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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Singapore Bi-Election 2012 for Hougang

Calculated move to sabotage WP candidate: Low Thia Khiang

By Elizabeth Soh | Yahoo! Newsroom – 23 May 2012

Worker’s Party Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang has condemned the leak of the party’s extraordinary meeting minutes as a “weak attempt at the discrediting the WP”.

Speaking at Tuesday night’s rally at Hougang Central, Low sought to set the record straight on Hougang candidate Png Eng Huat – whose intentions surrounding the non-constituency Member of Parliament scheme were called into question when the minutes were leaked.

The minutes showed that Png had indeed been in the running to become an NCMP despite his earlier claims to the media that he had not been involved in the internal party ballot post the May elections last year.

“Personal preference had to be set aside,” said Low, explaining that he had entered Png’s name into the ballot box despite knowing that he had not wanted to become an NCMP. “Whether a candidate personally wanted to be an NCMP or not, the decision is not his. This is how I believe a collective leadership should function in a political party.”

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had earlier questioned WP’s decision not to field Png for the NCMP post last May and if he was indeed the best man for Hougang. He also raised “ issues of honesty and being upfront” when Png admitted he had not physically “taken his name out of the ballot” as previously claimed. Png later clarified that while he voiced his stand against the NCMP scheme to Low and other party members, he "went through the motions" as part of a standard selection procedure.

Condemning the release of the leaked minutes online as a “calculated move” made to sabotage Png and his campaign in Hougang, Low invited members of the public to view the minutes, saying that it ”shows that the WP functions in a fair and transparent manner where decisions are made collectively.”

He then appealed to voters not to be distracted by the speculation and endorsed Png again to cheers from the crowd, calling him “a man of integrity”.

Tuesday’s WP rally saw a turnout of an estimated 15,000 people despite heavy rain which poured down on the open field midway through the rally. Spirits were clearly not dampened as hundreds of WP’s signature blue umbrellas were opened. Those without shelter headed to nearby HDB blocks to continue listening.

All key members of the Party had their say during the three-hour rally, with the first half of the speakers focusing on key national issues like housing, education and transport.

Things got heated when WP’s Gerald Giam took to the stage to shoot down PAP MP Denise Phua’s argument that there were enough independent voices within the PAP for the party to keep itself in check.

He pointed out that while PAP’s MPs may have made “grand speeches” against the building of the two casinos during debate in Parliament, they were still made to toe the party’s line when it came to the final decision making process. He added that opposition MPs, on the other hand, had the power to turn their dissent into action by voting in line with their principles.

“PAP will do everything in its power to block (opposition) … they fear the day they cannot ram through Parliament,” said NCMP Giam.

Aljunied MP Pritam Singh also spoke in the same vein, levying accusations against the PAP of “punishing Hougang for voting opposition... since 1991.”

He said that 26 community sites, including street soccer courts, in well-located areas in his ward of Eunos were made off limits for WP’s use, which “severely curbed” their efforts to organize community activities.

“WP cannot use these 26 sites but PAP can,” said Singh, whose suggestion to DPM Teo to “look into his heart of hearts” to reflect on his treatment of Hougang’s residents was met with loud boos from a worked-up crowd.

The loudest cheers of the night were saved for WP Chairman Sylvia Lim, affectionately referred to as “Ah Lian” by the crowds.

She spoke of WP’s struggle to improve the quality of its residents’ living despite being pushed to the back of the queue for most upgrading programmes. According to Lim, 33 covered link ways paid for using S$1.5 million of the Town Council’s own funds were built for its residents, and a path cutting through state land made to make the residents’ route more convenient was still being paid for out of the Council’s own pockets.

Png was the last to address the rally, and focused on his promises for Hougang residents, including plans to designate two housing clusters for upgrading and another 15 blocks for home improvement.

He also said that 34 blocks, which have been suffering from roof leakage, will be re-roofed and re-decorated.

The entire WP line-up, drenched by the downpour, then stood up and bowed before Low addressed the crowd.

“Worker’s Party is here for you, rain or shine,” he said

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