‘Punggol slap’ which PAP will never forget: WP's Low Thia Khiang

Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang didn't mince his words as he fired his final salvo in the party’s third and final Punggol East by-election rally on Wednesday night.

Reviving his infamous trademark "co-driver" analogy from the 2011 general election, Low said policies must be devised to benefit the nation as a whole, instead of a smaller section of the population. He said that if the latter situation occurs, the policy in question had failed.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot afford to put our lives in the hands of a sleepy driver. Do not put another sleepy driver into Parliament,” he said with gusto, to loud cheers from an estimated 8,000-strong rally crowd, its biggest turn-out of the three rallies.

“May this by-election provide the ‘Punggol Slap’ which the PAP will never forget!”

He also addressed Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean's Facebook comments in the wake of the party’s rally on Tuesday night, in which Teo criticised the WP for not taking a stand on major issues where "tough trade-offs are needed”.

Low pointed out that he had previously tabled suggestions in Parliament to calibrate foreign worker dependency ratios according to industries, in order to avoid too-abrupt tightening that would lead to high manpower costs and inflation.

“But my suggestion was not taken up; the government does not think it is the best way forward,” he said.

“Therefore, DPM Teo and the PAP should stop misleading the voters about Workers’ Party’s stand on major issues. It is without question that the Workers’ Party has been trying as hard as possible to think of ways to fix the mistakes made by the PAP,” he stated.

Low also noted that the party’s stance on all major issues is elaborated upon clearly in its manifesto, which is available for public scrutiny.

A look at the roughtly 8,000-strong crowd that attended the WP's third rally in Punggol East. (Yahoo! photo)
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Thu, Jan 24, 2013 2:00 AM SGT

Tying up loose ends

Separately, the majority of the speakers at the party’s final rally of the nine-day hustings focused on issues they had individually brought up in parliament, aimed at debunking comments from DPM Teo and PM Lee Hsien Loong that they had not been speaking up loudly enough over the past year and a half.

Non-constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong zoomed in on education, his pet topic, which he frequently tables questions for, while Aljunied MP Chen Show Mao focused on the elderly as he did on Tuesday.

Party chairman Sylvia Lim raised the AIM saga one final time briefly, responding to PAP town council coordinating chair Dr Teo Ho Pin’s remarks that the WP’s Aljunied-Hougang Town Council initiated proceedings to terminate the standing agreement between them and AIM.

She stressed in her speech that Teo had in fact previously said explicitly that “AIM decided to end the contract with AHTC”, hence contradicting his latest comments.

“We have also already released AIM's official notice of termination to us. In any case,  if Dr Teo has read the termination clause he would know the clause doesn't give the Town Council the right to terminate the agreement under such circumstances,” she stated. “It is quite clear that the bigger question of public interest is the sale of the software to AIM in the first place.”

Hougang MP Png Eng Huat backed this up, saying that should another party win over Hougang SMC from the WP, all of its systems and software would remain intact in the handover.

Final push

Making a final push for an additional Workers’ Party member in Parliament, speakers at the rally argued that it was in Singapore’s interest to have more varied voices, more airtime and the ability to raise more issues in the House.

Highlighting party candidate Lee Li Lian’s humble background and modest education, Lim said her election into parliament will more accurately reflect the make-up of Singaporean society.

“What we need are MPs who can empathise with the struggles that you face daily,” she said.

“Use your vote to bring about a more equal society, let Parliament be a microcosm of society with more MPs from the non-elite class to speak for the people.”

Lim also added that the ruling People’s Action Party’s choice candidate, colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon, “can still return to life” as a doctor.

“He hasn’t invested too much time... (in fact) he initially said no to the Prime Minister (when he was first asked to run on the PAP ticket), meaning he wasn’t too keen to stand in Punggol East in the first place,” she said, comparing the six years Lee has spent on the ground, with one-and-a-half as Aljunied MP Pritam Singh’s Legislative Assistant.

Lee herself tackled the issue of foreign workers during her two speeches, sharing how the WP is not against immigration, just its pace. She also spoke of the issues closer to her heart, proposing policy changes to help single and stay-at-home parents.

She further said she may not come to residents dangling million-dollar projects over their heads, but would focus first on ensuring a smooth takeover and running of the town council if elected.

She, alongside new face Daniel Goh, an associate professor with the National University of Singapore, called on voters to avoid “voting for the status quo”, and instead to use their votes as “a signal to the ruling party that all is not well”.

“We need more constructive changes,” she said.

In his final message before the three-hour rally ended, Low told the crowd that the party had not applied for any assembly centre come Polling Day on Saturday.

"Stay at home, watch TV and wait for the good news," he concluded.

Two more rallies will be held by the People's Action Party and the Reform Party on Thursday, the final day of campaigning in the Punggol East by-election. Friday is designated as Cooling Off day and no further election advertising will be permitted until the close of the polls on Saturday.

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