In a speech at the National University of Singapore for the Top Guns Forum 2022, Workers’ Party chief and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh spoke on how to find Singaporeans who are prepared to enter public service through opposition politics, specifically with the WP.

“It is critical that people step up and join the cause because Singaporeans want elected opposition MPs to provide a diversity of voices and views in Parliament,” he said in his five-minute speech on Friday (May 13).

Mr Singh, who graduated from NUS in 2000, was one of the panellists at the forum, along with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah, Singapore Democratic Party chair Dr Paul Tambyah, and Progress Singapore Party secretary-general Francis Yuen.

The theme of the forum was “Towards Our Shared Future”.

The Leader of the Opposition uploaded photos from the forum on his Facebook page on May 15, and congratulated the NUSPA (NUS Students’ Political Association), adding that “it certainly felt good to participate in an in-person event again!”

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He also wrote that students had asked “some excellent questions” both online and in-person during the forum and that he “particularly enjoyed speaking and mingling with students after the event.”

In his speech, he said that in Singapore, there are only three criteria for standing for elections: would-be candidates need to be Singaporean, over 21 years old, and not be undischarged bankrupt.

But he added that because Singapore is a one-party-dominant state, there are “very different additional considerations” depending on whether one wishes to join an opposition party or the ruling party. 

Those who wish to stand as opposition candidates face “judgment by their employers,” he said, explaining further that “a reality that occupies the minds of some employers is that the political economy in Singapore is dominated by Government-linked companies and organisations and that business prospects may be harmed if they exercise choices that are deemed to be friendly to the development or legitimacy of the opposition.”

He added that it’s not uncommon to hear of businessmen being afraid of losing contacts or goodwill if they support opposition parties openly. 

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And, as he had recruited potential candidates in the past, he heard of employers telling their employees that they would need to choose between their aspirations to contest as opposition candidates and their careers.

“These anecdotes have been a reality for many years and partly explain why the opposition’s recruitment choices have been far more limited than the PAP’s,” he added.

The WP has two choices, therefore: to “give up the mission of denying the PAP a blank cheque and just live our lives in the pursuit of private wealth and happiness,” or find ways to overcome these hurdles.

The party, of course, is determined to do the latter. 

And Mr Singh added, “we will need the best Singaporean talent to undertake the role of a loyal Parliamentary opposition.”

“The point is that if we find a good, dependable person who will serve the people well, even if that person may possibly be subject to close scrutiny, we will consider such a person for candidacy. 

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The WP would even consider for candidacy, for example, someone who has perhaps been bankrupted through business difficulties but has since settled matters and been discharged. If that former bankrupt has, say, started a new, successful business or entered a new career, why shouldn’t we be open to someone who has the heart and mind to serve? 

If the Workers’ Party is to succeed in finding people who can make a worthwhile political contribution, we have to cast our net wide.”

He added that the WP will do its best “to attract the best of those who wish to serve Singapore and Singaporeans to join the cause of building and institutionalising a credible opposition force.”

And while he did not mean to turn the speech into a WP recruitment talk, he encouraged those who are “minded” about the matter to come and talk to him.

His full speech may be found here. /TISG

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