By Elizabeth Soh and Wenjian Lin
“Baseless attacks” and “character assassinations” were what characterised the Hougang by-election, said the Worker’s Party (WP) Secretary General Low Thia Khiang on Saturday night.
Speaking at the WP’s post-win press conference at the party’s Syed Alwi road headquarters, he said that there had been “several calculated moves” to “discredit” candidate Png Eng Huat by the People’s Action Party (PAP), and accused them of using the “carrot and stick” approach to “coerce voters from... freedom of choice.”
“PAP said this is an honorable fight, but... they used tactics to smear our reputation,” Low charged.
He was referring to a war of words that erupted, during campaigning last week, between the WP and
Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean over a copy of leaked WP meeting minutes.
The minutes, which was sent anonymously to the media, showed Png in the running for his party’s vote for the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) seat after the General Election (GE) last year. This, after Png had said in an interview that he had taken his name out of the ballot.
Png later explained that he had meant that he declared his stance against the NCMP scheme to party leaders before and after the GE, but that his name remained in the eventual ballot slip because of WP’s selection procedure.
Following that, DPM Teo accused Png of having integrity issues and repeatedly suggested that he was not the WP’s best choice or candidate.
During the press conference, Low took aim at mainstream media outlets, saying that they had been used as a “political tool” in the PAP’s campaign.
“Independent media is a cornerstone of a first world Parliament,” said Low. “Only with an independent media .. can the people make an informed choice.”
When asked for examples of how major news companies had affected WP’s campaign, Low referred to a photo run by The Straits Times that showed Png standing behind Low and WP Chairman Sylvia Lim in an unflatteringly subservient position.
Low also said that there would be no formal investigation into the leaking of the WP’s minutes, saying that the party had neither the resources nor the inclination to pursue the matter.
In response to Low’s character assassination comments, DPM Teo expressed surprise and said he welcomed the MP for Aljunied GRC and the WP to take legal action against him.
“It all came from contradictions within his own party. I merely pointed out those contradictions,” said DPM Teo, adding that Low is "free to take it up further, through legal actions if he feels it's necessary".
Despite the bad blood between the two camps, newly mandated Png said he was “very excited and happy” about his win, and emphasised that he would work together with PAP candidate Desmond Choo to serve Hougang residents.
“I met up with Mr Desmond Choo. We are of the same view that anything that is good for Hougang, we will support and we will do it,” said Png.
He also said he hoped that Mr Choo, who is the grassroots adviser in the ward, will support schemes to improve the lives of Hougang residents, referring to the Neighbourhood Renewal and Home Improvement Programmes that the WP has put Hougang up for.
He also reached out to PAP’s Hougang supporters, asking them for a chance to serve them.
Low also thanked Hougang residents for keeping faith with the WP in what he described as “a difficult political journey” and said the party will be in the ward on Sunday to thank voters.
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