Speech at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Forum, 4 Nov 2015

Dear Institute of Policy Studies members, distinguished guests and friends,

Good afternoon.

I thank Dr Gillian Koh, and Mr Tan Tarn How of the Institute of Policy Studies for inviting me to speak at this forum today. I also thank Mr Arun Mahizhnan for chairing this forum.

We acknowledge the percentage swing to the PAP in GE2015. It was a difficult battle fought in a difficult climate for theOpposition especially in a year when Singapore is celebrating its GoldenJubilee. This is the year where the PAP took special means to provide allSingaporeans, from cradle to grave with a slew of initiatives and incentives. The passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, also helped to stir emotions that tied Singaporeans to the PAP.

The history of politics and its election results is replete with ups-and-downs, like the swing of a pendulum for both the PAP and the Opposition, and so in a sense, this result was not a shock. We at the Singapore People’s Party (SPP), respect the choice of votes, and we will continue to work towards earning their trust.

Because we believe there is a fundamental role for the Opposition to play in Singapore society and areas for the Opposition to improve too.

Earlier this year, Deputy Prime Minister TharmanShanmugaratnam spoke of the so-called “shift to the left” of the government’s economic policies. Subsequently, this was widely picked up by commentators. There was the Medishield Life, Silver support scheme served to give the lower income and elderly peace of mind. Then there was SkillsFuture, a major investment in the continuing education and training of our people and most notably the Pioneer Generation Package, worth $8 billion.

What will happen after the SG 50 celebrations this year? Will the Government move back to the right?

The Opposition has a responsibility to keep theGovernment accountable for the welfare of Singaporeans. What if Mr Shanmugaratnam gets overridden by his cabinet colleagues? During the recentGeneral Election campaign, we saw that his humble, open-minded and measured approach was often contradicted by the more hard-line rhetoric of his colleagues.

The Opposition continues to face obstacles in our work. Allow me to raise just one example, faced by myself and my party colleagues during campaigning.

We continue to face difficulties in getting access to condominium residences, even during the official campaigning period. Our party managed to hold our very first tea session in a Potong Pasir condominium only last year, even though the constituency had been held by the Opposition for almost 30 years. The same condo later refused the distribution of our candidate’s election brochures and manifestos to its residents during the GE period. There are a sizeable population of voters living in condos in Singapore that never had the opportunity to meet and to evaluate the merits of their opposition candidates contesting in his ward. In Potong Pasir alone, there are over a 1,500 voters living in condos. How about voters from Mountbatten and other constituencies that has a higher percentage of condo dwellers.

In the next few years there will be even more condos built in Singapore.

It is understandable if the condos wish to protect their residents’ privacy and tranquility but surely such concerns must be subornated to the process of choosing our national leaders where whats at stake are decisions on public policies which affect us all .

In this, I appeal to all Singaporeans, for their good sense of fair play. I believe this situation hinders the rights and responsibility of residents to vote wisely and in an informed manner during the general election which is a momentous national event of great significance held every five years.

The ruling party should look into this aspect too.

The election committee should also look into the possibility of using fixed electorate boundaries to ensure a greater connection between representatives and the electorate that will reflect geographical and community identities.

The Singapore People’s Party is a party not only concerned with “bread and butter” issues. Indeed, we do firmly believe that the issues of public housing, healthcare, education, transport, CPF, and job opportunities are the best ways to advance the peace, happiness and prosperity of our people.

But the Singapore People’s Party is a party that has spoken up for all Singaporeans in Parliament, promoting policies with a strong road map for those who lack a voice – these are the needy families, those falling between the cracks, as well as detainees under the Internal Security Act.

SPP will continue to serve Singaporeans in ways available to us. We value each and every Singaporean, we put firm action behind the ideas of fairness and social justice in Singapore. In conclusion, our focus is to serve all Singaporean regardless of their political affiliation and that younger capable, electable individuals with integrity, honesty and sincerity should take up the challenge to contest the incumbents whose aim is to entrench its incumbency in the ruling party.

The opposition have to accept that it has to operate in an un-level playing field against an already loaded electoral system. The political landscape may be too daunting at the moment and nobody can predict its future. There is hope for the opposition.

Do not spell the end of democracy in Singapore.

Thank you.

Mrs Lina Chiam

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