Editor's note: The headline of this article has been edited to reflect the actual transcript of Indranee Rajah's reply. The entire transcript of her answer can be found at the end.
People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Indranee Rajah said on June 29 that Singaporeans can make their vote count by voting for the People's Action Party, which cannot be assumed to make a clean sweep of parliamentary seats with country-wide electoral battles, unlike the opposition that has seats allocated for them.
Indranee, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, made these remarks after she was asked to comment on the Workers’ Party's election manifesto.
WP had issued the dire warning that the opposition could be wiped out this upcoming GE2020.
Question about opposition wipe out
In response to the query by a reporter, Indranee said the enhanced NCMP scheme guarantees at least 12 opposition Members of Parliament (MP).
The 2016 constitutional amendments had increased the number of NCMPs and gave them equal voting rights as full MPs, she added.
The 57-year-old said: “Even if the PAP took all the elected seats, which we do not take for granted and cannot be a given, you will still have 12.”
Indranee, who is also Second Minister for Finance, Law and Education, also said: “Then the next question would be, 'Oh, but, you know, can we be as effective in Parliament as NCMPs', for example."
"And the answer is that if you have full voting rights in Parliament, that is the platform for which you can advocate and do all and say what you want to say with the policies."
"So, basically, the voice in Parliament, the ability to influence policy in Parliament, is there.”
Wipe out not realistic
Indranee also said that the Covid-19 pandemic is the greatest crisis facing Singapore since the 1971 British military withdrawal.
She said: “So with all of this going on, you need a strong capable government that is able to deliver on schemes. And please don’t underestimate what it means to not have a strong government.”
She added: "So I think the thing to remember is this. The weaker a government, the greater the inability to deliver for the people."
"The stronger a government, and provided the government has good plans in the interest of the people at heart, the greater the chances are that people will be able to overcome this crisis."
"So I would say, in simple response to your question, make your vote count, and to make your vote count, vote PAP."
"Because, a capable government, a government with a strong and clear mandate, is really in the best interest of Singaporeans and Singapore, without taking away from the balance that gives a platform for other voices."
History of NCMP
The NCMP scheme was first introduced in 1984.
It provides seats in Parliament for the best-performing losing candidates from the opposition, as long as there are fewer than 12 opposition MPs elected.
Indranee's comments were made during a virtual press conference to introduce the candidates for Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and Radin Mas Single-Member Constituency (SMC).
Also present was PAP’s second assistant secretary-general Chan Chun Sing, who is also Trade and Industry Minister.
Chan also said it would be erroneous to assume the PAP would be returned to power “effortlessly”, given that every constituency is being contested.
This "wipe out" of opposition talking point was also addressed by Lee Hsien Loong on the same day, during his press conference to unveil candidates for Ang Mo Kio GRC.
Lee called a wipe out of the opposition an unrealistic outcome and a reverse psychology tactic.
Indranee's response in full:
Can I add on to that, I think, the question you were asking really pertains to how about having a balance in Parliament, and I think you specifically asked about “making every vote count”.
Now let me address that.
First, you cannot assume, as has been suggested by some, that PAP will sweep all the seats.
If you’ve noticed, every constituency is being contested! And you cannot assume that there’s only one credible opposition party. There are opposition parties all across the island, and each of them say that they have something to bring to the table.
The western side is being contested this time, much more so than it was even than the last round.
So, first point I want to make is every single constituency is contested and you cannot assume that PAP will take all the seats.
We never do, because we do not take our voters for granted, we do not take the citizenry for granted, and we understand that every vote has to be earned, and every vote earned must be delivered on. First point.
The second point is this. There is a suggestion that you have to have opposition elected, in elected seats, in order to have a voice in parliament. That’s not correct. I urge you to go back to look at the last round of constitutional amendments that we did with respect to the NCMP seats.
We increased the number, the total number, of opposition seats from nine to 12.
That means taking into account, if you add in, the elected ones plus NCMP it goes up to twelve.
Which means that no matter what the outcome of this election, and even if PAP took all the elected seats, you will still have 12 opposition seats in Parliament at a minimum, and of course in addition you have NMPs. And the powers of the NCMP were also extended to full rights.
So just remember the second point I’m making is, even if the PAP took all the elected seats, which we do not take for granted and cannot be a given, you will still have 12.
Then the next question would be, 'Oh you know, can we be as effective in Parliament as NCMPs, for example. And the answer is that if you have full voting rights in parliament, that is the platform for which you can advocate and do all and say what you want to say with respect to the policies.
So, basically, the voice in parliament, the ability to influence policy in parliament, is all there.
Then I come back to the crux of the matter, the real crux of the matter, which is that we are in the biggest crisis that we have faced since the 1971 British withdrawal.
It’s not just us, it’s the rest of the world. Chun Sing, every day, at MTI, has to go and think about what are the new areas of growth? Where are our sources of supply? How can we diversify our supply chains?
How can we make sure our businesses grow and transform? Why does he go back to the office and do this every day? He does this because he’s worried about jobs. He’s worried about people’s jobs, he’s worried about their livelihoods. We have to do that, right?
I worry on the education side, I worry on the MOF side, why? Because we want to make sure we have enough revenues, we have to make sure we’ve enough programmes, we’ve got to make sure that people are upskilled.
SM Tharman is looking after National Jobs Council, he’s heading that, then you’ve got Jo and Chee Meng, the labour ministers in there, worried about
So, with all of these going on, you need a strong capable government that is able to deliver on schemes. And please don’t underestimate what it means to not have a strong government.
If you will remember during the Brexit process when, in the UK, the parliament was, shall we say, divided as to the outcomes of the negotiations with the EU, it was a very difficult period for them simply because it could not be said that the government at that time had a strong support for any one particular position.
So I think the thing to remember is this. The weaker a government, the greater the inability to deliver for the people.
The stronger a government, and provided the government has good plans in the interest of the people at heart, the greater the chances are that people will be able to overcome this crisis.
So I would say, in simple response to your question, make your vote count, and to make your vote count, vote PAP. Because, a capable government, a
government with a strong and clear mandate, is really in the best interest of Singaporeans and Singapore, without taking away from the balance that gives a platform for other voices.
Top photo via Indranee Rajah video