The claim that the Workers’ Party (WP) is a lite version of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) is one of the perceptions party member Yee Jenn Jong aims to break in his new book, ‘Journey in Blue’.
The term ‘PAP-lite’ was first used by Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan to describe the WP’s manifesto during the 2020 general election campaign period. During a televised debate, Dr Balakrishnan said that the positions in the WP manifesto were so similar to the ruling party’s positions that the PAP could have written it.
Dr Balakrishnan has said of the WP’s position: “…It’s almost a position where whatever line or stand the PAP has taken, you basically use that as your reference point and take a half step to the left.”
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong grabbed onto the term and urged Sengkang voters to vote for the “real thing” during an election webinar, just a few days later. He said: “As Vivian said in the TV debate a few days ago, this is PAP-lite. But I tell you – why do you want to settle for PAP-lite? The real thing is much better.”
Asserting that the WP’s plans were just like the PAP’s, just with more money added, the PM quipped: “They take the PAP’s plan, they say very good, here are a few holes, please patch the holes, here are a few places where you can add more money, make it cheaper, do more, work harder. I also can!”
WP chief Pritam Singh criticised the “PAP-lite” claim as an electoral ploy and said, then: “If that was the case, I hope the PAP takes up all our manifesto points and introduces them into their agenda, because that will really change the shape of Singapore, and we will have a more caring and compassionate society.”
He added: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Did any PAP MP file any question on the Keppel Marine scandal? I think voters should think about that. Did any of them step up to consider the other alternatives to Bills like Pofma (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)? I think these are the questions Singaporeans need to ask.”
Although PM Lee lent weight to the PAP’s Sengkang GRC team – which included cabinet minister and labour chief Ng Chee Meng, Senior Minister of State Lam Pin Min and grassroots MP Amrin Amin – the PAP ultimately lost the ward to the WP’s team, which was comprised mostly of fresh faces.
Despite the WP’s win and stronger performance at it’s Aljunied-Hougang stronghold, the “PAP-lite” tag has stuck in some quarters. WP member Yee Jenn Jong now seeks to dispel this misconception in his upcoming biography, which is scheduled for release this month.
Giving his followers on social media a glimpse into what his book will cover, Mr Yee unveiled a list of 10 myths he will address in his book. Aside from the claim that the WP is “PAP-lite”, the opposition politician will also respond to the claims that:
- The opposition is here to disrupt the work of the government. They are disloyal to Singapore;
- Opposition members appear once every five years during general elections;
- Opposition candidates contest to earn the relative well-paying MP salary. It does not cost them to contest;
- The WP also has its own whip and party discipline for its parliamentarians that is no different from the PAP, which does not allow MPs to vote against its own bills and motions unless the whip is lifted;
- NCMPs now have full Parliament and voting rights as elected MPs. That makes them the same;
- Singapore will collapse when the PAP loses power or when the PAP loses a large number of seats;
- The WP only criticises and never make any proposals;
- The WP is too silent in criticising the government;
- My career will be affected when I join the opposition.
Mr Yee’s biography will also cover his life before he joined the WP, his reasons for joining the opposition, his three contests in the general elections from 2011–2020 as well as his parliamentary work and other political activities. It includes his thoughts on the shape of Singapore’s politics moving forward, as well.
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