‘Whole country has to unite,’ Pritam Singh says post-GE2020

Singapore going through turbulent times.

Belmont Lay | July 13, 2020, 12:58 AM

Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh said on Sunday, July 12 that Singaporeans have to unite to steer the country out of “turbulent waters”.

Pritam, who has been designated Leader of the Opposition, said it will work with the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and other opposition parties to ensure “good outcomes for Singapore and Singaporeans”.

He made these comments in a virtual press conference with reporters alongside party chair Sylvia Lim at the party’s headquarters a mere day after the General Election concluded.

Back to business

Pritam's call for Singaporeans to get back to business was urgent.

He reiterated that the WP’s approach to Singapore politics is to be a responsible party.

The 43-year-old said: “And as a responsible party, you do what is good for the people and for the country.”

He noted that the Covid-19 situation has brought suffering to people.

“It doesn't matter who the government is and who the other opposition parties are, as long as we are focused on ensuring good outcomes for people, that's what the Workers’ Party will endeavour towards.”

Pritam also said: “The situation is not positive in certain industries... people are starting to get retrenched in certain jobs, and they need help and assistance.”

“We are in turbulent waters and a whole country has to unite to come out of this situation."

"I think we should be very focused on what is at stake here, rather than think about the political position that the party should take or should hedge."

Asked about WP's progress

Pritam's level-headed responses putting country before party were made after he was asked about the WP's performance and progress, since he had just fully taken charge of the party not too long ago.

WP will embark on a period of "soul-searching" in the aftermath of the 2020 General Election (GE), Pritam assured.

He said: “In terms of soul-searching, that's something even the WP has to do. I can't speak for the PAP, but obviously we have to look at the results very carefully and determine how the party wants to move forward for the next five years.”

Pritam was responding to a question regarding Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam’s remarks that it would be a time of soul-searching and reflection for the PAP.

The WP leader said the ruling PAP remains a formidable foe.

Pritam responded with caution when asked if Singapore’s opposition parties have made progress.

He alluded to the 1970 movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, about the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbour in World War II.

Pritam said the WP cannot be like the Japanese during World War II, being in a state of euphoria as the Americans, with its vast resources, regrouped.

“I think we have to be very careful, we have to be very mindful of what we have, and we have to work very, very hard, and you have to appreciate that the PAP will try its hardest to take back Sengkang."

"It will try its hardest to take back Aljunied, it will try its hardest to take back Hougang. And that means we've got to work even harder to make sure that we reach out and serve the people, honestly and sincerely.”

Pritam reminded those present that the PAP cannot be waved off.

He said: “At the end of the movie, the Japanese high command is telling itself that it's very happy that it struck off so many battleships and all that."

"Admiral Yamamoto is in charge of the whole fleet, he basically said, 'Look, I have been to the United States, and I know what deep resources this country has, and how awesome it is.'”

Singaporeans have lived with the PAP all their lives, and they know how powerful they are, Pritam added.

Success of WP due to Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim

Asked about his success in taking a GRC so soon after being secretary-general as compared to his predecessor Low Thia Khiang who took a decade, Pritam said that WP’s strong showing was due in part to the work that those before him had put in.

“Insofar as this allusion to Mr Low taking more time, let me disabuse anyone of that notion,” said Pritam.

“The reason why the Workers’ Party took a second GRC, a major reason was because of the very foundation that Mr Low had laid, and leaders that came before me had made.”

Pritam paid tribute to the party's leadership, as he said Low and Lim had “created this culture in the WP of a rational, responsible opposition”.

Pritam also said he was not about to take credit, as what has been achieved is “not mine to parade, or brandish about”.

“It's a collective effort from the Workers’ Party people who came before us. Many volunteers, who are too numerous to name, who basically put an agenda forward for Singaporeans to consider,” he said.

“Without this team and the people who came before us, there would be no achievements to crow about today.”

Let's not fail Singaporeans

Pritam's comments comes after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the WP chief would be formally recognised as Leader of the Opposition, following the announcement of the General Election results.

WP secured 10 seats in Parliament.

However, Pritam said he does not have any further information beyond what the media had already reported.

What he does know by heart are the words Low told him.

He said that a quote from Low still “rings in (his) ears”.

Pritam said: “That means we've got to work even harder to make sure that we reach out and serve the people honestly and sincerely.”

“(Mr Low) always told me: ‘Singaporeans don't want us to fail. So let's not fail them.’”