The Workers’ Party has made several U-turns in its 5-decade history. Let’s take a look at its more famous U-turns in recent times.
Foreign manpower policy
WP members watching Gerald Giam prata over foreign manpower policy
Background: WP members of parliament had in parliament previously called for zero foreign labour growth during the much-debated 2013 Population White Paper debate.
U-turn: When the government tightened measures to curb foreign worker inflows, WP’s Gerald Giam then prata and said that when the government turned off the tap for foreign workers, the sudden policy change had hurt businesses the most.
NCMPs in Parliament
WP NCMP Leon Perera (left) sinking his roots into Aljunied GRC anyway with Low Thia Khiang, who claimed previously that NCMP are duckweeds, unlike elected MPs who can sink roots in their constituency.
Background: The NCMP position was created to bring in people from the Opposition and civil society to fill democratic gaps in Parliament, because the ruling party feared that a legislature dominated by one political party is unhealthy. NCMPs have the same voting rights as a regular Member of Parliament.
In 2016, WP criticised the NCMP scheme as being undemocratic. Mr Low compared NCMPs to “duckweed on the water of the pond”.
“You don’t have roots, unlike elected MPs, where you have a constituency, run a town council, and you get close in touch with your residents. You can sink roots there”, said Low Thia Khiang, the Secretary General of the Worker’s Party.
U-turn: Even after criticising the NCMP scheme, and when WP’s ‘best loser’ Lee Li Lian discarded her right to an NCMP seat, WP still acknowledges the usefulness of the NCMP position.
Sylvia Lim said, “We also recognize that the Workers’ Party can make a contribution to the nation this way.”
Low Thia Khiang also said, “We recognize that having one more NCMP will contribute to the debate and possibly to better policy outcomes. Hence, it is also meaningful for well-intended individuals who aspire to represent the will of the people to be NCMPs to contribute to the process.”
Expelling a WP MP
BEFORE: Worker’s Party MPs Yaw Shin Leong (in light blue shirt) and Low Thia Kiang (in white striped shirt) with other WP party leaders at the Hougang Lunar New Year Dinner, organized by Hougang Constituency Committee on 11 Feb 2012.
AFTER: A few days later on 15 Feb 2012, WP held a press conference to announce the expulsion of Yaw.
Background: In January 2012, rumours of WP Hougang MP Yaw Shin Leong having an affair with a colleague from WP surfaced online. He kept silent and did not turn up at a meeting to discuss the allegations.
U-Turn: During this period, WP Low Thia Khiang had turned up at a Chinese New Year dinner in Hougang with Yaw on 11 Feb 2012. Yet shortly after on 15 Feb 2012, WP abruptly announced that Yaw was expelled, prompting questions of why WP did a sudden U-turn.
Missing Millions in Aljunied-Hougang Town Council coffers
Background: WP has been calling for greater transparency in the Government and calls for votes so that it can be a check and balance against a People’s Action Party (PAP) Government. It also said repeatedly that it wants to be a “rational, respectable and responsible” opposition party.
U-turn: An independent panel, appointed by AHTC, supported by Pritam Singh and chaired by Philip Jeyaretnam led the legal suit against its own town councillors, town council chairman Pritam Singh, vice-chairman Sylvia Lim and WP party chief Low Thia Khiang.
The High Court found the three were derelict in appointing a managing agent for Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) without calling for a tender, and they were liable for the misuse of tens of millions in town council funds.
The judge rapped Lim and Low for their lack of transparency and candour, as Lim had emailed FMSS asking them to examine a draft report on the managing agent appointment if it would pass the auditors’ eyes.
“I find this to be quite extraordinary and casts serious doubt on the integrity of Ms Sylvia Lim,” the judge said. “Their conduct was improper and the attempt to cloak the same with a veneer of truth and credibility collectively leads to the conclusion that they had not acted honestly and therefore breached their duty of unflinching loyalty to AHTC as fiduciaries.”
Even after this verdict, the trio still challenged the High Court’s decision to recuse themselves from all financial matters of AHTC.
Singapore vs Malaysia
Background: Alfian Sa’at is a prominent Singaporean poet who loves Malaysia and Dr Mahathir, and also likes Malaysia’s Bumiputra policies. When Malaysian government vessels were in Singapore waters during a tense standoff on territorial issues, he took Malaysia’s side and said Singaporeans were being jingoistic. He also wrote a poem which he claims is patriotic, with the first two sentences being “Singapore you are not my country. Singapore you are not a country at all.”
When the PAP questioned if Alfian Sa’at was pro-Malaysia, WP’s Pritam Singh defended Alfian, saying he is “A loving critic. A son of Singapore.”. This led to chatter online whether WP had changed its position on Singapore’s sovereignty to be pro-Malaysia instead.
U-turn: After PAP MP Shanmugam pointed out that “Under Mr Low Thia Khiang, the Workers Party was clear to not take another country’s side against Singapore. Politics stopped at the boundaries.”, and reiterated PAP MP Tan Wu Meng’s question of “Does Mr Pritam Singh know of Mr Alfian Sa’at’s views? As the leader of the Opposition, does he agree with Alfian Sa’at’s views when he asked the Government to listen to him and called him a ‘loving critic’ of Singapore? “, Pritam Singh did a U-turn and agreed that WP continues to stand on the side of Singapore with regards to our sovereignty.