Agence France Presse
November 5, 2001
Opposition in Singapore eyes inequality issue'
FORMER opposition leader J. B. Jeyaretnam on Monday (Nov 5) lamented the near-sweep in the weekend elections by the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), saying it was a pre-determined result. "I am sorry for our people," said Jeyaretnam, who for many years stood out as a lonely voice fighting against the PAP.
His statement came two days after the PAP won 82 out of 84 parliamentary seats and boosted its share of the vote to 75 percent, from 65 percent in the 1997 polls.
"The PAP determined the result even before the elections began and set out deliberately and systematically to achieve the result," he said, suggesting only opposition candidates acceptable to the PAP were allowed to win.
Incumbent MPs Low Thia Khiang of the Workers' Party and Chiam See Tong of the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) retained the opposition's two seats in the previous parliament, but with considerably reduced margins.
Compared to other opposition politicians, the PAP has been relatively benign toward Low and Chiam, who are popular in their wards.
Jeyaretnam said Low and Chiam's presence in parliament "served a useful role for the PAP -- the pretence that the PAP welcomed opposition albeit 'constructive opposition' defined by them."
"Anyone else would have spoilt the picture ... To this end, they saw to it that I should be kept out of the contest and those who would have challenged their system be not elected," he said.
The 76-year-old lawyer was expelled from parliament in July after being declared bankrupt after he was unable to pay massive damages awarded to PAP members, having spending a fortune on past suits brought by the PAP.
Jeyaretnam charged the PAP resorted to "wholesale bribery" in the recent elections.
Asked what he meant, he told AFP by telephone that he was referring to the issuance of state-backed New Singapore Shares before the elections.
The shares, which earn interest and can be redeemed for cash, were launched by the government as a novel wealth-redistribution scheme financed by past budget surpluses.
Officials have dismissed charges that this was a form of vote-buying. Most Singaporeans have opted to keep the shares rather than cash them in to cope with the republic's worst recession since independence in 1965.