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SINGAPORE — The Workers’ Party (WP) has explained its decision not to send a candidate to participate in a televised General Election debate in Mandarin on national television on Wednesday (1 July).
Secretary-general Pritam Singh said on Thursday that while there are individuals within the party who can make speeches and communicate effectively with residents in Mandarin, the proficiency required to participate in a live debate is of “a higher order”.
“We can do better, we should do better,” he said during a party walkabout at Kovan Market and Food Centre.
Proficient Mandarin speakers in WP not contesting
The four political parties contesting the highest number of seats at the GE were invited by Mediacorp to send a candidate each to televised debates in English and Mandarin. While WP sent Sengkang group representation constituency (GRC) candidate Jamus Lim to the English edition, it decline the invitation to the Mandarin debate.
The Mandarin debate eventually featured Ong Ye Kung of the People’s Action Party (PAP), Leong Mun Wai of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and Bryan Lim of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).
While WP has Members of Parliament who are proficient in Mandarin such as former secretary-general Low Thia Khiang and Chen Show Mao, both are not contesting in this GE.
“One of the reasons Mr Low joined WP in the mid-1980s was because our Mandarin translation in some of our collaterals were not up to the mark,” Pritam said.
“And as a Nantah (Nanyang University) graduate and someone who speaks a very high order of Mandarin... he stepped forward and contribute. We hope more Singaporeans do so as well.”
Low was present during the walkabout, greeting the residents and market stallholders, and showing no effects from his serious fall in April.
PAP-lite? Pritam hopes PAP takes up all of WP’s manifesto points
Pritam also responded to Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’s comment during the televised English debate that WP is “PAP-lite”.
The Holland-Bukit Timah GRC candidate had said during the debate that WP takes whatever stand PAP has taken as a reference point, and basically “take a step to the left”. “PAP could have written this manifesto,” the minister said of WP’s party manifesto for the GE.
“Well if that is the case, I hope the PAP takes up all our manifesto’s points, and introduce them into its agenda,” Pritam quipped.
“That would really change the complexion of Singapore, and we’ll have a more caring and compassionate society.”
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