Workers’ Party reaches out to Aljunied voters

Alicia Wong
SingaporeScene

The Workers' Party's second GE rally packs the Serangoon stadium with tens of thousands of people. (Yahoo! photo/Ion Danker)

As the battle for the hearts and minds of Aljunied GRC voters heats up, the Workers' Party (WP) had a special message for them on Friday evening at their second General Election (GE) rally held at Serangoon stadium.

They responded strongly against Foreign Minister George Yeo's comments published on Friday, that the WP was making use of Aljunied GRC's 143,148 voters to push the opposition cause and tackled concerns of what would happen should the minister fail to be elected into Parliament.

In an interview published on Friday, Minister Yeo, who is leading the People's Action Party team in what is expected to be the elections hottest contest, criticised the WP for forcing an "emotional dilemma" on Aljunied GRC voters, who have to choose between "enlightened self-interest" or the opposition's interest.

The minister said, this was "against the spirit of democracy".

The WP 'A' team at Aljunied GRC consists of WP chief Low Thia Khiang, chairman Sylvia Lim, corporate lawyer Chen Show Mao, postgraduate law student Pritam Singh and freelance counsellor Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap.

In a short six-minute message made in English on Friday, Chen addressed this "burden" that voters were said to face.

"While voters of Aljunied GRC we appreciate your kind consideration, but please, please first look after yourselves," he stressed.

"Ask before you vote, how can you make yourself better? How can you make your lives better? Please, go ahead don't be shy," he said, before stating, "We believe you will be better off if you vote the Workers' Party."

Party chairman Sylvia Lim, who spoke in Mandarin and English, hit back at the ruling party: "If the PAP really respects voters' needs and wishes, why does it keep re-drawing boundaries after every election, based on the voting results?"

"Why don't we ask the voters in Kaki Bukit, who have not moved house for 25 years but have been kicked around from Eunos GRC to Marine Parade and now Aljunied? Who is the one using voters as instruments to be chosen or discarded?" she said to the cheering crowd of tens of thousands.

She assured voters that even if Minister Yeo is not voted into Parliament, "his talents will not be lost". She cited positions open to the minister, such as being a chairman in a government-linked company or an ambassador-at-large.

"So don't think of voting for WP as voting against George Yeo. Think of it as helping him into early retirement," said Lim, who led the WP Aljunied team to win 43.9 per cent of the votes in GE 2006.

Lim also stressed on another key point in her speech: your vote is secret.

The people listen attentively when WP chief Low Thia Khiang speaks at the rally. (Yahoo! photo/Ion Danker)

While bantering with the crowd, WP chief Low Thia Khiang made an impassioned speech against the GRC scheme, stating, "There's nothing more against the spirit of democracy then the GRC."

Calling for a "breakthrough" this election, he argued that the GRC system, introduced in 1988, served the PAP's self-interest and not the voters'.

"Let me tell you, if no opposition is able to break through the GRC, you will be forever shackled by the system. The PAP will continue to govern, and to bully you without having to account to you all," he said.

To the crowd that had grown quiet listening to him, Low countered the PAP's explanation that the scheme is meant to ensure minority candidates make it into Parliament by citing the example of the late Joshua Benjamin Jeyaratnam.

More commonly known as JBJ, he was voted in during the 1981 Anson by-election by an Chinese majority constituency.

Low urged first time voters to cast their vote "not just wisely, but bravely, intelligently, and in a heartfelt manner".

Meanwhile, Aljunied GRC candidate Pritam Singh targeted his message at civil servants and youth.

To civil servants afraid of voting for the opposition, he said, "Please think again. The PAP did not give you your job, the civil service will not crumble just because the PAP loses a few ministers."

He also commended 20-year-old Low Peiying, whose article on why she signed up to volunteer with the WP, has made waves online.

He called on youths to take active interest in politics: "This is indeed your country, live your dreams here, take ownership of your country, be the change you want to make."

The crowd continues to cheer "Wokers' Party" for about 15 minutes after the rally ends. (Yahoo! photo/Ion Danker)

A total of 10 candidates spoke on Friday evening, addressing issues such as the cost of living, housing and immigration.

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