Wednesday, January 23, 2013

WP's Path away From Opposition Unity

This may sound surprising to many opposition supporters but it is from the horse mouth. Mr Low Thia Khiang has said it in the Punggol East rally that WP has chosen to walk its own path when he tried to explained why WP didn't go into talk with other opposition parties with regard to candidacy for this by-election.

This basically means that from WP's perspective, opposition unity doesn't exist at all or they will not work towards opposition unity. That explains why WP was too eager to go into 3 corner fights in Moulmein Kallang and Punggol East back in GE2011 instead of consolidating its forces to contest in Marine Parade which is right in its backyard.

Many people have attacked me during the hustling back in GE2011 right up till now for criticising WP, putting up fantasies and imaginary Sour Grape and Bitter Gourd theories but I don't really blame them because they are ignorant of the finer details of opposition politics. They accused me of destroying opposition unity when I reasoned that WP was the one that is unreasonable in its insistence to create potential 3 corner fights. They even accused me as "PAP mole" when I suggested that other opposition parties would have to test out the relative strength to WP by contesting in Hougang By-election. It is an important strategic move to prepare themselves because make no mistakes about it, WP will definitely go into massive 3 corner fights in the next GE.

I have been a member of Workers Party from 2001 till 2006 and I have quit after the GE2006. The main reason that triggered my resignation has been explained in this blog before. We have a good contest in GE2006 and logically, any aspiring politicians like me, Chia Tilik, James Gomez etc, won't want to quit for no good reasons. There are various factors affecting our individual decisions but mine was pretty straight forward.

However, I must said that I felt disillusioned after GE2006. Right after GE2006, Mr Low has wanted to draw a clear line between SDP and WP. He wanted to denounce Non-Violence Action movement that was carried out by SDP as well. I believe the trigger of such thought came from SDP's contest in Sembawang GRC which WP has claimed but did not plan to contest anyway. There are of course other issues as well. I have opposed vigorously against such propositions at that time.

I reasoned that if WP was to do that back then, we may agitate hardcore SDP supporters. It will just take 2% or 3% off WP and that may just make a decisive difference between a win or lose in any contest in future elections. I also reasoned that Non-Violence Action should not be denounced totally by any political party like WP. This is basically because there will always be a great possibility that PAP may enact or use whatever administrative rules to curb opposition party's activities. I have put up the example of NEA using the illegal hawking rule to curb our selling of party newspaper Hammer. From time to time, we have met NEA officers giving warnings to opposition party activists for selling our newspapers on the streets. What happens if NEA is to come down hard and apply this rule harshly? Are we going to just obey and stop all political activity? NVA may be the only option left if such situation arises.

Indeed, such situation did arise prior to GE2011 when I took over the SG post of NSP. While NSP continued to sell its newspaper North Star in defiance of NEA summons, WP stopped for the whole month. If it is not for NSP's continuous pressure and refusal to pay up for the summon, all opposition parties like WP won't be carrying out their weekly newspaper sales until now! If NSP was to pay up the fines and admitted we were in the wrong, we would expect NEA to apply the rules and summons all across the board on all political parties! Unfortunately, during the tough deadlock with NEA, WP CEC member has openly accused and blamed NSP of "dragging them into the mud". It seems that WP does not realize that it is on the same boat with all other opposition parties instead of on the same boat with PAP, which it has suggested lately.

On the other hand, as I understand WP as a key member, WP has always blown the trumpet of two party system, especially after a good GE2006, which I always have reservations with. To work towards the two party system, it would mean that WP will have to thumb down all other opposition parties as well... or even destroy them with 3 or multi-corner fights and such. This is an undesirable direction and detrimental to democratic movement and development for Singapore.

The progressive aims for freedom activists is first to breach the obstacle of winning the first GRC, then to slice down PAP's monopoly of power by winning at least one third of the parliamentary seats so to deprive PAP the absolute power to amend the Constitution as the way it likes. Whether the system evolves into two party system should be of the last concerns.  But apparently, WP doesn't see it this way.

Thus when WP insisted on contesting in Moulmein Kallang back in GE2011, I knew it wasn't just the simple reason of training their new young candidates. The reasoning of geographical proximity was even more outright ridiculous and unconvincing because Marine Parade would be the best choice for WP as it is sitting right next to Aljunied and East Coast GRCs! It is obvious to me that it is a ploy to trigger a 3 corner fight, with the aim to undermine NSP's growth or even destroy NSP totally.

It was very difficult to explain to many people but I took pain to persuade the scholars, Tony and Hazel, to pull out of Moulmein Kallang at the very last minute for self-preservation. I told them that it was their first election contest and they should not risk destroying their future political career by taking this unnecessary risk. The rest is history.

I cannot agree with WP and Low's strategic perspective in choosing this path of disunity. This is absolutely nothing personal but rather, a very technical difference in opinion on how to bring democratic development to Singapore. Different parties may have different problems but to even suggest that only WP is successful while other parties will only disappoint Singaporeans is much too arrogant to begin with.

For the better or the worse, people and parties change over time. I am proud to say that NSP has evolved stronger after GE2011 and so did SDP, thanks to the participation of new generation of professionals. WP is not the only party that has evolved stronger and it is obvious that other parties have enjoyed the same vote swing in constituencies where their new promising blood has contested.

I believe all these good people who are non-WP members, have great potentials to play an important role in Singapore's democratic development. Mr Low should not write them off that easily. Contrary to his assertions, these new blood have brought promise and hope, not shame or disappointment, to opposition movement as a whole.

Mr Low should leave his political historical baggage down and start to look at the whole environment and situation in a more positive way. If you want to talk about disappointing voters in the past, WP was also guilty of it in the past as well, with mass resignations, lawsuits, scandals (Yawgate is just a year ago) and such. WP's new image only comes about with the injection of new blood right after 2001. Thus, I do not think it is right for Mr Low to imply that others have brought disappointment to voters but not WP. Nevertheless, what had happened in the past, has passed. All parties now are having a fresh start with new generation of politicians joining them.

I just hope that WP will not stray away from the unity of opposition aim in bringing democratic development to Singapore by focusing in cutting down PAP's monopoly of power and enforcing democratic reforms to our political system. Obviously, the advocate of two party system is definitely tainted with self interests. We should focus on winning one third of the seats first an it doesn't necessarily mean that only WP could do it alone.

But I believe, all these are wishful thinking of mine. Premature 3 corner fights will become the norm in next and future GEs. So be it.

However, it would be total hypocrisy for WP people to criticise or scold and whine about other parties of being "spoilers" if WP itself doesn't believe in opposition unity in the first place. Let fair contest takes place but voters must be even more discerning in making their choice in such contests. Opposition supporters should not be confused from now on. They should not vote blindly but instead, should spend more time in assessing the performance, strength and weaknesses of each candidates instead of just vote according to party loyalty.

Opposition politics will never be the same again after Mr Low Thia Khiang's rally speech tonight. I believe that it is basically a public confirmation of distinct departure of WP from the rest of the opposition parties. Maybe Mr. Low feels that with 8 MPs in parliament, it is an opportune time for WP to take flight and establish itself as in the same league as PAP....on the same boat as PAP.  But one thing Mr Low must realize, the only thing could stay constant, is impermanence and this knife will cut both ways.

Goh Meng Seng


mrdes said...

Oh, sir, after reading this post, I suddenly realised we are not on the same path also.

My opinion is this: you can't possibly take PAP head on, they have been around far too long. Then again, I should have known: like you said, you are an opposition activist. I am just a Singaporean wanting the best for my country. Just my humble view: having my country split by 2 equally powerful poliitical parties doesn't really benefit us.

AndyXianWong said...

Do you have any quotes / sources for your comments that WP aim for a two party system? Thanks

Admin said...

Andy, Pritam Singh said it during one of political forum right after GE2011. Here are the links:


Seems like Pritam Singh of the Workers' Party had stepped out of the Party line when he gave a speech at a forum organised by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) on 8 July 2011. At the forum he said:

"There are 87 seats in Parliament. How many do we have right now? We've got six ... we will not be ready to form a government till we got 44 good candidates, who are elected by the people."

He added: "So, is that something we are working toward? Well, I think the short answer is yes."

After the forum, the first-term WP CEC member had to issue remarks to clarify himself so that he could toe the party line:

'Let's not rule out the prospects of the PAP being forced into coalition politics. And coalition governments don't mean things don't happen... (there) could be unity government... There is a huge political space there for us to actually think about, insofar as how politics in Singapore... is going forward.'

I quote:

Pritam Singh right after the General Election last year at a NUS forum during which he broached the idea of WP forming a coalition government with the PAP:

“If the PAP fails to win a majority in the next election, the Workers Party will form a coalition government with it (to keep it in power)”

Despite the furore it triggered, WP Chief Low Thia Kiang refused to refute or clarify the statement made by Pritam Singh leading some to suspect if he is really fighting for the opposition cause.

Another link: