GE2020: Government should state position clearly, before election – WP's Pritam on '10 million' saga

The Workers' Party team on an early morning walkabout at Punggol West SMC. From left: party chief Sylvia Lim, new candidate Tan Chen Chen, secretary-general Pritam Singh. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore/Wan Ting Koh)
The Workers' Party team on an early morning walkabout at Punggol West SMC. From left: party chairman Sylvia Lim, new candidate Tan Chen Chen, secretary-general Pritam Singh. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore/Wan Ting Koh)

SINGAPORE — The controversy over the “10 million population target” centres on the “nature of POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act) and the nature of falsehoods”, said Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh.

While on a walkabout in Punggol on Friday morning (3 July), reporters asked him to comment on the televised debate between the People’s Action Party (PAP) and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) over the latter’s assertion that the government was planning a population target of 10 million.

During the debate between PAP’s Vivian Balakrishnan and SDP’s secretary-general Chee Soon Juan on Wednesday (1 July), Dr Balakrishnan refuted Dr Chee’s claim that Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had toyed with the idea of having a population of 10 million people in Singapore. Dr Balakrishnan slammed Dr Chee for his “false statement”

A day later, Heng himself denied saying that Singapore should plan to increase its population to 10 million, and reiterated an official forecast that the population would be "significantly below" 6.9 million by 2030.

Pritam said, “When you have ministers in the past who’ve made allusions to how we possibly could have more, a larger population size, then I think there is room for fair comment about really what is the size that we are aiming towards. I think most reasonable people would come to that conclusion.”

The WP candidate for Aljunied GRC in the upcoming General Election (GE) also questioned why the government had not clarified its position earlier.

“One of the things I don’t understand is why can’t these things actually come up well before the elections. I mean it’s the government’s position so (it) should state that very clearly.”

WP’s new face contesting Punggol West SMC

Walking with Pritam on Friday were WP chairman Sylvia Lim and the party’s GE candidate for Punggol West single member constituency (SMC) Tan Chen Chen. The trio had started outreach efforts at about 7.30am at a coffeeshop at Block 261 Punggol Way.

Commenting on the party’s interest in the single-seat ward, Lim said that Punggol had been “expanding exponentially”, prompting the party to expect a boundary change.

“We were expecting because of the expansion of Punggol Town that there would probably be a new GRC (group representation constituency) carved out. Of course, this was all (an) educated guess because you know that the (Electoral Boundaries) Review Committee’s redrawing (of the map) is the topmost secret in Singapore and nobody knows exactly how they do things.”

“We had expected there to be a new GRC to drawn in the Punggol region because the population increase is just too large for it to be still merged totally with Pasir Ris-Punggol. So we had been deploying some of our party members and potential candidates to walk in this area for some time,” Lim added.

Although the party had not expected an SMC to be drawn out, it decided to field a candidate since it had been active in the region.

Pritam described Tan, a 38-year-old contracts administrator, as a “relatively young candidate” whose strength was in reaching out to people.

Previously part of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC in GE2015, Punggol West SMC was carved out for GE2020, with 25,440 electors. Tan will contest against the PAP’s Sun Xue Ling, who was the Member of Parliament for Punggol West - part of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC - in the previous Parliament.

Asked about her strengths and what she could do for residents, Tan said in Mandarin that parents had told her about the difficulties they faced with registering their children for school.

Parents with young children were expected to volunteer with prospective primary schools two years before their children started Primary 1, causing stress among parents and children, said Tan, who became a mother in March this year. This was an issue that Tan said she could help residents, without elaborating.

Tan added that she was willing to fight for residents and learned a lot from helping out in former secretary-general Low Thia Khiang’s then Bedok Reservoir-Punggol ward in Aljunied GRC.

WP had been expected to field member Lee Li Lian this GE but her name didn’t appear in the list of the party’s candidates on Nomination Day (30 June). Li previously contested in Punggol East SMC during GE2015. She lost the seat to PAP’s Charles Chong and was offered a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) appointment but she turned it down, stating then that it was not possible to be a full-time NCMP.

Asked why Lee was not fielded in the Punggol area this time round, Lim declined to answer on her behalf and referred reporters to what Lee had posted online.

In her Facebook post on 30 June, Lee did not address why she was not in the running, stating that she would use her “invaluable experience to help newer candidates fight this battle”. She also suggested that she would be doing house visits with the WP’s candidates.

Volunteered with party since 2015

Tan, who graduated from RMIT University with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Construction Management in 2009, has volunteered with WP since 2015. She previously cited rising house prices as a concern for young people.

Her opponent, Sun, made her political debut in GE2015 and had served as the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development. Sun’s volunteers were seen giving out flyers on her behalf at the same coffeeshop on Friday.

Sun stated in her party brochure, “We have many young families in Punggol. Being a young mother of two myself, I know that cost of living is a concern. Thanks to your invaluable feedback, I pushed for and delivered on more options for affordable infant milk formula and more subsidies for pre-school.”

According to the flyer, Sun had also set up an office in Punggol West to help residents with their job search.

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