Pritam Singh a 'good man', has his work cut out as new WP chief: residents

Nicholas Yong
Assistant News Editor
New Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh speaking to residents at a Meet-The-People session on Monday, 9 April 2018. PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore/Dhany Osman

Just a day after he became the leader of Singapore’s leading opposition party, Workers’ Party (WP) Secretary-General Pritam Singh was back at work to serve residents living in his Eunos ward on Monday (9 April).

It was business as usual at the weekly Meet-The-People session at the void deck of Block 672 Jalan Damai, where about a dozen residents turned up seeking help from Singh for various issues. The 41-year-old was officially anointed as Low Thia Khiang’s successor on Sunday, having been elected unopposed by party cadres.

The new WP chief remained tight-lipped, politely declining to answer reporters’ questions or to address his fellow Aljunied Member of Parliament Chen Show Mao’s somewhat cryptic Facebook post about the need for more “forward-looking progressive leadership”. Chen, who mounted a challenge against Low at the party’s last leadership elections in 2016, was also elected to the party’s Central Executive Committee on Sunday.

Low, who had been Secretary-General since 2001 until the election, said that Singh’s new role meant the party’s leadership renewal was now complete.

‘A good man’

Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh speaks to reporters on Monday, 9 April 2018. PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore/Dhany Osman

It was left to residents of Singh’s Eunos ward to speak on his behalf. Long-term residents of Jalan Damai whom Yahoo News Singapore spoke to were enthused about Singh’s new role. And while they variously described him as “responsible” and “a good man” who was constantly on the ground, they were also acutely aware of the constraints that the WP operates in.

Retiree Mr Tan, 73, is a self-described WP supporter since his secondary school days. He likened the WP’s job to eating a bowl of rice that was very difficult to swallow, alluding to factors such as its small presence in Parliament and unequal media coverage.

Asked how he thought Singh would fare in Parliament as leader of the opposition, Tan was ambivalent, responding in Mandarin, “时势造英雄,还是英雄造时势? (Do the times call forth a hero, or does a hero define the times?)”

He added, “He is very good to the residents. He can come to the MPS alone, not like other people (with their entourage). They (PAP MPs) are like a female dog leading her puppies.”

Land surveyor Ang Gek Kwang, 60, felt that the party was in good hands with Pritam as its chief and Low in an advisory role. He likened their relationship to that between the late prime minister (PM) Lee Kuan Yew and current PM Lee Hsien Loong.

The father of three added, “It’s good to have new blood. If I’m the boss, I will promote young people to manager. If an old guy is always there, the young ones will not get a chance.”

Ng Cheng Hai, 61, also felt that Low would “teach (Singh) how to solve problems”. The father of one, who is currently unemployed, added, “People look at the WP and find them to be trustworthy. They will not speak irresponsibly.”

But other residents like Zaina, 52, had far more practical issues in mind. While the mother of two also had a favourable impression of Singh, she was unaware of his new role as WP chief. She added, “I don’t really pay attention to politics. As long as I see it’s quite peaceful down here, I’m happy.”

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