It pains me to write this article and it is not an Asian tradition to rebut your mentor even if the mentorship has ceased long ago. I will only publish this article on the eve of the cooling off day, just to make sure that PAP will not be able to use my points in their attacks.
In an earlier answer to the press during the press conference, Mr Low has also explained why WP didn't work on Punggol East after last GE as WP is a small party and all resources were drawn back to focus on Aljunied and Hougang.
I have written on why WP should give this by-elections a pass just before it was called. It is exactly the reasons given by Mr Low himself, as it is quite obvious to us that WP is really over stretched and it needs to put its own house in order first, after so many boo boos happened. The mediocre performance, not only on the parliamentary front but also on the Town Council management front, must be addressed. WP should have stopped and re-consolidate themselves first before trying to fight another by-elections.
Imagine that if WP was already so stretched before this PE BE, what would happen if it was to win another seat in PE? Won't such victory put further strains on WP's resources? Is it wise for Mr Low to admit that WP is far too stretch to work the ground in PE but in the end, still insisted to get into this by-election to try and win this ward which they have already admitted that they are having resource constraints to work on? It is a glaring contradictions that PAP failed to pick but voters in Punggol East should seriously consider.
I was told that prior to Palmergate, some residents who voted WP in last GE have emailed WP about the stoppage of work at the Rivervale Plaza upgrading but WP has ignored about it. In the end, it was Kenneth Jeyaratnam who took the trouble to make a visit to Rivervale Plaza and made noise about the work stoppage there. I believe these former WP supporters have decided not to vote for WP in this PE and they are right in not doing so! If this is true, then it is rather ironic that WP members has reiterated that they will be the voice of Punggol East Residents now on their rally stage when they have chosen to ignore their pleas just a few months ago!
How much time and effort would it take WP to make a visit to the site to find out exactly what happen and make an appropriate statement about the stoppage? But WP didn't bother to do anything about it. It only came to their mind when the by-election was called!
All these boil down to the kind of political strategy WP has adopted in the past 18 months. WP Chief, Mr Low Thia Khiang was reportedly said that WP 'will keep close watch of over Govt'. In this news report, it says that WP has sent a flyer message to residents of Punggol East during this by-election to explain about WP's strategic positioning in parliament, most probably in an attempt to defend criticisms of WP's mediocre performance in parliament.
His message to the Punggol East voters has somehow reiterated his "Watchdog Politics" which he has so famously coined in the past that WP wants to be a Watchdog, not a "Mad Dog".
He reiterated WP's commitment to seeing Singapore progress and PAP improve. But WP must also "be ready one day to be an alternative choice for the people, especially if the ruling party should become incompetent or corrupt".
My question is, is "Watchdog Politics" enough to safe guard our interests in and out of parliament? If WP is only committed to see PAP improve, is it serious about being the alternative to PAP at all? Is it serious in wanting to set its own political agenda and direction for Singapore? Keeping a close watch on PAP alone isn't going to make parliament First World in any sense. First World Parliament isn't gonna to evolve just by having opposition parties sitting down there and watch and hope the ruling party will become better. First World Parliament can only evolve when all political parties, including both ruling and opposition parties, to debate rigorously on various policies based on their own political belief that their policies best serve the Nation.
Our interests as a Nation can only be safeguarded if and only if the opposition parties in parliament can perform the role as GUARD DOG that could well bark and bite whenever it is necessary, not just a Chi Huahua Watchdog that will only give a symbolic bark but run away when challenged. A Guard Dog must prove its worth by its performance in responding to threats to any compromise on our interests. The recent AIM saga is a prime example of such impotency of Watch Dog politics. Why the issue of AIM wasn't raised immediately when WP found out about it instead of dragging for 18 months, after WP's competency in Town Council management has been put in doubt?
Furthermore, as Calvin Cheng has rightly put in his comment to Yahoo News, the parliament is the place whereby key issues should be brought up by MPs to be debated. This should be done by filing a motion or adjournment motion whereby WP is well capable of since it has already had 8 MPs in parliament. But WP has failed to do that. Even when Sylvia Lim has filed an adjournment motion on the AIM saga, she has subsequently withdrawn it for some incoherent reasons.
Such Watchdog mentality has set into WP quite deeply when we start to hear WP MPs and members talking about voters must vote them into parliament to make PAP works harder. On the other hand, they make claims that whatever policies made good by PAP is just because they were elected into parliament, sitting down there and watch.
It is just like saying that "Vote us in because PAP is not working" and on the other hand, saying "if PAP is working hard, it is because we are there, thus vote us in". This is the Bao Chiat and Bao Yah (Sure Win) Watchdog strategy whereby, head WP wins, tail PAP loses. It disregards totally of whether WP MPs are performing effective or not and what is needed is basically a presence of WP MPs sitting in parliament.
I do not think it is healthy for Singapore's democratic process if we were to cultivate such mediocre mentally.
I would urge voters of Punggol East to consider very carefully what they want for Singapore, not just what they want for themselves. As an opposition activist, I would not encourage them to vote PAP but at the same time, I would also urge them not to vote blindly in support of opposition.
It is especially so when your votes could either encourage or enhance unwanted political behavior or directions. A strong signal must be sent to all parties that supporters should not be taken for granted and parties should not expect blind support if they could only put up mediocre performance. Each and every vote counts in choosing the right direction for our political development for our future generations.
Allow me to quote Calvin Cheng to end this post:
The Worker’s Party thus has far bigger questions to answer than the PAP. When the Prime Minister asked where its policy alternatives were, the answer is obvious: they lay hidden in the depths of its Manifesto. The more crucial question is why a party which campaigned forcefully for more debate and a ‘First World Parliament’ has allowed these alternative policies to remain there, rather than forcing a fundamental rethink from the government by requiring them to stoutly defend its policies in the House.
At the end of the day, the Worker’s Party did not promise to run Singapore’s town councils better. The Worker’s Party did not even promise to solve bread-and-butter issues that Singaporeans face . Instead, the Worker’s Party promised that it would be a check-and-balance, that it would be a co-driver, and that more debate would lead Singapore to a ‘First World Parliament’. It is this, this that the voters of Punggol East, and perhaps Singaporeans at large, must ultimately judge them.
Goh Meng Seng