The case for opposition unity is a subject which has been exercising the mind of opposition leaders for a long time and the consensus, until now, is that it is an indispensable element in the opposition's cause to dislodge the PAP from power eventually, or at least to clip its representations in Parliament by capturing a good number more of GRCs. So it comes as something of a major let down when Low Thia Khiang, Secretary-General of the Workers' Party (WP) sings a discouraging tune to the effect that "diversity within the opposition ranks made unity inconceivable". WP is rightly or wrongly regarded as the vanguard of the opposition parties and for its leader to make such a defeatist statement is mind-boggling, to say the least, and hardly conducive to the opposition's cause.
Mr Low Thia Khiang may feel that WP is now on the political ascendency and flexes his muscles to show that WP alone can match the political might of the PAP without any support from other political parties. Indeed, it is now the only oppostion party with eight MPs in Parliament, with one NCMP from the Singapore People's Party (SPP). Because of its Parliamentary strength, the WP is monopolising the limelight compared with other opposition parties. Could this predominance have brought about a sense of arrogance in Mr Low Thia Khiang to view with disdain the apparent disunity of the opposition parties?
Mr. Low Thia Khiang may be myopic in not being able to see that there is considerable opposition unity in place. GE 2011 was a very good example of such unity as it was a straight fight between PAP and an opposition party in almost all the constituencies except in Punggol East SMC where it was a three-cornered contest with the spoiler Desmond Lim of the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) diluting the WP's percentage of votes. If there had not been unity and the Aljunied GRC turned out to be a three-cornered fight, the WP's dream of capturing the Aljunied GRC would have collapsed.
Similarly, in the current Punggol East by-election, the National Solidarity Party (NSP) showed remarkable unity by being the first opposition party to declare its non-participation. The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) showed defiance in wanting to contest almost up to Nomination Day but Dr Chee Soon Juan showed exemplary courage of unity in the end by withdrawing. The SDP could be a formidable challenge to WP for opposition votes in Punggol East and its withdrawal leaves WP in a more comfortable position of having to deal with two feeble spoilers in Desmond Lim of SDA and Kenneth Jeyaretnam of the Reform Party (RP). It would be a surprise it they could dilute opposition votes for the WP. Perhaps they could get some disaffected PAP votes if they could get any vote at all.
Dr. Chee Soon Juan had made a great sacrifice for the WP and it looks like Mr Low Thia Khiang has not the civility to acknowledge it, going by his ranting of opposition unity being inconceivable. For his unrequited noble selfless act, Dr Chee could not be blamed if he is seething with indignation. Dr Chee had even received approbation from the public, especially the netizens, for his selfless act but the WP, being the beneficiary, appears nonchalance, aggravated by Low Thia Khiang's disunity theme. Could there be a more glaring case of ingratitude?
Mr Low Thia Khiang should heed the famous saying: Unity is Strength (团結就是力量） if he wants to fulfill the opposition historical role of annihilating the PAP as the ultimate objective. The Aljunied GRC conquest in GE 2011 was a auspicious start and the Punggol East by-election could be an equally auspicious sequence. Mr Low Thia Khiang and his WP ignore all these auguries at their peril.