past that he would have to focus on “fixing” the opposition if a sizeable number of opposition politicians were elected, the PAP seemed to take a more measured approach after the recent election and made Pritam Singh Singapore’s very first Leader of the Opposition.
Prominent ruling party politicians, like Tan Chuan-Jin, Indranee Rajah and Lawrence Wong, also came out to express that they are looking forward to working with the new Leader of the Opposition and MPs on the other side of the aisle.
DPM Heng has now thanked one of the WP’s most prominent members in Parliament. Paying tribute to Mr Low in the House, today (31 Aug), Mr Heng pointed out how the opposition legend stood with the Government despite their differences when national interest was at stake. He said:
“Let me also thank Mr Low Thia Khiang, who has served as an opposition Member of Parliament since 1991. He’s a fiery speaker at election rallies, but when it comes to the crunch, when our national interest is at stake, he stands together with the Government.
He added that Mr Low has “deep convictions about language, culture and heritage, and the long-term success of Singapore.”
Mr Heng also revealed that he spoke to Mr Low recently and found out that he is enjoying his retirement. He told the House, “When I last spoke to him, he told me he was very happy playing with his grandchild. I am glad he has recovered from his fall and wish him good health.”
Expressing his hope that Mr Low’s successor will also put national interests first, Mr Heng said: “Mr Pritam Singh has taken over as Secretary General of the Workers’ Party and has been appointed Leader of the Opposition. I trust Mr Singh will, like Mr Low, put our national interest first.”