SDP, PAP clash over mystery video

Dr Wijeysingha (left) and his fellow SDP candidate, Michelle Lee. (Yahoo! photo)Dr Wijeysingha (left) and his fellow SDP candidate, Michelle Lee. (Yahoo! photo)A mystery YouTube video has become the centre of focus of a raging war of words between Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and opposition candidate Dr Vincent Wijeysingha.

The amateur video, which Yahoo! Singapore has seen, revolves around a casual talk given by human rights lawyer M Ravi discussing Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between gays
(see video).

It's shot in a casual setting with about 20 people in attendance. It was uploaded less than two weeks ago and has received about 5,000 views so far.

Halfway through the six-minute video, M Ravi calls on a person that looks and resembles like Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate Dr Wijeysingha and introduces him by saying, "Introducing Singapore's first gay MP from the SDP..."

Without referring directly to the video in question on Saturday, Dr Balakrishnan said the SDP is "trying to suppress" the video and that it "raises awkward questions about the agenda and motivations of the SDP and its candidates."

However, during a Sunday press conference where the SDP unveiled its team for Holland-Bukit Timah group representation constituency (GRC), Dr Wijeysingha shot back and asked Dr Balakrishnan to  specify which video he was referring to.

"I'm aware of several videos that have raised our party's agenda...I'm not sure what is the video you are referring to. We've been a very open party and we're very clear."

Dr Wijeyasingha, 40, who is the son of former Raffles Institution principal, Eugene, added that Dr Balakrishnan is "very, very rattled" by the challenge from his party.

On Saturday, Dr Balakrishnan had described SDP's candidates as "a team of strange bedfellows" and that the party was trying furiously but unsuccessfully to change its public image.

"If you look at the statements principally of Dr Vivian in the last few days, you would recognise that he is very, very rattled," said Dr Wijeysingha.

"The fact that a highly trained opthalmologist hides behind the newspaper and issues these comments shows a man running scared," said the civil society activist, who joined the SDP last July.

"Once our team was announced, he's gone into overdrive, but there's been nothing of a substantive policy nature about his criticisms," he added.

Dr Wijeyasingha said, "It's one of these little things he's dropping in the arena. He hasn't said how we've changed, he hasn't said what he sees as a change."

When asked by The New Paper about the video, Dr Wijeysingha declined comment.

However, at the same event, Dr Wijeysingha and his fellow SDP colleagues all pledged to donate half of their MP's allowance, if they're elected, to set up a fund for the needy. Based on the current monthly MP allowance of $13,000, that works out to about $6,500 per candidate.

Debate over minimum wage policy

Meanwhile, former civil service high-flier Tan Jee Say, 57, defended his suggestion of a minimum wage policy which was one of the issues discussed in his 46-page working paper that proposed new ideas for the economy.

This comes after Labour chief Lim Swee Say reiterated his stand of not implementing a minimum wage.

Speaking to media on Friday, Minister Lim said the minimum wage approach may be popular among Singaporeans, but could have serious implications on the country's economy.

When asked if the policy is more of a theory than realistically applicable, Tan argued that it has been practiced in other countries.

He cited Hong Kong as an example, where they are known to be economically competitive and have introduced a minimum wage system.

"Nothing in my paper is only theory, it is a good theory but it's the basis of implementation and I don't think a minimum wage law is theoretical stuff. It has been in practiced in other countries.

Mr Tan Jee Say says that the objective of his working paper is to produce an alternative economic plan. (Yahoo! photo)Mr Tan Jee Say says that the objective of his working paper is to produce an alternative economic plan. (Yahoo! …

The former principal private secretary to Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong also suggested that Singapore should move towards a service-based economy, instead of emphasising on its manufacturing sector.

Both Minister Lim and Trade Minister Lim Hng Khiang have since criticised the paper.

Tan had earlier said that the extensive focus on the manufacturing industry has resulted in over-dependence on foreign workers, which has in return created other problems such as depressed wages for local workers.

In his argument, Minister Lim stressed on the need to maintain its manufacturing economy. He said, "Once you let go of the manufacturing sector for three to five years, there is zero chance that we can redevelop the industry again, because it is an industry that is globally highly-competitive."

Trade Minister Lim Hng Khiang also slammed Tan's suggestion, calling it unrealistic as the services sector will not drive the same level of growth as the manufacturing industry. He also underscored the need to have a diversified economy and not be too overly reliant on a single sector.

Responding to the criticisms, Tan said the objective of his working paper is to produce an alternative plan to propel the economy forward.

"The whole objective of my paper is to produce a plan, an economic plan, an alternative plan which will produce, create fulfilling jobs, creative enterprises of the future, not of the past.

"The ministers are harking back to the past. We are more interested in the future," he said.

Addressing the ruling party's concerns of a freak election, Dr Wijeyasingha said that the PAP's understanding of a freak result is when the returning candidates will serve the people of Singapore, instead of serving the interests of the PAP.

"When you have one particular group of people who are in power and they don't want the people to have their say in regular general elections, then a decision against the status quo is seen as a freak result," he added.

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