It was extremely disappointing to listen to PSP Leong Mun Wai in Parliament as he sought to exploit Singaporeans’ anxieties and play up xenophobia for PSP’s own political agenda.
PSP had been against CECA since its formation
It all started when Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Dr Tan Cheng Bock brought up the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) during the launch of his party in Aug 2019, promising that PSP would hold the Government accountable for allowing Indian professionals easy access to jobs in Singapore. This strong stance against CECA continued in PSP’s manifesto during GE2020, as well as their Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) Leong Mun Wai and Hazel Poa’s persistent articulation of their party’s stand in the various Parliament Sittings.
PSP’s position on CECA, as well as the many subsequent Parliamentary questions about CECA by Mr Leong and Ms Poa, have culminated in PSP’s Parliamentary motion on FTAs and CECA on Sept 14.
What went wrong for PSP?
With the strong buildup to this debate, many have been waiting earnestly to see what PSP have in their bag, both in terms of the quality of their members (Mr Leong and Ms Poa) and their analysis of how CECA has been disadvantaging the local workforce. PSP supporters and supporters of opposition parties in general, were hoping for a showdown between the two parties. Unfortunately, it was rather disappointing.
One can summarise it into 3 major failures:
1. Failure to stand by their party motion
Everyone has expected a robust debate on CECA and finally comprehend why PSP was particularly against CECA, out of many other FTAs. What we did not expect was how Mr Leong flipped and confirmed that PSP supports FTA and CECA in general when asked. So the past 2 years of PSP’s campaign against CECA came to nothing. This was made worse by Mr Leong’s scramble to reinstate his party’s position against CECA when queried why PSP was singling out CECA in particular amongst other FTAs, and frantically brought up the party’s concerns with other US, Australia and China FTAs (which have almost never been mentioned before).
2. Failure to do their “homework”
Being familiar with your speech and knowing the inside-out of the topic which you are speaking up for in Parliament are basics that all Parliamentarians should possess. Otherwise, one would be wasting the time for not just the people in the room, but the entire Singapore, since many Singaporeans voted for these politicians to discuss important matters on their behalf. Hence, it is crucial that one avoids spending time raising questions or asking for clarifications that can be found publicly. However, it was clear that he lacked a clear understanding of CECA, or even his motion for that matter!
3. Failure to be constructive
This is perhaps the most important point. Ultimately, the point of all Parliamentary debates is to improve the lives of Singaporeans. There may be disagreements on the type of approaches that the country should take, as witnessed in many occasions between People’s Action Party (PAP) and Workers’ Party (WP), but more often than not, there was a consensus on the desired outcome. However, we have yet to catch a glimpse of how PSP could potentially bring better jobs and livelihoods for Singaporeans with their take on CECA. So far, they have been allegedly stoking racial and xenophobic sentiments with their emphasis on CECA, be it intentionally or not, and this could have serious implications on our reputation as an open economy and regional hub.
Disappointment to opposition parties and their supporters
While many Singaporeans have been calling for more diverse voices in Parliament to speak up on different matters, I’m sure that everyone are expecting quality and responsible opposition parties that aim to bring Singapore to a higher level. With an average vote share of more than 40 per cent in its maiden election, I would have expected that Mr Leong and Ms Poa would (a) stick to their Party position; (b) do their homework; and (c) try to improve the lives of Singaporeans.
Sadly, this must have been a disappointing and worrying sight for opposition supporters. If this CECA debate was an indication of PSP’s future displays, I’m afraid they face an uphill task in getting voters to trust them in the future.