Covid-19 in first chapter of WP manifesto: Pritam Singh, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Covid-19 in first chapter of WP manifesto: Pritam Singh

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Workers' Party chief says that shows how seriously the party treats the crisis, after PM Lee accused opposition of largely ignoring it

The first chapter of the Workers' Party (WP) manifesto highlights policy proposals to tackle Covid-19, and that shows how seriously the party is treating the issue, WP secretary-general Pritam Singh said yesterday, responding to criticism from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that the opposition has largely ignored the crisis.

"I think it's a very convenient thing for the Prime Minister just to brush everybody with the same paintbrush," he said, while speaking to reporters during a walkabout in Sengkang GRC.

Mr Singh added: "(Covid-19 is in) chapter one of our manifesto. And that should tell you how significant Covid-19 is as an issue for the WP."

Expanding Covid-19 testing and making vaccinations free when a vaccine becomes available are among the proposals included in the manifesto.

The party also put up a Facebook post after PM Lee's speech, reiterating the Covid-19 proposals from its manifesto.

During a lunchtime rally held online on Monday, PM Lee said that opposition parties have not offered any suggestions on how to tackle the Covid-19 crisis.

PM Lee also said that opposition parties "prattle on" about such proposals as a minimum wage or universal basic income, which are "fashionable peacetime slogans, not serious wartime plans".

But Mr Singh said the WP, which is advocating for a national minimum wage, believes the policy still has the potential to impact a lot of people.

"I make no apologies for it. There are around 100,000 people, maybe more, maybe less, who are earning wages below what we think is a reasonable wage," he said.

"And this is something that the WP has believed in for many, many years across many manifestos and it's something that we will continue to press."

Mr Singh was yesterday also asked about the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) and whether it had any impact on the way the WP campaigned.

He said the party has been clear on not wanting to campaign on false information.

"Has it (Pofma) affected our campaign? No, it hasn't because I have repeatedly stressed to our candidates we're not in this to win through false information or fear mongering and that sort of thing.

"That's not the way I want to win an election. I think we want to win an election fair and square and that means we address the issues head- on," he said.


Mr Singh added: "And yes, we are a smaller party, we don't have the range of information that the Government has, but that should not stop us from fighting this battle ethically. And that's how the Workers' Party will move forward."

On Sunday, five correction directions were issued by the alternate authority for the Minister for Manpower involving statements made by Singapore Democratic Party chairman Paul Tambyah.

More opposition or strong virus response a ‘false choice’: Sylvia Lim

There are many countries with strong opposition parties that are dealing with the coronavirus crisis well, said Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim, adding that the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) had set up a "false choice" of either a strong Covid-19 response or more opposition members in Parliament.

Pointing to New Zealand's successful management of the outbreak, she noted that its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's party did not have a majority in Parliament.

"If you look at what's happening around the world, you will see that there are actually many examples of countries that have been dealing quite effectively with the virus, who are robust democracies," said Ms Lim.

She was responding to comments made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during an online lunchtime rally on Monday, in which he called on voters to give PAP a strong mandate so it can lead Singapore through the crisis.

He said it was important for the country to present a united front, to show investors and other observers that Singaporeans strongly supported the leaders they have chosen and are working together to overcome the crisis.

But Ms Lim said yesterday that Singaporeans will band together to support the Government in handling the Covid-19 crisis, regardless of who they vote into Parliament.

She added: "There is actually no reason why the Government will not be effective in tackling Covid-19 with a Parliament that does not consist only of elected PAP MPs."

The debate has been a recurring theme throughout the campaign, with the PAP arguing a strong mandate was required to deal with the uncertainty and the WP saying the pandemic did not negate the need for a strong opposition presence.

WP candidate for Marine Parade GRC Yee Jenn Jong pointed out in a Facebook post on Monday that Singapore did not collapse when it lost two full ministers and a senior minister of state in the 2011 election.

Last week, WP chief Pritam Singh said the PAP would still have a strong mandate even if it were to lose one-third of the seats in Parliament as laws can be passed with a simple majority. - AUDREY TAN