Assistant Professor Walid Jumblatt Abdullah of Nanyang Technological University spoke to then MP-elect Gerald Giam on 28 July 2020, a few weeks after GE2020, as part of his ‘Teh Tarik with Walid’ interview series. The video and transcript are found below.
Walid Abdullah: Today we will be discussing the election. Obviously, so if the last session with Professor Yaacob we discussed from a particular PAP perspective, I won’t say is the entire PAP perspective because ultimately each individual politician is different and they have their own ideas and interpretations of any given event. So if the previous time we had that interpretation from a senior PAP member, a retired parliamentarian, but still a party member, today, we will have the interpretation from a winner of the election, or one of the winners from the opposition party and hopefully it will be an interesting interpretation as well. Hi, Mr. Gerald Giam, how are you?
Gerald Giam: Hello, how are you?
Walid Abdullah: Hi, I’m good. I’m good. So, welcome to Instagram life. Is this your first?
Gerald Giam: This is my first. Yes, very much so. Thank you for being my first live show.
Walid Abdullah: Thank you. So let me introduce Mr… Can I call you Gerald or…?
Gerald Giam: Please call me Gerald.
Walid Abdullah: Okay, so let me introduce MP elect Mr. Gerald Giam. So Gerald, I don’t know really know Gerald personally, but we’ve met here and there before and we’ve corresponded via email before. And in fact, the first time I met him was in 2011, when he was on the campaign trail, because I was an East Coast voter, and I was extremely impressed by Gerald. And at that time, I told him, he would be getting my vote in 2011.
Gerald Giam: For the nomination centre at East Coast?
Walid Abdullah: I think it was, I think.
Gerald Giam: Yeah, I think I remember that.
Walid Abdullah: Was it at Bedok View Secondary, probably?
Gerald Giam: Yes, yes.
Walid Abdullah: Yeah. So, and that was in 2011. Of course, and the way I approach elections is every year my vote is up for grabs, because the moment I believe voters pledge their vote to a party unconditionally, that’s when they lose, the voters lose their own relevance.
Gerald Giam: So you’re the archetype swing voter that all the parties want to woo.
Walid Abdullah: Yes, correct. And I actually think every voter should be a swing voter. Yeah.
Gerald Giam: It keeps the parties on their toes, for sure.
Walid Abdullah: Yes, exactly. So, in general, of course, he was in that election, he became an NCMP, after that after 2011, and one of the younger NCMPs and he did very well in Parliament, well enough for him to be recognized nationally, and now he is MP elect after having been elected through Aljunied GRC. So, welcome again.
So let me let me ask the first question, Gerald, and I just wanted to say that the Workers’ Party represents not just the voters of Aljunied and Hougang and Sengkang. Essentially the Workers’ Party represents the entire non-PAP voting bloc, so about 40% of Singapore because those who voted for NSP in Tampines probably would vote for WP. Most definitely would vote for WP. But those who voted for WP probably would not necessarily vote for NSP for instance. Right? So—
Gerald Giam: We hope to be able to, now that many of us are in Parliament, we really hope to be able to represent all Singaporeans, not just the opposition.
Walid Abdullah: Right. Okay. Okay. Now, that’s a good point. So, the question I wanted to ask is, if you know, those 40% of Singaporeans were extremely elated and happy on the night of polling day. And it felt, they felt like they there was a huge victory, it was a sensational victory for the 40% of Singaporeans. With that in mind, bearing in mind that you were carrying the aspirations of 40% of Singaporeans who were delighted and elated, my first question to you is why did you and Pritam look like you guys were attending a funeral on the night of polling day? Why were you not happy at all and you look so somber and sad, when you guys just pulled off one of the greatest victories in-, hell definitely the greatest victory in opposition electoral history.
Gerald Giam: No, I mean, I just, it’s the first time actually someone asked me why we looked sombre because we were definitely happy. It was very late. At night, it was 3am in the morning, and the results came out. So understandably, all of us are quite tired. But we were happy. But at the same time, we are also very, very, very aware of the gargantuan times that will pass ahead of us. And we know that expectations of the people will be very high. And we know that bit of responsibility as well is very heavy. And we also will, will be very much aware that-, of the many minefields that could possibly be ahead of us as well. So I don’t think there was any… There was happiness that that we managed to achieve what we set out to do, and perhaps exceeded in some ways, but I think that awareness that we have a lot of responsibility that lies ahead, so that’s a lot of work that needs to be done.
Walid Abdullah: Right. What are the minefields that you were talking about, that you were referring to?
Gerald Giam: Well, I mean, these are sometimes unknown unknowns, right? Because- But what we do know looking back the past nine years or so, that you have seen the things like what happened with the town council and the controversies that arose from that and, and many small issues that may not have made it so much the press or may not have been publicized so much, but it is a very difficult task sometimes to operate in, as the opposition in Singapore obviously, and there are many things that would be smooth for the government MPs, but would be rather difficult for the opposition MPs. So I think that’s, that’s—it’s an awareness of what lies ahead. And it doesn’t mean that it cannot be overcome. And we definitely intend to overcome all those, all those hurdles, but it just means that it’s not going to smooth, a smooth ride for sure.
Walid Abdullah: So you’re referring to things like town council management and so on.
Gerald Giam: That’s one thing, that’s one thing that could be… I mean, that might have been one minefield, and in the past nine years, that there could be other fronts that our opponents might open up or we might inadvertently step on. So it’s something that we have to be very aware of, we have to look left and look right before we cross the road.
Walid Abdullah: Okay, okay. So that probably would not be the same for PAP MPs, you presume?
Gerald Giam:Well, they are of course—they have their own challenges that they had to deal with. But there are definitely some things which they would be, in a way easier for them to to navigate, especially for example, dealing with certain government agencies. And so I think it’s just something that we have learned to also navigate along the way these past years and I’ll definitely be, as a new town councillor and as a new MP, I’m definitely learning from my seniors on how they managed to navigate all these hurdles.
Walid Abdullah: All right, okay. So thanks for that. So as I—as was said earlier, this was a—it was a sensational night for the WP and there were many things that your party did, right? And I wrote a list and I wanted to see whether I covered all bases so I mean, WP’s general approach as a moderate and responsible opposition has obviously worked, that’s one of its strengths Good marketing. You guys do, did super videos. Good slogan, no blank check and make your vote count. Very simple, very effective. The debate performance by Jamus was strong and catapulted him to super stardom, Pritam’s own leadership, especially his handling of the Raeesah Khan incident and credible candidates, especially credible minority candidates, which often have been the Achilles heel of opposition parties. Did I miss out on anything? Is there any insights that you can give us? Are there any insights that you can give us from someone from within the party?
Gerald Giam: Okay, I mean, we didn’t, we actually didn’t have a marketing plan, to be candid about that. Okay, most of the videos I see were done by party members and volunteers, who really wanted to do it because they had a passion to see advancement and wanted to see democracy advance in Singapore. And so I think that that passion, sometime will probably came up in many other videos. And in many of the shows that we did, because really, we were just speaking what was in our hearts and expressing what we had always believed in ourselves. So it wasn’t something that we just cobbled together just for the election, just so that we will put on a good show for people. But I think the strength and what we were able to do came out because it is something that we really believe in, all the other points in our manifesto or the approach that we took, even if you come down to things like the moderate approach to politics that we take to politics, wanting to find a middle ground to ensure that we are able to, to marry the both sides together and to be able to find policies which would benefit the largest proportion of Singaporeans. I think those are the general approaches that all our candidates and members all believe in themselves. So I think it just came out during the election and I I’m glad the voters were able to see us for what we were.
Walid Abdullah: Okay, so you’re saying that the sincerity of the candidates, it came through and voters saw that.
Gerald Giam: I think that you saw in the candidates was what they are. So there wasn’t any attempt to, to paper over anything or embellish anything.
Walid Abdullah: Okay, okay. Excellent. So, so clearly there were many things that you did right. So what were the things that you didn’t do right? So for instance, as someone who grew up in Simei, and my parents still live in Simei, I mean, East Coast is obviously… It wasn’t just as a person who lived in Simei, but most Singaporeans were well, looking at East Coast as well. So would you say you were by the PAP on nomination day when DPM Heng appeared in East Coast?
Gerald Giam: Well, I think it’s a maybe outmaneuvered might be apt to use but I don’t think we could have done anything about that. Because the PAP has many more chess pieces to play, it’s not, we don’t have an equal number of chess pieces, and they have many more queens and and rooks to play with, to be able to checkmate. So it’s not so much a matter of, we neglected certain things, and that’s what happened. But I think having said that, I think our East Coast team did a really commendable job to be able to get such a good percentage against the Deputy Prime Minister and the future Prime Minister. So I think it’s both credit to the team over that coast, and as well as the rest of the volunteers who really worked their heart, their hearts out to to really get the best result that they could over there.
Walid Abdullah: Right, and I was also thinking—but this is hindsight, of course, right? Aljunied, in Aljunied you got 60% of the votes. So it was quite a comfortable victory. And if let’s say you had stayed in East Coast, and Leon had stayed in East Coast, and then two of the East Coast team members went to Aljunied instead and probably you guys would still have retained East Coast. And I’m just thinking about this. Gerald Giam, former NCMP, Leon Perera, former NCMP, Terrence Tan, also somebody who is quite credible and known. Abdul Shariff, and of course, the incomparable Nicole Seah, five in East Coast, and we could probably be looking at DPM Chan Chun Sing.
Gerald Giam: I see what you mean. Right. I think it definitely is hindsight and it’s- the election result is something that I don’t think anybody could really have anticipated. And there are so many, so many sort of ‘sub’ results within the result that was surprising to, to all of us. And I think definitely the result that the East Coast team managed to garner against such a strong opponent was, was quite inspiring and was quite quite surprising as well, that they managed to get such a good result. So I’m not sure if if we packed all our former NCMPs into East Coast, it might have made much of a difference. I’ve had a great team over there, as it was, definitely with all the members that you mentioned this now. I think is really is hindsight but I think that the result was what Singaporeans really wanted, and so we have to respect that.
Walid Abdullah: Right so you don’t think if you and Leon were there, it would have made a difference? This is not about the credibility of the candidates, but a lot of politics is also about name recognition.
Gerald Giam: Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s also also important for us to ensure that we defended Aljunied. Because I mean, you. You might have heard during the campaign that we had mentioned that there was a risk of an opposition wipe-out. And that wasn’t just, that wasn’t just rhetoric. It wasn’t just an empty threat. It was really something that… there was a real risk of that happening. So if we didn’t properly defend Aljunied, if we were complacent about it, and we just left our backs open. We might have ended up having no opposition in Parliament so it could have swung either way. I think it’s important for us to ensure that that the opposition flame does stay alive. And fortunately, we had really good candidates to be able to put into East Coast as well. So I think that’s what happened.
Walid Abdullah: All right. So is it fair to say retaining Aljunied was the utmost priority for the WP?
Gerald Giam: It was a very, very important priority, because if we didn’t have Aljunied, we didn’t have Hougang, then there’s nothing left. So what happens to the opposition movement for the next 20 years if we are wiped out from parliament? Let’s saw what happened in the 1960s, when the opposition… We don’t want to have, we don’t want to see a repeat of that. Because it sets not just the opposition movement back for many years, but it sets Singapore back.
Walid Abdullah: Right, okay. Okay. Thank you so much. So, let’s move on to electoral innovations right, which are somewhat unique to Singapore. And I think you are the perfect person to talk to about this. So the NCMPs ,so A=as I understand it, you, in principle, are opposed to the NCMP right?
Gerald Giam: We are—we don’t we don’t think the NCMPs are necessary. Yeah.
Walid Abdullah: Right. Okay, so why does WP oppose the NCMP when clearly the biggest beneficiaries±—why do you still oppose the NCMP scheme because clearly the biggest beneficiaries of the NCMP scheme is your party, people like yourself and Miss Sylvia Lim and Mr. Leon Pereira have clearly benefited from the scheme. And also, your concerns about dissuading the scheme, dissuading voters from voting for the opposition clearly have not panned out. So why, why is the WP still against the NCMP scheme in principle?
Gerald Giam: Yeah, well, I think I will flip it around the other way. I’ll say that we have made electoral progress despite the NCMP scheme, not because we are fantastic but really because the NCMP scheme has a potentially insidious effect of lulling people into thinking that they can have opposition MPs without voting for the opposition. I think that’s the most dangerous mindset or fear that we have, that the electorate might have. And although the results sort of indicate that that many, many voters did not think that way, the fact that the PAP was campaigning quite heavily on the idea of NCMPs and there’s no need to vote for the opposition, I think they have clearly done their research, actually done their surveys and have clearly concluded that nothing that could sway, swing voters at least into voting for the government because they think that they will be adequately represented in, in Parliament by NCMPs, and all the innovations that the government did just in the last term. Making, giving full voting rights.
Although it doesn’t make a dime of difference, actually, in terms of the power of the NCMPs or the influence of the NCMPs, it clearly kind of tells the voters that, hey, by not voting for them you can still get your cake and eat it too. And that clearly is not, that’s clearly not the case for Singapore. And that’s something that we had to expend a lot of time trying to explain to people that that wasn’t the case. So I think I wouldn’t say that we have been the beneficiary of this. But despite the scheme being there, I think we’ve still made some progress and really all credit goes to the voters especially in Aljunied, Sengkang and Hougang, who have decided that they want to see an elected opposition.
Walid Abdullah: So, you’re right that the PAP campaigned on that. And it was clear that that was going to be one of the main selling points in their campaign. But it didn’t work right. So, so now you would be more receptive or you would be more accepting of the NCMP scheme, knowing that Singaporeans do not buy that, and yet there is a fallback for opposition MPs.
Gerald Giam: Yeah, well, I wouldn’t say it didn’t work. We didn’t manage to sit all 12 seats. We still only had 10 seats. And the PSP was not able to get over 2 or 3% more to get elected into parliament and they have to settle for the NCMPs as well. So I wouldn’t say it didn’t work for the PAP and clearly, not all the voters in West Coast and the other competitive constituencies felt that they wanted elected opposition MPs in Parliament.
Walid Abdullah: Okay, Okay, thanks. Thanks for that, especially as a former NCMP yourself, I think you are quite qualified to give a take on that. What about the GRCs? You are opposed to that as well in principle?
Gerald Giam: We feel that the GRCs are inherently… it does, it favors the the ruling party in many ways. They have the upper hand in terms of resources. And I mean, it’s something that we have opposed from the beginning. But it’s not something that we oppose to the point where we do not particiipate in GRCs and elections, where we don’t contest in GRCs because that would be a bit silly for us to do. So it’s something that we have learned to live with and we’ve learnt to accommodate to but I think the purpose of the GRCs that was mentioned earlier on, was to introduce, to ensure minority representation in parliament. And I think that’s a lot. That’s a worthy goal to be working towards and to ensure that that all voices are represented from all communities. So that’s very important for us. But I don’t think the GRC system itself is the only way to ensure there is adequate minority representation.
And clearly, a lot of the responsibility lies with both the political parties who are the ones who are fielding the candidates, and the voters who are choosing the candidates to be elected to parliament. And I think you have seen from this election that you know, you have, you have minority candidates were contested in SMCs, and won. That’s Bukit Batok. You have minority candidates, minority opposition candidates have contested in GRCs against incumbent Chinese candidates and got very close to winning that happened in Bukit Panjang with Paul Tambyah. So clearly there is a desire for, there is among- there is an acceptance among the electorate that they will not just vote along racial lines. And of course, in Aljunied, we had three candidates out of five who were minorities. So it’s not to say we had the highest percentage in terms of the opposition vote. So it’s not the case that minorities cannot be competitive against, against majority candidates. And I think that, again, a lot of credit goes to Singaporeans for being that open minded and, and realizing that we are living in a multiracial society, and we do need to be able to, we do need to choose the best person. I don’t think the voters were really choosing based on race. They were choosing based on who they felt was best able to represent them.
Walid Abdullah: Okay, so I don’t know whether everyone knows this but Gerald is a unique MP in the upcoming Parliament because he’s the only male Chinese who’s a minority in his GRC, alright?
Gerald Giam: I never thought of it that way.
Walid Abdullah: So Ms Sylvia is also a minority, so she’s the only female minority in her GRC team—
Gerald Giam: We’re all minorities in some ways.
Walid Abdullah: So once in a while you get to feel how the minorities feel in Singapore. But yeah, so I want to push you a little bit on that. If that’s the case, how would you guarantee minority representation without the GRCs?
Gerald Giam: I think that really in the first place, if you’re saying we want to guarantee, then that would that will take away the mandate that the minorities have as well because if you’re saying that if a certain candidate got in purely on the basis of a certain guarantee that they have, that they will be elected, then where’s the legitimacy, where’s all the electoral legitimacy in that and I think it’s very important that all minority candidates or any candidate for that matter, has the electoral legitimacy and that people see that they got elected based on their own strengths and their own visions and values that they wanted to, to explain in parliament and share with parliament. So I don’t think we necessarily should… expect that there’s a guarantee of being elected.
But having said that, I think as I mentioned earlier on, really, it comes down to the parties, ensuring that they have that few candidates, the few good candidates who are one minorities and they ensure that they actively go out to search for candidates and be an inclusive party, so that minorities to feel safe and feel comfortable joining the party and running under that ticket. And at the same time, I think we need to educate our electorate, and especially the young ones against race, as a marker for who they’re going to vote for. I think this has, if you look at many other countries in the world, this has been the bane for law, the country’s parties and politics is centered around different races and different tribes. I mean, that’s… it’s a very unfortunate road to be down on and something we want to avoid with everything that we have. So I think we have to ensure that the parties continue to, to field good candidates who are from all the different races in the country.
Walid Abdullah: I think that’s a fair comment, and I think there definitely is the worry of that happening, right? If minorities are elected through GRCs. For instance, if anyone who’s with SM Tharman would get elected, that’s just how it is like, I could run tomorrow in Jurong alongside SM Tharman, and I would be an MP, right.
Gerald Giam: Actually I’m sure you could run on your own and win.
Walid Abdullah: Thank you. Yeah, but I would be guaranteed a victory with SM Tharman. So, there is that worry about riding on the coattails effect and your legitimacy, as you rightly pointed out is affected. But on the other hand, there is also- so there is a trade off between meritocracy and representation. I think, on the other hand, my worry is if racial stereotypes exist and if they are pernicious, and we associate certain traits with certain races, race may not be the only factor in voting, but it may be a factor in voting and without adequate institutions to guarantee minority representation, it may not happen as in.. I was just wondering if you wanted to react to that sentiment.
Gerald Giam: I think what you have said is… I’ve heard that argument before and hypothetically, yes, you might be, you might be correct. But I don’t… I think the studies have also shown and there have been surveys done on, where they asked voters, would you choose this person who is this race over this person who this other race and then they, they have indicated they will prefer their own race, but then when they present the actual person, for example, SM Tharman it clearly, the individual, it beats the other person hands down. So I think when you say that everything else being equal, of course, people want to vote for someone who looks like them, and talks like them. But if you present many other factors in front of them, those- the issues of race, especially in Singapore, I think go much further down the priority list. So, in turn, I think your follow up question would then be, is this influence of race enough to tip the scales? Right, in terms of an equal scale?
That’s hypothetical also. I think, if we have clearly a good candidate, and usually, I mean, if you look at all the constituencies that have been contested, very often is quite clear who is the better candidate, and I think both Singaporeans can see it. And it’s not going to be down to just everything else being equal now, just down to the race. I don’t think in real life it works out that way.
Walid Abdullah: Okay, okay, fair enough. I think that’s a comprehensive answer. Thank you so much for that Gerald. So the next, the future of the opposition. So we just found out something about the role of the leader of the opposition. So what are your preliminary thoughts or reactions to that? What does the position of the Leader of the Opposition does for opposition politics in Singapore?
Gerald Giam: Yeah, I mean, I was—it’s something that I never thought about until the night of the election. When Pritam actually shared with me that he was—he just received a call from PM and then he was told about this position of Leader of the Opposition. So it’s definitely something very new for all of us in Singapore. There has been mention before, the unofficial Leader of the Opposition, but we didn’t follow through with that. We didn’t accept that position. And this issue of the official Leader of the Opposition is something that’s new to Singapore. It’s not something that’s new in other Commonwealth countries. And so clearly, we have no precedents to go by in Singapore, since the role is so new. And it’s not even defined in our Constitution and our standing orders. So I think it’s clear that both PM Lee as well as Pritam are very aware that the rules and practices that they establish now will set the precedent for future leaders of the opposition, and really the very nature of our parliamentary system. So I think both sides will need to, to really think through the steps very carefully and realize that it’s not just for the current term that we are building for but for many, many terms in the future, even when, when the current Leader of the Opposition and the current Prime Minister are no longer in the picture, the practices that we set now set the precedents for the future.
Walid Abdullah: Okay, okay, thank you for that. And I think that is a space we have to continue watching because it’s very new. And we do not know how it will really develop in practice. So I wanted to ask two questions. And the next two questions, they can be contradictory. So on one hand, so the first question is, on one hand, there are some people who say that the Workers’ Party has abandoned the party’s core base, which is the working class, especially the traditional Chinese speaking base, and this was most evident in the party not sending a debate, erm, candidate to the Chinese debate, and you can see that and these people, some of them are prominently claiming that the Workers’ Party is moving left. And you see this in the fielding of ‘woke’ candidates right and especially with Raeesah, which I would say is the first truly ‘woke’ candidate. So what are your comments on that? The Workers’ Party, abandoning its core base?
Gerald Giam: Yeah, no, I think I would say that, I don’t think that’s happening. The working class in Singapore and all working Singaporeans, as our name, our party name, it is still our core focus, whether they found the base or not. I think that’s definitely for the voters themselves to decide. But we are still very much a party that’s focused on bread-and-butter issues, ensuring that we are looking after he lower income and ensuring that those who are less advantaged in our society are given the support that they need to level up with the rest of society. So this is, this comes through in almost everything that we do. From our Manifesto, all our proposals in our manifesto to what we say in Parliament. It all reflects the ethos that those who are less able and less strong in our society are given the support that they need. So that remains the core of what Worker’s Party does and that will continue to remain, what we focus on. Of course, our society has changed over the years and has in many ways.
So, we also have to ensure that we look after the concerns of the groups of Singaporeans. For example, in the past, the focus was really on the lowest, lowest income Singaporeans and those who are more in poverty. But now we see a lot of our residents who may be middle income and the lower middle income but they are facing lots of challenges because they are sandwiched, they don’t have the highest salaries that many of the richer Singaporeans have, helping the elderly parents, they are supporting their children. So this might actually be a group of Singaporeans that we actually need to pay more attention to because they don’t qualify for a lot of the subsidies that that lower income Singaporeans do, but yet they are still struggling. And so we have to we have to be aware that demographics, our economy has changed over the years, and we cannot just be focused on lowest income Singaporeans. And so, but whether that means that we have abandoned our core base, no, I don’t think so. They are, they’re still very much focused on ensuring that the lower and middle income Singaporean, I’ll be able to strive in Singapore.
Walid Abdullah: Right. And also, I guess, the definition of the working class or the middle income changes over time as well. Right? Right. Yeah, so there was a comment and I completely agree with this. It’s, it’s inaccurate to say that ‘woke’ issues are not bread-and-butter issues. Often we talk about it as if there’s a dichotomy, but inequality is very much a bread-and-butter issue. Right? And usually people who are more ‘woke’, they tend to care about this, not the others. So it’s the second question—
Gerald Giam: I just want to comment on that. I completely agree with you that certain issues which are associated with being liberal and all that, are not necessarily non bread-and-butter but I mean, for example, things like discrimination laws, you know, this is something that we had, we advocated in our manifesto and we realised that, that there is a basis for introducing some laws like that because there are many minorities who face discrimination when they apply for jobs. And we need to ensure that this kind of discrimination does not get institutionalised. And does not, does not get perpetuated. And we, we ensure that everybody feels that they have a fair chance at being able to advance themselves in society. So we do have to pay attention to those issues and I consider those bread-and-butter issues. On whether or not you were right, if that’s classified under ‘woke’ issues, whether it’s gender equality, whether it’s racial equality, I think those things are all things that we have to really focus moving forward.
Walid Abdullah: Right. Okay, so then, so there’s that strand of critic, of criticism against the Workers Party. Then there’s another one where people feel that, especially opposition supporters, feel that the WP is not left enough. It is too conservative. It is too moderate and doesn’t go against the grain, and this is reflected in things like section 377A or LGBT issues or just a general philosophy in terms of opposing the PAP. What are your comments on that?
Gerald Giam: Well I think, I don’t know how much of this is seeded by our opponents themselves, because there was this accusation of us being PAP-lite and are just one step to the left, and all that. So I would take some of those criticisms with a pinch of salt. At the same time, I think it comes back down to what our values are as party members and as a party, what we want to push for. And really it comes down to the livelihoods of Singaporeans, how does a certain policy improve the lives of ordinary Singaporeans. If it’s an issue that’s so existential or an issue which is so far out, that maybe would appeal to a very small group of people but doesn’t really affect the livelihoods of a majority of Singaporeans, I think, maybe those might be big issues and it’s not something to be ignored, but we have to concentrate our limited resources, energies and time on issues that clearly matter to a majority of Singaporeans.
Walid Abdullah: Okay, so you are saying that you deny the characterisation that you are PAP-lite?
Gerald Giam: I missed your question.
Walid Abdullah: Ah, so do you deny the characterisation that you are PAP-lite?
Gerald Giam: Oh, I don’t think we are, I think our policies are clearly quite different from the PAP in many ways. But it doesn’t mean that we are different that means we go against everything by default, we come up with our own policies based on what we think is best for the country. If it happens to agree with what the PAP’s current policies are, then we will support the government. If not, if we think there’s a better way, then we say it. So we’ll come up with proposal schemes like the Redundancy Insurance Scheme. And the PAP first… they said it wasn’t very necessary. But then that was then, and then COVID-19 hit us, the crisis hit us, if only we had done that earlier on we would be in a better position to be able to fund, to have this automatic stabilizer for those people who are out of a job or going to be out of a job. So I think we’ve done what we can to put forward the proposals that we think are best for the country, based on our own research, based on our understanding on the ground. And it’s down to Singaporeans to decide which policies are better for Singapore, and they don’t have to choose us or the PAP only, they can have a blend of what they feel is best for the country. That’s how the society progresses. I don’t think we’re saying that our way is the only way or that I think the PAP’s way is the only way so have to get a blend of what’s best for the country.
Walid Abdullah: Right, okay, thanks for that. I just want to hold up a bit, don’t you think that Dr. Balakrishnan said that, he actually legitimised and endorsed—hey, are you having teh tarik? What are you having?
Gerald Giam: Teh tarik?
Walid Abdullah: I should send to you. My wife makes the best teh tarik. And anyway, when Dr. Balakrishnan said that, don’t you think he inadvertently endorsed the WP, as a credible and responsible opposition party?
Gerald Giam: It very well might have been, and I think Jamus’ response to that was gold. I think that really settles the idea of whether or not we are PAP-lite or just a moderate party that listens to all sides of our society.
Walid Abdullah: Okay, okay thanks. So we only have about four minutes left, so the final question for you is what would make you open to, be open to working with other opposition parties and I’m talking about the PSP and SDP specifically. You can comment on the other smaller parties but I’m talking about these two.
Gerald Giam: Okay, I think we already are, I think you’ve read the statement from Pritam on Today, he did say he was going to look into how he can extend the resources of the Leader of the Opposition to even the PSP. I do think it’s important that different parties do work together especially those who are in parliament. But in terms of a formal alignment or a formal alliance, I think we are still in very very early days and I think if you ask me what is the number one thing that we should align, it’s that the values must align. The values of the party must align, otherwise you’ll get a motley crue of parties who are in a way opposed to each other but are just doing it for a marriage of convenience for the sake of electoral success. I don’t think that forms a good basis for future governance in Singapore. I think it’s very important to ensure that we have an alignment of values and there must be a great objective in doing so, especially when in a situation where we are now, when the opposition has no chance or no desire even to take over governance, so there’s no reason why there should be any talk on an alliance of that sort.
Walid Abdullah: Okay interesting. Would Pritam have said that about the NCMPs if they were from the SDP?
Gerald Giam: Oh, I can’t speak (on his behalf), but that’s hypothetical as well, but clearly he has done that for the NCMPs from the SDP. I don’t think it would be make any difference if it was any other party was elected into parliament.
Walid Abdullah: Okay, so anything that you wanted to get off your chest but you couldn’t? I’ll give you a chance to say anything at all?
Gerald Giam: No, I just wanted to thank you so much for this opportunity to speak to you, I was glad to be able to speak with you again and to be able to speak to your friends on Instagram. I think this is the start of many important things that are going to happen in the next five years and hope Singaporeans would pay close attention to what’s going on, in terms of the debates, not just the exciting parts where we are attack each other, or criticizing each other, but maybe pay attention to the proposals each side has put up. I think the PAP has clearly set a lot of expectations for what they would like the electorate to expect of the opposition right now, the Workers’ Party in terms of coming up with alternative proposals. And I think we intend to keep building up proposals, it’s not like we never put up alternative proposals before, I mentioned the redundancy insurance scheme, reducing classroom sizes and they all are legitimate proposals we havethe tabled before. We’ll continue doing that. Hopefully now with more MPs, we’ll be able to do even more of that, but really it’s important for Singaporeans to pay attention to that as well because we can put up all the proposals that they want but even if it’s covered in the press, if people don’t pay close attention to the proposals then they’ll go away thinking that we didn’t do anything. So I encourage everyone to watch this space clearly and carefully.
Walid Abdullah: Okay thank you so much Gerald for taking time out of your busy schedule to and just one last request, can you get Nicole and Pritam to come on my show?
Gerald Giam: You’ll have to ask them too. I’ll make sure to convey to them the good experience that I had on this show.
Walid Abdullah: Okay so thank you so much Gerald and I’ll be uploading this later and you can see it.
Gerald Giam: Thanks Walid.
Walid Abdullah: Bye bye.