In a speech during the Punggol East by-election, which was hotly contested by 4 political parties, the sec-gen of the Workers’ Party, Mr Low Thia Khiang, spent some time addressing the issue of ‘opposition unity.’
“During this by-election, before nomination day, the Worker’s Party was accused of being arrogant and dismissive of other opposition parties who wanted to contest Punggol East, and showed no concern about opposition unity.
Tonight, I shall talk to you about the problems regarding opposition unity. (Crowd applause, beat drums)
Firstly, if the opposition parties were able to unite, Singapore today would not have so many political parties.
To register and helm a political party is not difficult. But to dig one’s heels into the ground and persevere is not that easy.
Before and after our nation’s independence, there were already many political parties. But those that have persisted to this day, and have thrived and progressed, apart from the People’s Action Party, is only the Worker’s Party! (Very loud crowd applause and cheers)
Under the political climate of PAP’s one-party dominance, for the other parties to lift their heads high and grow, is a very, very difficult thing.
I joined the Worker’s Party in 1982. It was only after close to 30 years that I managed to see a little bit of advancement made! (Crowd applause)
I’ve interacted with a lot of Worker’s Party supporters. They wish to see Singapore develop democratically. But they are often disheartened, because the opposition is often bogged down with problems. I understand their disappointment.
The opposition parties are actually very complex, with different personalities, different leaders, different approaches.
The year 1991 can be considered a big step in our nation’s democratic development. At that time, we had four opposition MPs in Parliament. The Singapore Democratic Party was the strongest party. However, later the SDP went into strife. In the 1997 election, the PAP took the opportunity to lump all the opposition parties together, and use a single bamboo stick to knock down the entire ship! (Crowd applause)
At the end, four opposition MPs was reduced to just two. After that, the strength of the opposition parties went downhill.
After the 1997 elections, the WP decided to go its own way. Later, some opposition parties formed the Singapore Democratic Alliance. The WP also decided not to join them. (Drum beats and whistles)
In Singapore, anyone can form a political party and contest elections. All political parties have different directions and ideals, they won’t necessarily have the same views and approaches to policies. On the issue of what kind of opposition party is most beneficial for Singapore, the views are also divided.
Therefore, given Singapore’s current political climate, to want all the opposition parties to form a unified force is an impossible goal.
As the saying goes, “道不同,不相為謀”.
Political parties are like people — if they have different inclinations yet you force them to be together, what would be the outcome? Not only will there not be joy, but there will be misunderstandings.
Regarding opposition unity, the fear is that eventually, not only will they be unable to advance together, but they will splinter and become fragmented.
This kind of outcome will only make the people again lose faith in the opposition and become an impediment in Singapore’s democratic progress. (Drum beats and whistles)
The Worker’s Party insists on going its own path, a difficult path that has been criticized — this is not arrogance, nor is it a disrespect to other contestants, but is instead to avoid history repeating itself, to avoid disappointing the people again, to avoid unnecessarily hurting the people! (Very loud crowd applause and cheers)
The Worker’s Party aims to be a respectable, rational political party. We place importance on each election. The trust and support of voters are always reminders to us not to let them down.”
The above was a speech delivered in Mandarin that was translated by Ng E-Jay and posted on his facebook page.