Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang engaged in a verbal sparing in Parliament yesterday on constructive politics, WP's stand on the big issues as well as the role of opposition in parliament.
Here are the ten best zingers between PM Lee and Low:
1. PM Lee on WP playing "pretend":
"I think the record will speak for itself, when we make a shift we acknowledge a shift. When the WP changes position they pretend they haven’t – that is the difference."
2. PM Lee using a football analogy:
"[A]s a leader, you do have a responsibility to state where does the party stand on the big issues. Somebody can look after healthcare, somebody can take care of transport, somebody can spend all his time marking Minister Heng Swee Keat on education, but where you stand on what the Government is doing?"
3. PM on WP being tigers and heroes
"I hope he takes an equally reasonable approach when it comes to election rallies because the WP approach has been to be extremely reasonable – indeed low profile – in Parliament but come election time to turn into tigers and heroes."
4. PM's "eloquent" dissing of WP's performance in parliament:
"It’s an eloquent explanation for why the WP has been inarticulate, about many things. In a serious parliament, the Government presents its policies. The Opposition presents its alternatives. The WP may not have alternatives on every issue; it may not have a full range of all the complexities of designing an HDB scheme or MediShield scheme. 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.
5. PM on the Opposition:
"[A]fter all this complicated explanation, I don’t know whether Mr Low Thia Khiang still stands by what was said in Parliament in the White Paper debate last year... But after telling me you can massage this and some people can do (with) 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 sub-standard Opposition."
6. PM about spades and 'weasel'
"We have to call a spade a spade. If we have changed position and your previous position was wrong, say so. If you hold by your position, have your guts to reaffirm it and take the consequences. But to weasel away, play with words, avoid the issue and then claim to be responsible, that is what we fear can drive Singapore’s politics into the same place where many other countries have gone."
7. Low on the division of labour among Workers' Party MPs:
"The other MPs from the WP will be talking about different issues... They will cover the full range of areas. Thereby we split our jobs. I will focus on constructive politics."
8. Low on both parties changing policies:
"Talking about the WP flip-flopping on foreign workers issue... In any case, I also noted that when the PAP has to make a policy U-turn, they call it policy shift. I don’t know whether that is a shift or it’s a flip-flop.
9. Low's "encouraging" words for PAP
"I thank the PM for noting that we can fight an election, I’m sure the PAP can too. You are the Government, you have been the governing party for 50 years and you’ve got (much more) talented people than the WP. How can you say we are tiger and we are something else in Parliament? I’m sure the PAP equally can be tiger or lions."
10. Low's view on the opposition:
"This is not the mark of a sub-standard Opposition. This is the mark of a responsible Opposition not to jam up the Government; allowing the Government - after giving our view, debating it – allowing the Government to move forward, not to jam up the Government. It is a mark of a responsible Government and a mark of first world Parliament".