SINGAPORE: It is essential to give Singaporeans a choice at the General Election as “every vote will point the Government in the direction that Singaporeans think it should take”, said Red Dot United’s chairperson Michelle Lee on Friday (Jul 3).
Speaking to 24newsreads.com on the sidelines of the NUSS Pre-General Election Forum 2020, she cited the 2011 polls – when the PAP’s vote share fell to 60.1 per cent – as a sign of how voters should be given the chance to pick between the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the opposition.
After the PAP saw its share of the popular vote fall to its lowest since independence, the Government made “baby steps” to enact changes, such as cutting the Prime Minister’s salary by 36 per cent in 2012, Ms Lee said.
However, Singapore saw “something different” in 2015, when the ruling party took advantage of its popularity, she claimed. Having emerged with a better election result – winning 69.9 per cent of the popular vote – the Government increased the prices of many things and implemented laws like the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, or POFMA.
Ms Lee was among six opposition politicians who were invited to discuss the current election and share their party’s platform. The event was moderated by former Nominated Member of Parliament Viswa Sadasivan.
All political parties were invited, but the PAP, National Solidarity Party, Peoples Voice, Singapore People’s Party and Workers’ Party either declined or did not reply, according to Mr Sadasivan.
The forum was held in collaboration with online publication Mothership.
Red Dot United, the country’s newest political party formed only in May, is competing in Jurong GRC – traditionally a PAP stronghold.
The PAP’s team is helmed by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is leading a lineup that includes Mr Tan Wu Meng, Ms Rahayu Mahzam, Mr Xie Yao Quan and Mr Shawn Huang.
In 2015, Mr Shanmugaratnam’s team garnered the largest vote share among all the constituencies with the PAP picking up 79.3 per cent of the votes.
On Friday, Ms Lee said her party was willing to step back from this election. But when it learnt that no other opposition party was gunning for Jurong GRC, it decided to join the contest.
“(The) Government talks about having a mandate. You can’t have a mandate if it’s a walkover,” the 43-year-old added.
When asked during the forum if this General Election could be considered a watershed, Ms Lee replied that participating in the contest was more of a “starting step”.
After the election, the party plans to organise events that educate people on Singapore politics, such as forums and mock Parliament sessions, she said.
Elsewhere on Friday evening, Ms Lee’s running mates were on a walkabout along Jurong West Street 52 and Lakeside MRT station.
Mr Ravi Philemon, 52, the secretary-general of Red Dot United, party members Ms Liyana Dhamirah, 33, and Mr Alec Tok, 55, interacted with residents having their dinner at coffee shops and handed out pamphlets.
Mr Nicholas Tang, 28, the fifth member on Red Dot United’s Jurong team, was with Ms Lee at the forum.
While Ms Liyana and Mr Tok were interacting with a resident, Mr Huang of the PAP – who was also on his walkabout – stopped to exchange pleasantries.
Mr Philemon told 24newsreads.com that residents have been “very, very supportive” and that has encouraged the new party.
“We were not very sure when we first started this campaign, but now we are much surer. The people here … like that we have given them an opportunity to choose. So I think we made the right choice coming here,” said the previous Progress Singapore Party member.
When asked about concerns of going up against a heavyweight like Mr Shanmugaratnam, Mr Philemon appeared unfazed.
He said: “There’s a certain (party) line that Mr Tharman cannot cross no matter how much he feels about a certain topic, like how much he feels that the social safety net should be spread”.
“We are not bound by those lines, we can advocate and push for a bigger social safety net for the people.”
Mr Ravi also felt that as a new party, Red Dot United was punching above its weight given how it has scaled up quickly and offered a good slate of candidates.
“It shows our ability to get things done,” he said.