Singapore 2025

What of Singapore towards 2025? Thoughts of a Singaporean.

Archive for April 2011

The 2011 PAP Election Manifesto: Old Wine in Old Bottles?

Picture an open, half-empty bottle of wine lying on the table for the last 30 years.

An army buddy of mine, when asked what he thought of the PAP’s 2011 manifesto, without hesitation replied, “manifesto meh? So many problem, act like everything ok!” By any measure, this was a rather unflattering remark. So I pressed him further, “what is it specifically that makes you feel that way?”  What followed was a visceral, from-the-gut response that identified the PAP’s 2011 manifesto as a document of general motherhood statements and glossy photographs possibly chosen by a top-tier public relations company making the manifesto resemble a corporate IPO brochure rather than a call to ‘secure our future together’.  I decided to test my friend’s opinion and selected one of the manifesto’s aims for scrutiny.

PAP 2011 Manifesto Promise Number 2: Improve the lives of lower-income Singaporeans

The first thought that hit me when I read the PAP 2011 manifesto was how flimsy and hollow it was on details. Broadly speaking, the “details” on how the lower-income would be assisted were as follows: Enhance incomes through Workfare, help them own homes, support their children through bursaries, strengthen the safety net for the needy, and foster the spirit of volunteerism to help the lower-income. Clearly, there was absolutely nothing new there, so the claim of the manifesto containing nothing more than motherhood statements was not going to be easy to refute, to say nothing of how it was going to “secure our future together.”

So I tried a different tack. What did the 2006 PAP election manifesto say about the lower-income? Alas, another motherhood statement: Do more for lower-income Singaporeans. Specifically, redesign old jobs and upgrade workers’ skill so they can earn more, enhance social support for families so that workers’, particularly women, can go out and work, ensure children receive a good education, give them more help to buy homes, distribute Workfare bonus to encourage and reward work, build up Comcare.

Where was the data and information on how the PAP was going to do what they claimed either in 2006 or 2011?

I was initially a little more enthusiastic about the 2011 manifesto as it boasted 30 pages compared to the 2006 manifesto that hosted just seven. Upon closer inspection, I realised half the 2011 manifesto was in Malay (not Chinese or Tamil, both of which are recognised official languages as well). Perhaps the PAP is insecure about the Malay vote this time around. Even if it was, this was a very patronising way of reaching out to the Malay community I thought to myself.

Even so, the 2006 manifesto contained 15 pictures in all the 7 pages. But the 2011 manifesto hosted 25 pictures (some of which took up the more than half the real-estate in each page!) in 15 pages. Well, clearly there was not going to be anything else to milk out of the 2011 manifesto with regard to concrete plans on assisting lower-income Singaporeans.  Or was there? I decided to go to the horse’s mouth instead.

Petir is a People’s Action Party (PAP) magazine that is published once every two months. I make it a point to read articles in Petir and jot down notes not usually captured so starkly in the mainstream media. Page 16 of the Jan/Feb 2010 edition of Petir carried an article entitled, “Labour Market Policy: Issues and Challenges” by a Teng Su Ching. Some of the data contained within made for uneasy reading.  The article revealed that in 2007, six out of ten out of a cumulative total of 235,000 jobs went to foreigners. In 2008, that ratio was up to seven out of ten of a cumulative total of 221,600 jobs.

Another noteworthy revelation was the finding that the higher educated in Singapore were increasingly finding themselves out of work in Singapore. 13.1% were out of work in 1998, rising to 18.8% in 2003, and rising yet further to 24.7% in 2008. (In the subsequent issue of Petir, MP Josephine Teo sought to put this rising figures into perspective, citing the changing profile of the Singapore workforce, of which more than 50% comprised of PMETs in 2009).

But the sobering figures did not end there. Teng’s article also revealed that the number of workers aged 50 and older who were out of a job was also on the increase. 11.8% were out of work in 1998, a figure that rose to 17.5% in 2003, before peaking at 22.4% in 2008. In light of 30-year HDB loans, and the inability of CPF savings to fund the retirement for lower income Singaporeans in particular, I would have thought these figures ought to have shocked the PAP into overhauling its goals and objectives for the lower-income Singaporeans with a view to unveiling a comprehensive master plan for the 2011 election manifesto.

Well, it turns out that the 2011 manifesto is not really a document that tells Singaporeans how we are going to secure our future together, especially when juxtaposed against the rather worrying data presented in Teng’s article. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Lim Swee Say has since come out to say that the PAP’s 2011 election manifesto is a compass that charts the course for the country. Only a week earlier, after the release of the Workers’ Party manifesto, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng urged voters to “to drill down to the details as to what exactly (the Workers’ Party) mean by their specific recommendations.”

In setting out two different standards to assess party manifestos, the PAP has revealed itself to be guilty of shifting goalposts at best, and intellectual hypocrisy at worst. And by indulging in scare-mongering to cast aspersions on the WP manifesto, the PAP has shown itself willing to engage in needless politicking for its own existence, without proposing transparent solutions to issues and problems that have crept up on Singapore under the PAP’s watch.

Motherhood statements – to say nothing of glossy pictures and eye-catching headlines – are not new to the PAP. In 1984, then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong revealed that Singapore would achieve the 1984 Swiss standard of living by the year 2000.  Sometime in 1995, then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Singapore had already achieved that objective. On the surface, DPM Lee was correct. In 1994, Singapore’s GNP was US$21,182, comparable to the Swiss GNP which stood at US$21,307. But substantively, it turned out the “Swiss standard of living” did not mean purchasing power parity of the Swiss. Nor was there an examination of the relationship between Singapore’s GNP or GDP with lower and middle-income Singaporeans.

In conclusion, the need to question the PAP on how it plans to deal with a whole range of 21st century problems affecting Singapore cannot be more pressing – cost of living, galloping HDB prices, integration of foreigners etc. – issues that have made the headlines over the last five years – all appear to have been met by a 2011 PAP election manifesto that does not differ in substance from the ones that have come before it. As far as the future of Singapore is concerned, the PAP’s 2011 election manifesto does nothing more than to reiterate the Workers’ Party conviction: Never has the need for a First World parliament to hold the PAP to higher standards of accountability and transparency, ever been so urgent.

Written by singapore 2025

22/04/2011 at 3:49 pm

The Workers’ Party: Rational, Responsible, Respectable

The Workers’ Party conducted a for-members-only seminar sometime between late last year and early 2011. A number of members of spoke up on a wide range of issues and for me, it was a useful platform to run some of my thoughts by my colleagues on how an opposition party ought to conduct itself, in light of the political environment in Singapore.


Good morning.

We are at an important juncture in the history of Singapore. Many Singaporeans acknowledge that the presence of a credible opposition is necessary for our political, social and economic well-being. An increase in the number of opposition MPs will ensure that the PAP becomes much more accountable and transparent to Singaporeans.

In May this year, the PAP amended the Parliamentary Elections Act, proudly declaring that it has paved the way to increase the number of opposition representatives in parliament by increasing the number of NCMPs. But what the PAP did not remind the public in any great detail was firstly, that NCMPs cannot vote on changes to the highest law of land – the constitution. Secondly, NCMPs cannot vote on the Supply or Supplementary Bills. Thirdly, NCMPs cannot vote on motions of no confidence in government. So lets be clear: the PAP has not done the cause of the opposition in Singapore any favour by increasing the number of NCMP seats.

But I am not here today to talk to you about the PAP and how they deny Singaporeans the prospect of real checks and balances in parliament. I am here to talk to you about something much more important,  – how should the Workers’ Party conduct itself in the context of overwhelming PAP political dominance, and a government-managed media that operates in conditions of a virtual monopoly? What can Singaporeans expect from the Workers’ Party as an opposition party, and what can Singaporeans expect of elected Workers’ Party members of parliament?

Source: SPH Collection

Many years ago David Marshall, the first Chief Minister of Singapore, former Singapore ambassador to France, and the founder of the Workers’ Party, suggested to Singaporeans how members of the opposition should behave. This is what David Marshall said:

“To play dirty, to be vicious & malicious, to be obstructive for the sake of filth, for the sake of making a point, for the sake of personal glorification or party advantage is to act criminally. The duty of an Opposition is to act with vigour in guiding & criticising with integrity the conduct of the Govt, to make heard the voices of the minority without fear.” (repeat this again).

Marshall’s words, although uttered many decades ago, continue to echo in the hearts and mind of every Workers’ Party member today. In the words of our Secretary-General, and MP for Hougang for the last 20 years, Mr Low Thia Khiang – the Workers’ Party today is committed to the 3Rs – to be a Rational, Responsible and Respectable political party on the Singapore canvas.

Rational, Responsible and Respectable. I will now speak briefly on each of these three values.

Rational – Ever since our founding in 1957, the Workers’ Party has had a very close and deep relationship with the workers of Singapore. By workers, I refer to every Singaporean who is a wage-earner, be it, a blue collar or white collar Singaporean. We are deeply concerned about rising HDB prices, an open-door policy towards foreigners at the expense of local Singaporeans, and of course the ever-widening income gap that has grown larger under the PAP’s watch. In fact, one of the central reasons why so many of us in the Workers’ Party joined this party is precisely because our concern for Singapore. We criticize the PAP and PAP policies not because we hate the PAP or that we see the PAP as the enemy, but because we are citizens of this country and we are concerned about the direction this country is headed, and the Singapore that we will leave behind for our children, friends, brothers and sisters.

When we see HDB prices rise faster than median wages, we are concerned that the prices of new flats may become unaffordable for Singaporeans. After paying off a 30-year mortgage we fear Singaporeans may not have enough in their CPF accounts for retirement, and have no choice to work well into their 70s, assuming their health allows them too.


So no one should be surprised to hear of the Workers’ Party speaking out, loudly and clearly for the working majority of Singaporeans. But by the same token, you will not hear of the Workers’ Party blindly criticizing the employers of Singapore who are a critical cog in the wheel of our country as they provide so many jobs for our workers. What we will ask of them, and never will we shirk from this duty – is to look after the welfare of our workers and hold them to this commitment. It is a well-established fact that employers who look after their employees, and who pay their employees a fair wage run very successful and productive companies.

Being a rational party entails speaking out and looking after the interests of both employers and employees, with a view to achieve economic success for Singapore. A rational party must consider the interests of both businessmen and workers, fairly and equitably. The Workers’ Party is committed to looking after all Singaporeans. It is the rational thing to do.

I will now move on to second value – Responsibility. To be responsible is perhaps best understood as an obligation to do the right thing. Responsibility is a concept we all intuitively understand. Doing the right thing very often entails making difficult decisions. In the context of a multi-racial Singapore, it is vital that our politicians remain responsible. Responsibility means we must be look beyond the reality of race and race politics. Let me use an illustration to make my point.

A few months ago, the PAP government raised the prospect of a cut in the weightage of the Chinese language at the PSLE. Now you might be asking why I, an Indian am bringing this up. I bring it up because I understood and empathized with how my Chinese friends felt at the thought of a decreased emphasis on Mandarin at the PSLE level. I know very well that language and culture are closely related. A lesser emphasis on language can have the prospective effect of weakening one’s sense of culture.

Likewise, some of my Malay and Indian friends were also concerned when the government began to seriously consider this proposal. Why were many of us that belonged to the minority races able to empathize with our Chinese friends? Because we could put ourselves in their shoes. After all, the policy that MOE was considering involved all the other examinable mother-tongue languages, Malay, Tamil, Bengali, Urdu, Gujerati, Hindi and Punjabi, so it would have affected my community too.

This emotion I felt, was similar to that of many Chinese and Indian Singaporeans, who were adamant that Mas Selamat’s actions were not reflective of Singapore’s Malay community.

Responsibility is a two way street. The Workers’ Party envisions a Singapore where all Singaporeans regardless of race look at race, religion, language and culture in a responsible manner and can understand and empathise with each others concerns.

All of us are all on board a ship called Singapore. This ship will not be prosperous if its people do not respect one another or if some sailors look after their own community’s interests while ignoring the concerns of their friends and neighbours. The Workers’ Party is committed to a path that is befitting a responsible opposition and looking after all Singaporeans, regardless of race or religion.

The third and final R that the Workers’ Party is committed to – is to be a respectable party. Like responsibility, respect is also a two way street. Again, let me explain this value with an illustration. In 2006, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, Temasek Holdings invested in a Thai telecommunications company connected to the then Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Although Temasek still holds shares in that company, it was by most assessments a very poor investment. Although there are no public figures on the size of the paper loss, it is estimated to be very large, some say, in excess of a billion dollars. Unsurprisingly, some Singaporeans wanted the Temasek’s officers involved to be sacked.

Now, how should a respectable opposition party respond to a situation like this? This is a question that does not have any easy answers. For the short-term, sacking the Temasek officers responsible would appease many people. But sometimes, it makes sense to look at the entire situation holistically and assess what is in the best interests of Singapore. We must remember that failure is sometimes a precious gift and a good teacher. It makes a person wiser. Failure has the potential of making Temasek’s officers wiser too. In case some of you think so, I am not suggesting we let Temasek off the hook.

Temasek Holdings must be expected to re-train, re-deploy and in the worst case, release its non-performers and those officers who consistently make poor investment decisions. And the PAP must reveal to Singaporeans how Temasek fairs in comparison to other sovereign wealth funds over an assessed period. If Temasek does well, then it should be commended. If it does not, then it must be accountable to Singaporeans in the name of good governance.

A respectable opposition party is ultimately a balanced and fair party. If the Workers’ Party wants to be respected it, it must respect Singaporeans first. We must and will listen to Singaporeans. We will give credit where it due, but will expect and demand openness, transparency and accountability from the government when things go wrong.

To conclude – what sort of opposition party can Singaporeans expect the Workers’ Party to be? This we commit to you: “we will not play dirty, we will not be vicious & malicious, we will not be obstructive for the sake of filth or for the sake of making a point. We are not in politics for the sake of personal glorification or party advantage and we will not act criminally. But the Worker’s Party will act with vigour in defending the rights of Singaporeans, we will criticize with integrity and we will make the voices of Singaporeans heard.  In short, you can expect a Rational, Responsible and Respectable party to take Singapore forward.

Thank you.

Written by singapore 2025

16/04/2011 at 3:45 pm

Hear no Evil? The PAP and the politics behind Minimum Wage

In January this year, I was invited by the National University of Singapore Political Association (NUSPA) to write a feature that reflected my personal views on the minimum wage in Singapore. NUSPA also extended the same invitation to the Young PAP, with PAP GE 2011 candidate, Vikram Nair penning his thoughts on the same subject. We submitted our articles in January and finally, both articles will appear this week in the NUSPA publication, “The Diplomat“, Issue 1, 2011. I understand 1000 copies have been printed for NUS students.

I would like to thank NUSPA for allowing me to re-produce my article on Singapore2025.


Source: Straits Times

One concern of many Singaporeans lies in the immediate and long-term well being of our low-income workers, and the utility of measures the government may consider to reasonably protect or even inoculate them against the vagaries of business cycles, inflation and the rising cost of living in Singapore. A separate quandary revolves around how our low-income workers can be expected to raise their children and fulfil their life aspirations in a Singapore that already hosts one of the world’s wildest income gaps between the rich and poor.

Even before parliament discussed the minimum wage in some detail on 12 Jan 2011, the PAP decided, through the mainstream media no less, that the minimum wage option was not on the cards. As far as the “debate” went, it was David against Goliath right from the outset.

On Goliath’s side, and as early as October 2010, NTUC (comprising of more than 60 affiliate unions representing 530,000 workers) Secretary-General Lim Swee Say went so far to say that minimum wage adherents were looking for an “easy way” out. The Singapore National Employers Federation (comprising 2000 members employing 600,000 workers) also weighed in with him, albeit with an intuitively powerful argument – that costs will go up and jobs lost if the minimum wage was implemented. The spirit of these arguments mirrored much of what PAP MPs repeated in parliament in January 2011.

Source: Straits Times

Source: LKY School

David, on the other hand was represented by a few wise men. All were senior, professional and respected in their own right – Ambassador-at-large and Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies Tommy Koh; Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Director, K. Kesavapany and NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy economist A/P Hui Weng Tat at various points throughout 2010 were quoted in the Straits Times urging the government to seriously consider the minimum wage for a variety of reasons. Their arguments, unsurprisingly, could not shift the PAP juggernaut, even though some were compelling and worthy of apolitical scrutiny.

Accordingly, two distinctly separate observations can be adduced from the PAP’s style of policymaking with regard to the minimum wage discourse.

Firstly, the nature of the debate over the minimum wage policy reflected the same old PAP frog-in-the-well approach to citizen feedback. Rather than see minimum wage adherents as Singaporeans that had the interests of low-income Singaporeans at heart, they were needlessly cast in pejorative light.

In 2007, on the back of the controversy over ministerial pay-hikes, MM Lee remarked that Singapore was a $4 trillion economy and that a $20 million pay hike for PAP ministers had to be “put into perspective.” Equally it can be said, many minimum wage proposers were looking to put the well being of our low-income workers, some of whom earn wages egregiously inconsistent with the cost of living in Singapore, into context of a $4 trillion economy as well. The PAP’s approach to the minimum wage debate before the issue was discussed in parliament made it obvious that Singapore is far from becoming the participatory democracy Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong had envisioned in the early 1990s when he took over as the second Prime Minister of Singapore, almost 20 years ago now.

Secondly, the minimum wage debate revealed a manifest PAP indifference at even considering the potentially positive effects of a minimum wage policy for Singapore’s low-income earners, or as an impediment against abusive wage practices.

The PAP of today fails to understand that public expectation on the quality of political discourse has increased commensurately with a more educated populace and the reality of handsomely paid politicians. Singaporeans are willing to consider the PAP’s reasons for not accepting the minimum wage proposal, but they also expect a robust debate on the matter in line with those of first-world countries.

For example, some Singaporeans have argued that a progressive introduction of the minimum wage cannot be ruled out in light of the unique constitution of the Singapore economy.  Singapore companies and/or GLCs that operate in near monopolistic or oligopolistic conditions locally, such as Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore Technologies, Singtel, SMRT, etc. have little moral gravitas to argue against the minimum wage as they rake in enviable profits whether the local economy is in recession or not. The argument becomes even more compelling when only a fraction of their workforce would be on the minimum wage. Labour-intensive SMEs and certain MNCs can potentially be assisted with a minimum wage top-up credit tied to productivity, a component of which can be conceivably drawn from gambling revenues. Clearly, there is scope for greater discussion and research on the minimum wage. Hong Kong for instance took ten years to debate the minimum wage before finally making a decision on it.

In parliament, MP for Hougang and Workers’ Party Secretary-General, Mr Low Thia Khiang proposed the formation of an advisory board to research and recommend the minimum wage for specific occupations, a reasonable proposal – one made more persuasive by a Business Times report on 11 Jan 2011 which stated that companies were “split down the middle” on whether the minimum wage would help low income workers. The article made reference to a survey conducted by the Singapore Human Resources Institute (whose President is PAP MP Mdm Ho Geok Choo), which saw 34% of the respondents believing the minimum wage would “benefit” low-income workers, with 41% “unsure”. 15% thought the minimum wage would reduce low-wage employment while 8% thought it would go up. Mr Low’s proposal was not even a call for the minimum wage, but simply a serious, neutral and apolitical enquiry into the viability of a minimum wage policy. PAP parliamentarians roundly shot down Mr Low’s proposal.

Even the Workers’ Party Secretary-General’s pragmatic call for a benchmark to monitor the progress of government strategies to uplift the lot of low-wage Singaporeans was met with abject disinterest. The reasons for this apathy in tracking PAP policies aimed at assisting low-income earning Singaporeans is perhaps best left for the PAP to ruminate over. Whatever they may be, this putative anti-accountability stance was not reminiscent of government that prides itself on being “first-world”.

No right-minded Singaporean is making a call for a minimum wage policy masquerading as a trojan horse for a welfare state. Singaporeans I have spoken to are willing to give a heavily modified version of Workfare a chance. But with economies like Hong Kong introducing the minimum wage and effectively debunking doomsday scenarios predicated by PAP parliamentarians, the prospects of an apolitical and de-politicised study into not just a minimum wage policy – but even a minimum wage policy working alongside Workfare – should not be prematurely discarded.

Pritam Singh is a member of the Workers’ Party Youth Wing.

Useful Links:

Tommy Koh weighs in –

Minimum Wage law works –

Written by singapore 2025

03/04/2011 at 3:24 pm

2 April 2011 Interview: Written Questions and Answers for the Straits Times

When and why did he join the WP? Did he join on his own or was he introduced to the WP? What were the key factors he considered before joining?

I joined the Workers’ Party on my own volition in May 2010. For the immediate term, I strongly feel Parliament must be represented by committed and responsible opposition parliamentarians in order to check the ruling party. Of all the opposition parties, I joined the Workers’ Party because it mirrored my own political beliefs and values. In addition, the level-headedness and leadership qualities exhibited by senior leaders of the party was a decisive factor in my decision to join the Workers’ Party.

How has he been involved in the party since then? How would he describe his political experiences or involvement so far?

I began participating in party level house-visits one week after I joined the party. A week later, I was selling the party newsletter, Hammer, on Sundays at markets and food courts. A large part of my party level activities in 2010 revolved around these two activities. I was elected to the Workers’ Party Youth Wing as an executive committee member in August 2010.

“Eye-opening” and enriching would be the best words to describe my political experience so far. Knocking on doors and meeting Singaporeans from all walks of life who share personal, community and municipal level concerns has been both satisfying and fulfilling. In particular, the encouragement Workers’ Party members like myself receive from some residents, encouraging us to keep up with our work in spite of the party’s resource and manpower constraints are an incredible source of motivation.

What are his reasons for standing as a candidate? How easy or difficult was the decision? Who did he consult, if any?

I put myself up as a candidate for the party’s consideration because I want to devote some part of my life to public service. Actually, the decision to join the opposition cause was a harder one to make than the decision to offer myself as a candidate to the party! Even so, the support of many of my colleagues in the party, the confidence I have in their abilities and their motivation to serve Singaporeans made the decision to stand a little less onerous than I expected it to be.

I did not consult anyone, although I did inform my family members and select close friends of my decision. It did not come as a surprise to me that my family and friends did not object, as they felt I had thought the decision through.

What are some issues or government policies that resonate most to him, and why? What would he do differently?

Generally, the key issues and government policies of concern include the rising the cost of living, income gap between the rich and poor, HDB prices and the fabric of Singapore society and its values in light of the large number of foreigners in our midst. More specifically, the educational performance of minority students at all levels is something that I worry about because of its effect on our multi-racial bonds as a nation. The poor representation of minority students awarded PSC scholarships from 2002 is a cause for concern as it suggests that minority students are not excelling at local schools.

On what I would do differently, the common thread that runs through many government policies is the relative lack of empirical data, evidence and statistical information available for public scrutiny when government policies are introduced, reviewed or modified. This lack of information makes it difficult to understand the purpose and objective of certain government policies and separately, and on what basis policy-makers come to their decisions. Critically, it also becomes difficult to measure the success or failure of government policies because of the lack of information. This could be one reason explaining the political apathy amongst some Singaporeans. It is hard for individual Singaporeans to take ownership of national problems and policies when one is not endowed with the knowledge necessary to make a positive contribution to the national discourse, or even to offer constructive criticism.

In view of this, I will endeavour to raise the standards of public accountability expected of all elected officials and seek to persuade the ruling party to become more accountable to Singaporeans.

What are his views on the group representation constituency (GRC) system?

The GRC system should be abolished. The case against it is well known – that individuals of doubtful political quality can make their way into parliament by riding on the coat tails of a stronger candidate or Minister.

For the purposes of this interview, I want to focus on the contention that the GRC system ensures the representation of minority candidates in parliament. The problem with this argument is that “weak” minority candidates can ostensibly make their way into parliament without really having the pulse of their communities and seriously working to address the unique problems these very communities face. Singapore’s political history has evinced minority candidates holding their own in single seats, with J.B. Jeyaretnam’s historic Anson victory in 1981 and 1984 a case in point. An even larger number of minority PAP candidates have done the same in the past. These are clear instances of minority candidates defeating Chinese candidates on merit and without any tinkering of the electoral system. Secondarily, there are other ways of ensuring strong minority candidates are elected into parliament, for e.g. if evidence emerges of a need, then a designated number of constituencies can be earmarked for contest by minority candidates.

What feedback or response has he received about his potential candidacy? Are there anyone in his family or circle of friends who were politically involved especially with the WP? Has he been approached or involved with the PAP?

All my friends have been largely encouraging, although confirmation of my candidacy remains in party hands. None of my immediate circle of friends are politically involved with the WP, although I am aware of some friends who have been courted by the PAP. A well-connected acquaintance once suggested to me that if I ever wanted to consider going for a PAP “tea session”, to get in touch with him. I declined the offer, stating I was not interested in joining the PAP.

Can he tell us some interesting things about himself? Like his hobbies, biggest achievement so far, biggest unfulfilled dream, CCA involvement in schools etc?

Having spent a significant part of my childhood in a HDB flat, and having gone to neighbourhood schools my whole life, I am not too different from ordinary born-and-bred Singaporeans who have completed national service and continue to fulfil their national service responsibilities as NSmen. I used to enjoy a good game of soccer, although exercise these days is limited to a casual jog three times a week as far as possible, and the occasional session in the gym. Current affairs and history remain life-long intellectual passions, although law has recently begun to inspire me in profound ways. My movies of choice are likely to be comedies or thrillers.

My biggest achievement was founding the commentary syndication service, OpinionAsia ( that provides a platform for writers on both sides of the political spectrum to comment on Asian issues. OpinionAsia’s syndicated pieces have appeared in regional newspapers like the South China Morning Post, Japan Times, Al-Eqtisadiah, Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter and Gulf News amongst others.

My biggest unfulfilled dream is to become a lawyer. I enrolled into the Singapore Management University’s Juris Doctor program in 2009 and am due to complete my substantive course requirements in the next few weeks, before being called to the Bar at the end of this year. I am certainly looking forward to make this dream a reality.

We also need his biodata as outlined below.

Name: Pritam Singh
Age: 34
Occupation: Founder,
Marital status: Single
Highest educational qualification: B.A. (NUS), M.A. (King’s College London), Diploma in Islamic Studies (IIU)
Languages spoken: English, Punjabi, Malay (basic)
Likely to be fielded in: pending confirmation

Weblink to ST article:


Prime News
GE 2011; Postgraduate law student is potential WP candidate
Zakir Hussain
797 words
2 April 2011
(c) 2011 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

Source: Straits Times

THE Workers’ Party (WP) has a potential new candidate in postgraduate law student Pritam Singh and he is keen to champion what he describes as more rigorous law-making in Singapore.

In an interview with The Straits Times during which he revealed that he is likely to contest the elections, he said that while Singapore’s executive and judiciary are First World, its legislature is lagging behind: ‘We have a very good and trustworthy judicial system… and there’s confidence in that pillar of Government.

‘We need institutions that reflect the demands of Singaporeans. Let’s move towards a First World Parliament.’

For a start, he said, there ought to be more information for the public to scrutinise when government policies are introduced or changed.

He cited as an example the Government’s decision to let in more foreigners after 2006 and the lack of information and debate on the move.

The WP’s previous manifesto, he noted, had called for a freedom of information law to require public agencies to disclose government information.

‘Until that comes along, the PAP (People’s Action Party) would be better served by being more accountable and transparent,’ he added.

Mr Singh is among what is expected to be a bumper crop of more than 20 WP candidates, many with tertiary education, who will be fielded in the upcoming polls. The WP fielded 20 candidates in 2006.

Mr Singh, 34, writes about policies and socio-political issues on his blog, Singapore 2025, which he hopes gets citizens thinking about the future they want.

While the WP continues to be tight-lipped about its candidates, the party leadership gave Mr Singh permission to be interviewed.

On why he joined the opposition, he said he was prompted by his desire to bring about more rigorous debate on the laws being passed in Singapore, to force a more accountable process.

‘The level-headedness and leadership qualities exhibited by senior leaders of the WP was a decisive factor in my decision to join the party,’ he added.

He has a training contract with a local law firm and plans to sit for the bar examination to qualify to be a lawyer. He studied history and political science at the National University of Singapore, before he received the Chevening and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas) scholarships to do a master’s in war studies at King’s College in London.

He was a research associate at Iseas from 2004 to 2007, and obtained a diploma in Islamic studies from the International Islamic University in Malaysia.

He founded Opinion Asia, a commentary syndicate focusing on Asian issues, in 2006, and in 2009 enrolled in the Singapore Management University’s Juris Doctor programme which gives mid-career professionals the chance to do a law degree. Mr Singh, who is single, lives with his lawyer father, housewife mother and his elder sister in a terrace house in Jurong.

He was elected to the executive committee of the WP youth wing in August.

Asked about criticism by some opposition members that the WP was not forceful enough and seemed happy not to be too far away from the PAP line, he said: ‘If Singaporeans think we are too close to the PAP, I would recommend they look at the speeches secretary-general Low Thia Khiang and chairman Sylvia Lim have made in Parliament.’

Mr Low has been MP for Hougang since 1991 and Ms Lim is a Non-Constituency MP who led the WP team in Aljunied GRC in the 2006 polls.

Mr Singh added: ‘We have to play by the rules the PAP has set until we get into Parliament and convince the PAP to change or modify the system and certain policies Singaporeans disagree with.’

Among the issues close to his heart is the educational performance of minority students and its effect on Singapore’s multi-racial bonds.

Singaporeans, he said, expect good, strong candidates from the opposition and from the PAP, but the latter has a much broader choice of individuals.

‘In the opposition, we don’t have many people coming forward compared to the PAP… and if a party can attract strong candidates who can connect with average Singaporeans, maybe they are the ones you want to consider voting for.

‘We are determined that ours are candidates the WP and Singaporeans can be proud of,’ he added.


Written by singapore 2025

02/04/2011 at 3:24 am

%d bloggers like this: