PAP MP keeps using ST Forum to rebut WP politicians’ parliamentary remarks

SINGAPORE: Henry Kwek, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kebun Baru, has again chosen to use the Straits Times forum page to air his rebuttals to remarks Workers’ Party (WP) politicians Pritam Singh and Leon Perera have made on the topic of housing.

In his first letter, that the national broadsheet published on 14 February, Mr Quek took issue with WP secretary-general Pritam Singh’s comment in Parliament that the Government should have built more flats ahead of demand.

Asserting that the WP itself had in 2019 urged the Government not to build more built-to-order (BTO) flats and to reduce the number of flats being built from 15,000-17,000 to just 9,000 flats, he said: “Luckily, the Government did not take the WP’s advice.”

Taking jabs against the opposition party, he added that politicians must “be upfront and candid about the difficulties of governing a country. When MPs grandstand, take populist lines that ignore hard realities, and conveniently forget their own previous statements, they damage the standing of Parliament and diminish trust in themselves.

The WP responded by flaming the ruling party politician for staying silent on this issue in Parliament, in a forum letter of their own. WP Media Head Leon Perera said:

“Unlike Mr Kwek, who was silent on Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh’s speech in the course of the debate on the PAP’s and Progress Singapore Party’s motions on affordable and accessible housing, WP’s Sengkang GRC MP Louis Chua stood up in Parliament and put into context the assumptions behind the WP’s 2019 Housing Paper and the figures cited by Mr Kwek in his letter.”

Pointing out that the WP’s 2019 position paper on housing was in response to the Government’s Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS), Mr Perera said that critical context about the WP’s position on this issues had been “conveniently excluded from Mr Kwek’s letter, even as he writes about the importance of politicians being candid and upfront.”

Mr Perera said that while the WP’s amendments to the PAP’s motion was rejected by the dominant PAP in Parliament, the opposition party will continue advocating for the points they brought to the House.

He added: “Finally, Mr Kwek would also be aware that the call to build HDB flats ahead of demand did not just come from the WP, but from some of his fellow PAP backbenchers as well.”

Parliament sat this week but Mr Kwek chose to continue airing his disagreements with the WP in the ST Forum arena.

In his latest letter, published yesterday (22 Feb), he reasserted his claim that the WP’s 2019 call to reduce the number of BTO flats is at odds with Mr Singh’s call in Parliament that the Government should have anticipated demand and built more BTO flats.

Criticizing the WP’s proposal that the housing demand could be met partially by acquiring older flats under its proposed Universal Sale and Lease Back (USB) Scheme, he said that it was implausible that anyone would believe the USB flats would adequately supplement the reduced number of BTO flats in the short term as it will take 12 years before any HDB flat qualifies for the USB Scheme.

Asserting that the WP’s reasoning is a result of its “erroneous” belief in a potential oversupply issue, he suggested that the opposition party was being dishonest in its arguments. Taking a shot at the party, he said:

“The WP proposal made in 2019 was a serious mistake. The honest thing to do is to admit this, instead of trying to explain it away, or criticising the Government for not building even more flats while glossing over its own proposal to cut back the BTO programme.”

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