Over the weekend, The Straits Times ran an interesting interview with Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh (aptly termed “The Supper Club”). The perpetual fixation with the recent ceiling saga notwithstanding, Mr. Singh explained his views on trust and transparency in Singapore (he says “trust is a two-way street”, and the “currency of trust is transparency”), assessed the present performance of the Workers’ Party, and also shared his experiences in Parliament, as well as from his personal life.
When queried about the criticisms he has received from ministers, Mr. Singh asserted that “[i]t’s in [the ministers’] interest to identify members of the WP as somehow incompetent and not fit to be MPs”. While the statement might appear to be politically inconvenient to some, the plausibility of this proposition – in a political landscape – can hardly be denied.
Still, I thought he had constructed a straw man when he was asked about whether the National Day Rally was “a significant strategic shift”. His response that the Prime Minister should have addressed the issue of the Population White Paper (which – coincidentally – echoes the lament from Gilbert Goh of Transitioning.org, who has decided to organise a third protest in response) meant that he did not exactly articulate perspectives on the specific policy recommendations, besides the changes to MediShield Life. Furthermore, critics are also unlikely to be convinced by his justification and explanation of the plagiarism incident.
Q: You’ve spoken a lot about transparency as an MP. Why is that so important to you?
I recall then-PM Goh Chok Tong speaking of a participatory democracy in the early 1990s. This is participatory democracy in action. For democracy to work, people must know what is happening. Information and transparency from the Government are critical. Only then can the system work and only then can you build strong bonds of trust between the Government and its people.
Q: We’re almost midway through this term of government. Looking back, has the WP delivered on its promises?
On Nomination Day, (WP chairman) Sylvia Lim told the public that if we are voted in, we would serve to the best of our abilities.We want to show Singaporeans that if you vote in an opposition party, it doesn’t mean your town is going to descend into chaos.
If you compare the number of questions raised in Parliament for this 12th session to the 11th, the number of questions of public interest filed in Parliament has increased quite substantially, covering a very broad range of issues.
Do we always get straight answers from the PAP on these questions? Not necessarily.
Is there room for improvement for the WP, be it in Parliament or at the constituency level? Most definitely.
Q: What are the key areas for improvement?
My personal opinion is it’s been satisfactory. But one thing we’re looking at now is, within the town council internal audit, beyond the statutory requirements of the Town Councils Act, for example, making sure the S&CC (service and conservancy charges) dollar is spent wisely.
We’re looking at checks and balances even within our own systems apart from the yearly audit conducted by independent auditors.