It was supposed to be an unequal contest.
Cedric Foo (who?) vs Workers' Party (WP)'s "Star Catch" Chen Show Mao.
Last Friday, Aljunied GRC MP Chen spoke in Parliament about Singapore's national plan for successful ageing. His speech focused on investing in elderly Singaporeans and creating more jobs suitable for the elderly.
This led Pioneer SMC MP Cedric Foo to question Chen on whether he felt immigrants were necessary to deal with Singapore's ageing population. Foo wanted to know whether WP intends to reverse the immigration inflow into Singapore.
The exchange can be viewed below (WP supporters, brace yourselves for this horror show from 06:00 onwards):
Source: Channel NewsAsia
Chen was hesistant in his replies with his speech pauses. From his body language, he seemed unsure of WP's stance on immigration.
For those who preferred to close your eyes, below are the key excerpts of the exchange:
Cedric Foo: "[U]nderpinning the ageing population, is the need to bring in immigrants, and I would like to seek his (Chen) view to see if he thinks it's necessary for Singapore's long-term future to bring in immigrants."
Foo rose his hands eagerly, jumping ahead of Minister Lawrence Wong to rebut Chen.
Chen Show Mao: "I believe our focus should be on the growing of a resident workforce [...] When targets we set for the growth in our resident working population are not met, when targets we set are not met, then I think at that time, foreign workers may be - the number of foreign workers may be increased, so that so that we are on a path to growth as we have planned."
Chen tried to explain WP’s stand on immigration and the Population White Paper.
Cedric Foo: "I was really asking about immigrant inflow into Singapore. [...] And I'd like Mr Chen's comments on whether he welcomes immigrants."
Chen Show Mao: "I have worked abroad for many years in my life and I thank foreigners, foreign governments, foreign friends for the opportunities that I was given, to work in the country. Of course, we have, of course I have - we have nothing against immigrants coming to Singapore, but we're talking about an orderly growth within limits."
Chen’s second attempt following Foo’s clarification.
Cedric Foo: "We have debated this issue of ageing population robustly. The Government has put up a plan under Deputy Prime Minister Teo. [...] listening to Mr Chen, I'm still not very clear whether the party and himself supports bringing in immigration".
Low to the rescue: He interrupted the exchange and provided the clarity that was absent in Chen’s explanation. Low said that WP is “not an anti-immigration party”.
Workers' Party Chief Low Thia Khiang: "On the issue of immigration, I thought we stated clearly and many a time, I believe the party's MPs have repeated the position of The Workers Party. The Workers' Party is not an anti-immigration party [...]
We welcome immigration which can contribute to the well-being of Singapore and to the economy of Singapore. We welcome foreign talent. Talent, real talent, not immigrants who are taking away the job of Singaporeans or taking away opportunities that Singaporeans could have been given, or be better served, having. So let's make it clear here, we are not anti-immigration. What we're saying is we have got to have quality immigrants."
A few concluding words...
1. Was this Constructive Politics?
Chen used this opportunity to champion investing in the elderly, while Foo took it as a chance to reiterate the Government's stance that Singapore needs immigrants to support Singapore's economic growth.
We learnt nothing about policies except that Chen is not so quick on his feet.
Foo could have asked Chen how he plans to implement the suggestion of investing in the elderly or how programmes currently available are deficient. Instead he chose to press Chen on whether WP supports allowing foreign workers into Singapore - a position WP has stated before and Low had to step in to reiterate that point.
In other words, it was another 10 minutes wasted in Parliament.
Perhaps the Speaker of Parliament, Mdm Halimah Yacob, will have her work cut out for her moving forward to ensure that the debates in Parliament in the future are focused on the issues at hand and not for political grandstanding.
2. Is Mr Lee Kuan Yew is right again?
In his latest book, One Man’s View of the World, Lee said that "Chen, however, has not turned out to be so brilliant."
"In Parliament, he makes good prepared speeches, with a written script, but in the follow-up, he is all over the place. It simply does not gel for him."
Lee added, “The weight of public expectation of the man, given his rather impressive résumé, has probably added to the disappointment.”
Let's hope that Chen is just having a bad day in Parliament.
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Top photo composed of images from JTC and AHPETC