Workers’ Party (WP) candidate for Punggol East Lee Li Lian on Tuesday defended the performance of her party mates in Parliament over the past year and a half following criticism that they failed to present a strong alternative voice.
Expectations of the opposition group had been raised after it scored its best showing in the general election in 2011 in which it won six out of 87 seats up for grabs and grabbed two places for Non-Constituency Members of Parliament.
“I think that the Workers’ Party MPs have done a good job — given the imbalance in numbers. We had eight, whereas the PAP (People’s Action Party) have 80. There’s a difference definitely in terms of time given to us” she told Yahoo! Singapore in a one-on-one interview on Tuesday afternoon in Rivervale Drive.
[Click here to watch the video interview.]
She said her party MPs — currently consisting of secretary-general Low Thia Khiang, chairman Sylvia Lim, Pritam Singh, Chen Show Mao and Muhamad Faisal bin Abdul Manap for Aljunied GRC, and Png Eng Huat for Hougang SMC, as well as NCMPs Gerald Giam and Yee Jenn Jong — have raised “pertinent issues” in Parliament so far, pressing the government for answers on public transport, housing, healthcare, population and immigration, among others.
“I hope to be able to add to the strength that we currently have,” she added.
A focus on procreation policies
Asked what issues she will focus on should she join the ranks of her cadre in Parliament, she said she will raise concerns that residents in Punggol East have brought up.
“(I foresee that to include) the considerations and concerns that young couples will have,” she said, noting that the constituency possesses a distinctly younger age demographic — with almost 50 per cent being between age 22 and 49, while those aged 50 and above forming about 20 to 30 per cent of residents.
These, she added, correspond to issues she holds close to her heart and feels most strongly about: the concerns of young couples, families and the welfare of the elderly, particularly those of single parents and stay-at-home mothers.
“Stay-at-home mothers don’t qualify for workfare bonus, but that doesn’t mean that they are not doing anything,” she said. “They’re working at home... when you come home, they have piping hot food for you — are they not working? They are. So why are they not given this? I think they should be given more attention,” she added.
Lee also feels that fathers should be given six days of paternity leave — one of the practical policy changes she says she will fight for, should she gain a seat in Parliament.
“I think it would be good (to have more paternity leave), perhaps half funded by the government, because fathers play an equally important role in family-building,” she said.
Turning to single mothers, Lee said they take priority on her list because she has seen for herself how they suffer at the hands of existing policies, in particular the prevailing rule that does not allow single parents with their children to form a family unit and purchase an HDB flat.
“(That rule) is one thing I hope can be abolished so they can have a shelter when they have no one to depend on,” she said. “When you have a pair of parents, it’s already not easy, so if you have only one, I think it’s even tougher. I’m not saying they should receive special incentives... what they’re asking for is just the same benefits as other married mothers,” she said.
Lee previously responded to other criticism that she had not been walking the ground in Punggol East over the past year and a half since she lost to ex-Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer in 2011
In the press conference Monday where she was unveiled as the WP candidate of choice for the upcoming by-election, she said she still visited Punggol East on occasion despite being preoccupied with her duties as legislative assistant to Singh, helping the Aljunied GRC MP with his constituency groundwork.
She also continued to dodge questions about other possible candidates in the election, or requests for estimates on her chances at the polls, reiterating that she preferred to focus on her campaign and her priority in getting reacquainted with the residents.
Watch a video interview that we did with Lee here: