Two misconceptions about the Workers Party

When the Worker’s Party canvases for votes, they’re quite likely to repeat two points:

  1. “We need more time to build a credible opposition” 
  2. They want to preserve opposition to “keep government in check” and do not have ambitions to actually govern

These two points appear very strongly in one of their MP’s, Yee Jenn Jong’s, latest FB page. He said:

“Given the way the alternatives have been squashed since independence, it will take time to build up and eventually offer an alternative strong stable government. It is still a journey in the making and I believe we are stronger today than when I joined at the start of the decade.”

But I’d like to point out that these two points are clouded in myth and error. 

1. The Workers Party does not need “more time”. 

WP was formed in 1957, before independence. They have had all the time in the world to build up this credible opposition. How much more time do they need? In this same period of time, Singapore has gone from a sleepy, inactive and broke country and has built itself into an internationally renowned powerhouse that commands the attention of even the biggest nations in the world. 

In this time frame, the PAP built a nation. The Workers Party could not even build a credible party or manage the finance of a Town Council.

The best person to describe the significant development of the PAP is none other than David Marshall, founder of the Workers Party. 

In an interview, he praised the PAP government for the speed and determination in doing things:

“I started this business of building homes for our people. Compare the puny work I achieved and the fantastic HDB homes that are available today for our people. I am deeply impressed and I take off my hat to this very able honest government. Dedicated!”

“When I was Chief Minister, there were men dying of starvation and because of ‘beri-beri’. I took my PA [personal assistant] and an Inspector of Police for night at midnight. For two hours, we toured Singapore and we estimated there were two ten thousand men sleeping on the pavements. No homes. Today – no unemployment, no homeless.”

So really – it is not so much time. What the Workers Party needs is discipline, selflessness and the ability to work together as a team. 

2. Yee says that “alternative (parties) have been squashed since independence”. 

This point calls out to the reader for clarification. Firstly, it would be too convenient to blame the failure of alternative parties on “squashing”.

Many of these political parties failed because of their own ineptness. Their own actions (or failure to act). Ask any Singaporean and they’ll almost always tell you that “I want to vote for the opposition, but really the quality of our opposition is horrible!” 

Also, it is important to point this out – that Singapore has a very high citizen to active political party ratio.

For a country this small, how many political parties do we really need? 

Have a look at this data:

Country Number of Active Political Parties Population Size
Singapore 12 3.5 million
Malaysia 35 32.6 million
Indonesia 20 264 million
Taiwan 20 23 million

One party in Singapore serves 291k Singaporeans! As compared to Malaysia where one party has to serve some 855k people.

The market is just too saturated. 

I’d like to point out one analogy: housing agents. Prior to 2010, there was a huge number of property agents. This was due to the property boom. Without an authority and few regulations, agents created a bad name for themselves. When the Council of Estate Agents was setup, they enforced professionalism and consequently, the number of agents fell

That’s the same with the political parties – there’s no squashing going on. If parties cannot meet basic professionalism, they have to die a natural death. 

Yee Jenn Jong cannot blame (the lack of) time and authorities for the failure of weak political parties. The opposition has to reflect on themselves internally and pull themselves together. Otherwise, it would just make perfect sense and logic to continue voting the strongest and effective party to run our country.

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