WP will continue to try its best to put forth candidates who can represent Singaporeans: Pritam
The Workers’ Party (WP) has consistently tried its best to put forth candidates for election who can represent Singapore and Singaporeans and will continue to do so, party chief Pritam Singh said on Wednesday.
He was responding to a question on the party’s screening process for potential candidates at a press conference where he announced the resignations of Aljunied GRC MP Leon Perera and senior party member Nicole Seah from the WP. The two had lied to the party about their extramarital affair, which had started after the 2020 general election.
Mr Singh, who is also Leader of the Opposition, said: “You make decisions at the material time when you’re fielding candidates and you try your best to find out as much as you can about the individual. However, you cannot legislate for what they will do after they become candidates.
“I think once you know that there are certain issues that have come up, then in good conscience I cannot field these candidates again if I am aware of those facts.”
On whether candidate selection guidelines will be improved, Mr Singh said that with every episode that happens, there will always be a moment of reflection for the party and how it can refine its processes.
Mr Singh was asked whether the WP’s screening process was flawed, since the latest resignations mean the WP has lost three candidates in the last two years. Former Sengkang GRC MP Raeesah Khan resigned from the WP in November 2021, after admitting to lying in Parliament.
“We will try to be as rigorous as possible within the means that are available to us, to put forward individuals who will fly the flag proudly - and I mean Singapore flag proudly - and be effective parliamentarians in Parliament,” he said.
When asked whether the way the People’s Action Party (PAP) handled the affair between former Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and former MP Cheng Li Hui affected the WP’s approach to this incident, Mr Singh reiterated that he would have recommended that Mr Perera be expelled from the party if he had not offered his resignation.
“The reason is not because of what happened, because of the affair. The reason was because the party has an article in its Constitution that it holds very, very close to its heart.
“And that is of being frank and honest, as a party member - in this particular case as a candidate, a former candidate - in your dealings with the party and the people of Singapore,” said Mr Singh. “And if you fall foul of that, then the consequences are severe.”
On the WP’s strategy for the next election and how it will build public confidence moving forward, Mr Singh said the search for candidates is always an ongoing process.
“It ought to be clear that we look for good candidates to stand for the Workers’ Party, who bring something to the table, and this will continue,” said Mr Singh.
He added that the WP already has people working the ground, doing house visits and engaging Singaporeans of all walks of life.
“That will continue, and I hope more than a few of them will be prepared to stand for the Workers’ Party in the general elections, whenever they are called,” he said.
Mr Perera first ran as a WP candidate for East Coast GRC in the 2015 general election and was a Non-Constituency MP until 2020. Ms Seah was fielded by the WP in East Coast GRC in 2020, losing by 6.78 per cent of the votes to the PAP team led by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Both Mr Perera and Ms Seah are married with children. They were also on the party’s 15-member central executive committee (CEC) – its top decision-making body.
In his resignation letter dated Wednesday, Mr Perera said he apologised deeply to the party and his constituents for falling short of the standards expected of him.
He also apologised for not being forthcoming when the issue first arose within the party and he was asked about it some time back by WP’s leaders.
In his letter accepting Mr Perera’s resignation, Mr Singh said that as Mr Perera would know, any electoral victory by an opposition party in Singapore is hard won. “It follows that there are significant expectations of WP MPs,” he said.
Mr Singh noted that Mr Perera was a committed and dedicated MP in Parliament.
“The loss of a steadfast opposition voice in these circumstances is particularly difficult for me, your colleagues in the WP, and beyond,” he said.
Mr Singh added that Mr Perera’s resignation was deliberated by the party’s central executive committee.
“It was accepted, as the requirement to be frank and honest in our dealings with the party and the people of Singapore is exacting and non-negotiable.”
Mr Singh had said the same in response to Ms Seah’s letter of resignation which she sent on Tuesday.
At the press conference on Wednesday, Mr Singh said that with Mr Perera’s resignation, the WP team in Parliament has lost an important member.
“But there are other things that we cannot ignore, and standards that have to be kept, and party discipline is incredibly important if you want to be a serious party in advancing the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans,” he said.
On whether both recent incidents for the PAP and WP impact Parliament’s credibility, Mr Singh said that as far as the WP is concerned, it will continue to be a rational, responsible and respectable party that takes a balanced approach in Parliament.
“We are not in the business of making wild allegations and not being able to support them. We think carefully about what we are putting forward in Parliament,” he said.
“That must continue, and that is a key method in which we assure Singaporeans and convince them that we are worthy of their vote.”