PM Lee asks Low Thia Khiang: Where do you stand?

Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cross swords in parliament on Wednesday, 28 May 2014. (Screengrabs)

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang faced off on Wednesday afternoon in parliament, with the government leader accusing Low's opposition party of being "inarticulate" outside of election periods.

In the continuing parliamentary debates on President Tony Tan Keng Yam's address to the House, a roughly 12-and-a-half minute verbal battle between the secretary-generals of the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) and lead opposition party WP saw the premier asking Low repeatedly, “Where do you stand? Where are we totally wrong?”

Lee accused Low and his WP MPs of failing to express clearly their position on important issues.

“In a serious parliament the government presents policies, the opposition presents its alternatives,” said Lee. “You do have a responsibility to say which direction are we going, and that direction has to be set clearly, not to explain to the PAP but to explain to Singaporeans what you stand for. And what you stand for cannot be what the PAP is doing, and a little bit better. That means you have no stand.”

Responding, Low, who is also an MP in Aljunied GRC, acknowledged that his party has not come up with a comprehensive suite of alternative policies yet. “But to say that the WP has no position on major issues, that is not true,” he said. “I think we did state our position in parliament, we debated major policy vigorously… so we state our position on important issues, and we (don’t) oppose things that we think (the government is) doing right.”

Watch them cross swords:

On the point of the WP “flip-flopping” on its stance on the inflow of foreign workers as raised by Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah on Monday, Lee said when Singapore grew despite WP warning against it, he had not since heard any complaints from the opposition.

“During the (Population White Paper) debate, the position taken by the WP was ‘enough is enough. Zero growth.’ We have continued to grow. I have not heard the WP demand zero growth today. Do you still demand that, or do you now think that we should allow SMEs to survive in Singapore?” asked PM Lee.

In response, Low explained why his party came to the conclusion of needing to reach “zero foreign workers’ growth”, adding that none of them asked the government why they did not adopt the WP's idea because “we have said our piece, but we have to respect the government’s decision to move on”.

“But our message has gotten across. We cannot sustain the kind of growth plan the government is planning,” said Low.

To this, PM Lee retorted, “But after telling me ‘you can massage this, and some people can do less and others will need more’, that’s easy to say. Who’s going to do the massaging? Of course the government. And that is the mark of a substandard opposition.”