Fighting Tiger, Heated Dragon: PM Lee vs Low Thia Khiang
“I have been highly entertained by the exercise of constructive politics” – Bertha Henson
If you have 14 minutes to spare, do watch this heated exchange between Lee and Low. If you don’t have the time, we have a truncated transcript for you. But seriously, do have a watch – very entertaining at best.
We have tried to type this as verbatim as possible.
LTK: …I also noted when the PAP makes a policy U-Turn, they call it policy shift. I don’t know whether that is a shift, or that is a [illegible].
PM: When we make a shift, we acknowledge a shift. When the WP changes position, they pretend they haven’t.
As a leader, you (LTK) have a responsibility to state where does the party stand on the big issues. Is the Government doing right, is it doing wrong? Do you agree with the Government?
LTK: …well yes, some of the problems as what the PM mentions. The WP MPs also acknowledge some of these in their speech, but also pointed out there are things that is still work in progress and the Government will have to focus on and improve. That is our position, I don’t see need for me to totally sum up.
PM: Well Mdm. Speaker, I’m very grateful for the extremely reasonable explanation from the Member. I hope he takes an equally reasonable approach when it comes to election rallies. Because the Workers Party takes a low profile and reasonable approach in Parliament, but turn into tigers and heroes during election time.
LTK: I thank the Prime Minister for his praises for the Worker’s Party ability to fight at the elections.
We don’t accuse the PAP of something we cannot substantiate, or not we get sued.
The PAP can fight too, you got much more people than the Workers Party how can you say we are tiger or something else? I’m sure the PAP can be equally tiger or lions.
PM: It is eloquent explanation for why the Worker’s Party has been inarticulate (pause) about many things.
In a serious Parliament, the Government presents its policies, the Opposition presents its alternatives.
The Opposition may not have all the complexities of designing a Medishield scheme or an HDB scheme… but you do have a responsibility to say which direction we are going. And that direction is not to explain to the PAP, but to explain to Singaporeans WHAT YOU STAND FOR. And what you stand for cannot be “a little bit better” than what the PAP does. Whatever the PAP does, you ask them to do a little bit better.
Where do you stand, where are we totally wrong? Where do you think, in principal, you do not want Singapore to be like?
LTK: Mdm Speaker, I’d like to say the PM is reasonable to say that the Worker’s Party may not have come up with all the alternative policy… that’s true. But to say the Worker’s Party does not have a position on an issue, that’s not true.
Where there is a concern, like the Population White paper we do so.
PM: I think it’s good to bring it down to something very specific. Let’s talk about the Population White Paper.
During the debate the Worker’s Party has taken the position of “enough is enough, zero growth”. I had not heard the Worker’s Party demand zero growth today. Do you still demand that? Or do you think we should allow SMEs to survive in Singapore.
LTK: We had made a calculation at that point in time of debating the Population White Paper, that we will continue to allow the foreign workers to grow. We need to keep the population number in check – and one way of doing this is to freeze the foreign workers growth. Our calculation says that with the existing number of foreign workers, you can still move around with some sectors that need only so much of foreign workers and you can still get by with zero foreign workers growth.
We understand the possibility and the trade off – that is our position at that point in time.
PM: Mdm Speaker, after all this complicated explanation, I’m not sure Mr. Low Thia Khiang still stands on what was said in Parliament on the White Paper debate last year. If he really does, he should say “We have too many foreign workers now, send home 70k”. Then we will know where he stands. But when he says some sectors can do with less, others need more – that is easy to say, but who’s going to do the massaging?
That is the mark of a substandard opposition.
LTK: Mdm. Speaker I disagree this is a mark of a substandard opposition, this is the mark of a responsible opposition. We don’t jam up the government, we allow them to do what they need to do. This is the mark of a First World Parliament.
PM: Mdm. Speaker, we have to call a spade a spade. If you have to change a position, because your previous position was wrong – say so. 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 same place where many countries have gone.