Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang yesterday (Aug 16) shot back at Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean’s recent withering attack on the opposition party and its leaders, by asking the public to judge the politics that the People’s Action Party (PAP) practises.
“With all due respect, (Mr Teo) wanted to comment in that way, let Singaporeans judge and see this is the kind of standard of the PAP in politics. Is this the kind of politics we want in future?” said Mr Low. “What do we want the future of Singapore to be? Do we want to be more civilised in our political engagement? We are not a Third World country.”
In a media interview last Friday, Mr Teo ripped into the WP for its handling of the financial lapses at its Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), and criticised Mr Low for shedding “crocodile tears” over the stepping down of Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew.
“It’s very in character for Mr Low to squeeze the most political mileage out of anything. The reasons that Tuck Yew decided to step down are known to everyone,” Mr Teo had said.
Mr Low had earlier said that he was disappointed and could not understand why Mr Lui had chosen to leave politics at this point in time.
Yesterday, he reiterated that his views on Mr Lui, whom he has known for several years from their interactions in Parliament, were authentic and “heartfelt”. Using a Chinese idiom, Mr Low said his comments on Mr Lui were grating to the PAP as “good and honest advice is unpleasant to the ears”.
Describing Mr Lui as a “hardworking” minister, Mr Low said his departure from politics would be a loss to the Cabinet as he was accountable to Members of Parliament (MPs).
Speaking to reporters at Chong Pang Market — where party supporters and members were greeting residents and selling its newspaper — Mr Low said: “He (Mr Lui) can even cite you details of very technical matters…(and) he doesn’t try to score political points in answering questions, neither does he try to find a way to try to attack or bully the Opposition.”
WP chairman Sylvia Lim, who was part of the party entourage, said that the opposition party was “surprised” by Mr Lui’s decision to step down. She added that the WP was looking at the issue of collective responsibility of the Cabinet.
Responding to Mr Teo’s criticism of the WP’s handling of the AHPETC saga, Ms Lim said it is for residents to decide if they have been taken care of.
Hougang MP Png Eng Huat, who chairs the town council’s audit committee, said that the town council is seeking to close its financial year 2014/2015 accounts by August 31 – the deadline for all town councils. Any discussion on the town council’s financial position will be “more meaningful after that”, he said.
Last Friday, Mr Teo pointed out that the Constitution guarantees there will at least be nine Opposition members in Parliament. He also said that the Opposition in Parliament had no bearing on the many policies introduced or refined by the PAP government since the 2011 General Election, as the foundation for these plans had been laid even earlier – a point that was echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a separate event.
In response, Ms Lim noted that Singaporeans have already shown a desire for elected Opposition.
“On the opposition front, we have to make sure that we continue to give Singaporeans a credible choice. It is up to Singaporeans to decide whether they are satisfied with constitutionally-guaranteed Non-Constituency MPs or whether they would like to have elected MPs governing their constituencies,” she said, adding that it is for voters to judge whether having Opposition MPs made the PAP more sensitive to their needs.
Mr Teo also took a jibe at WP chairman Sylvia Lim who on Wednesday posted on Instagram a picture of herself eating at Fengshan Hawker Centre with the caption, “The taste of Fengshan — heavenly!”, and the hashtag #reasonstowin. On Thursday, Ms Lim posted a blank picture with the caption, “how to avoid speculation”, along with the hashtag #electionseason. Mr Teo said: “What’s going to happen? You’re going to swallow up Fengshan for what purpose? To serve the residents of Fengshan? Or is Fengshan delicious because you want to add it into the pot to help the town council with the deficit?”
Ms Lim said: “I think it is a pity that (Mr Teo) doesn’t’ seem to have a sense of humour.” Yesterday, she put up another picture — of her with three other WP members in Chong Pang, which is the ward of Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam — with the caption, “In the den of my ‘favourite’ Minister… Better move in groups.”