Saturday, 22 December 2012

Will there be a by-election in Punggol East?

Update 22 Jan 2013 - Punggol East by-election

Punggol East by-election announced, Polling Day is Jan 26

In less than a year, Singapore will have a second by-election, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has decided to call for a by-election in Punggol East, less than two months after it fell vacant.

At 4pm on Wednesday, President Tony Tan Keng Yam issued a writ of election setting Nomination Day for next Wednesday. Polling day would be on Jan 26.

The surprise announcement comes just a day after PAP dropped a hint as to who its candidate might be. Colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon had triggered a round of speculation when he appeared at the Meet-the-People session in Punggol East on Tuesday.


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TEO SER LUCK INTRODUCES NEW FACE AT PUNGGOL EAST SMC


A new face was introduced to residents at the Punggol East Meet-the-People Session this evening 

Dr Koh Poh Koon, a colorectal surgeon, was introduced by Member of Parliament Teo Ser Luck to some 80 residents who had turned up at the weekly session.

At times, Mr Teo, who is overseeing Punggol East SMC after Mr Michael Palmer resigned as MP, had his arm around Dr Koh, as the latter was being introduced to residents. Before the MPS started, Mr Teo and Dr Koh were distributing food rations to needy residents at Punggol East.

When asked about Dr Koh's presence at the MPS Mr Teo said the colorectal surgeon was "just his friend who is interested in volunteering". 

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PAP activists in Punggol East buy plywood for storage

Mainstream media reported today (8 Jan) that PAP activists have begun preparations for a possible by-election in Punggol East even though there is no news from PM Lee on the matter yet.

It was reported that PAP’s election committee for the area Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC and Punggol East SMC has asked their 7 branches to submit names of activists who can be polling and counting agents.

PAP activists also confirmed that they have purchased plywood which is typically used for election posters. It is understood that plywood has been recently delivered to PAP’s Punggol East branch office.

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PM Lee "considering seriously" whether to call by—election



Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says he is considering seriously if a by—election should be held for the Punggol East single—member constituency, and if so, when to hold one.

The parliamentary seat in Punggol East fell vacant following the resignation of the MP for the area Michael Palmer.

Mr Lee was replying to questions from the Singapore media at the end of his visit to India on Friday.

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WHY DOES EVERYONE WANT TO CONTEST PUNGGOL EAST?

That makes it six. With the Singapore Democratic Party announcing on Thursday that it too wants to contest the Punggol East single seat, we now have the prospect of an election ballot with half a dozen choices on it – PAP, Workers’ Party, SDP, Reform Party (RP), Singapore Democratic Alliance and former Singapore People’s Party (SPP) candidate Benjamin Pwee.

Two others have bowed out of the race, the SPP and the National Solidarity Party. This time, there was no apparent discussion among the parties of who would get to contest it. The traditional pow-wow that the opposition parties have to carve up the turf before general elections has not taken place.

Instead, it seems to be a contest of who can boast the best claim on the ward. To boost their credentials, RP and SDA have even started conducting visits there.
The question, of course, is why?

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Card Playing in Punggol East: What are oppositions up to?

First, the Reform Party declared it would contest in Punggol East, if a by-election was ever held. That was quickly followed by SDA’s announcement that it would also join in the fight. And now we heard that the SDP would be in the battle-field too!

Five political parties fighting for one SMC! Are they mad? Have the opposition parties forgotten about the painful lessons of General Election 1963? We hope not.

Let us try to read the games they are playing : A strategy to trick the PM?

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An unwholesome display of opposition disunity

The unwholesome display of opposition disunity in the Punggol East by-election, if it is held, does not augur well for opposition politics. The ground has been working well for the opposition, if it is united, to decimate the PAP not only in Punggol East by election but also in GE 2016. The unfortunate emergence of four opposition parties to want to contest the possible Punggol East by-election throws pro-opposition voters' confidence to the winds.

The latest to declare its intention to contest the by-election is the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). The others are the Workers' party (WP), the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Reform Party (RP). The National Solidarity Party (NSP) has shown remarkable spirit of opposition unity in declaring its intention not to contest. If the SDP, SDA and RP could follow the selfless example of NSP and withdraw their intention to contest, it will be a good omen and a great day for opposition unity.

WP is the natural choice to contest the by-election by virtue of the fact that it contested in the Punggol East SMC in GE 2011 as the main opposition party. Desmond Lim who contested in the ward as a SDA candidate was just a spoiler. In any case, he only managed to secure 4.5 per cent of the votes cast and lost his deposit.

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Multi-cornered fight in the name of democracy

A poll was created in TOC's fanpage asking “Should there be a 3 cornered fight or more for Punggol East By-Election in the name of democracy?” though not indicative of the singapore population but for a rough reference shows the results to be 135 for no, 11 for yes and 5 votes for an octagon cage match, which surprisingly comes close with 6 parties now eyeing on this vacancy.

As of today, Workers' Party (WP), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), The Reform Party (RP), former Singapore People's Party candidate, Benjamin Pwee, Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA)’s Desmond Lim has voted their interest in contesting for this SMC. Not forgetting the confirmed participation from People’s Action Party (PAP) who had their member resign from his position as the MP for the ward, creating this highly anticipated multi-cornered match.

If this really goes the way it seems, it would be the first time in Singapore history with more than 4 parties contesting in a single ward, since 1997, with four different parties contesting for the Chua Chu Kang ward in general elections.

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Let us have a clean, multi-cornered contest in Punggol East SMC

Besides the PAP and WP, there are at least three other political parties that have indicated an interest in contesting Punggol East SMC. They are the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), and the Reform Party (RP). Even former Singapore People’s Party (SPP) candidate Benjamin Pwee has also expressed an inclination to throw his hat into the ring as an independent candidate.

My immediate reading of the situation is that it is very unlikely we will see a 5 or 6 way fight if and when the by-election is called. I strongly suspect some parties will withdraw voluntarily before nomination day, either due to concessionary talks with other parties, or of their own accord should they realize they are the underdogs and stand a high chance of being completely sidelined.

The RP and SDA have little credibility, after their poor showing in the last General Elections despite the groundswell against the incumbent PAP. Mr Desmond Lim lost his deposit in a 3 cornered fight in the same SMC, barely garnering 5% of the votes.

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SDP eyes vacant Punggol seat

In an unprecedented show of interest by political parties in a single-seat ward, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) yesterday became the latest to declare its intention to contest the Punggol East Single Member Constituency - setting the stage for a five-way fight, if and when a by-election is called.

Unsurprised by the huge interest, political analysts were quick to note how, unlike Hougang, which saw a straight fight between the People's Action Party (PAP) and the Workers' Party (WP) in its recent by-election, the Punggol East ward - newly carved out in the General Election (GE) last year - is primed for a "free-for-all" contest.

This time around, the Reform Party, SDA, SDP and WP have all declared their interest in contesting Punggol East - even though Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last week that he was still "seriously considering" whether to hold a by-election. It could even be a six-way contest if former Singapore People's Party candidate Benjamin Pwee throws in his hat as an independent candidate. Mr Pwee had told the media he is in talks with various opposition parties, with an eye on contesting the ward.

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Ponggol East 5 corner fight? Hope it is just strategic bargaining 

Along with SPP, RP, WP and SDA, SDP has just announced that it is interested in contesting in Ponggol East SMC when the by election is held.

In a multi-corner fight with the opposition putting up credible candidates, the votes will be split and the PAP will win in Ponggol East. In fact the more credible and the stronger  the opposition candidates and the harder they campaign in a multi-cornered fight, the more likely the PAP candidate will win because the votes on the opposition side will become more evenly divided.

Some argue that giving voters more choices is good for democracy. This is not true.

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PM seriously considering a by-election



Speaking yesterday to reporters at the end of his visit to India, Mr Lee acknowledged that there were expectations for a by-election to be held in Punggol East, but said he had not decided whether to hold one and, if so, when it would take place.

On reports that at least three Opposition candidates - from the Workers' Party and the Reform Party, as well as former Singapore People's Party member Benjamin Pwee - have expressed interest to contest a by-election in Punggol East, Mr Lee said: "Well, I haven't decided when to hold the election or whether to hold the election and, if so, when. If I decide to hold, then it is within the right of any candidate from any of the opposition parties to come and it is up to the voters to decide whom they want to support.

"From the PAP's (People's Action Party) point of view, of course, we will field the best possible candidate, and work our utmost to win and retain the voters' support in Punggol East. As to what sort of candidate we field, we will find the best possible person, but we are serious in our requirements and it is not easy to produce a rabbit out of a hat."

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Statement by PM Lee on By-Election in Punggol East Constituency



Mr Palmer has just resigned today. My first priority is to ensure that the residents of Punggol East continue to be well taken care of. We have appointed Mr Teo Ser Luck to oversee Punggol East constituency, and Mr Zainal Sapari to chair the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council. DPM Teo Chee Hean, who himself is in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, will also take a personal interest in the welfare of Punggol East residents.

We are currently focussed on several national issues. Our Singapore Conversation is making good progress. The White Paper on Population is being finalised, and will be debated in Parliament in January. We are also preparing for Budget 2013.

The Constitution does not require me to call a by-election within any fixed timeframe. I will carefully consider whether to call a by-election in Punggol East and, if so, when. I assure Singaporeans that I will make my decision based on what is best for the constituents of Punggol East and the country.

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I will consider whether to call a by-election for Punggol East: PM Lee



Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday evening he would "carefully consider" whether and when to call a by-election in Punggol East following the resignation of the constituency's elected representative.

"Mr Palmer has just resigned today. My first priority is to ensure that the residents of Punggol East continue to be well taken care of," he said.

Lee, who is also secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party, pointed out that they are focused on several national issues and preparing for the Budget next year.

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by election: whose FAULT

Will there be a by-election in Punggol East?

While the by-election in Hougang earlier this year was called under identical circumstances - where an incumbent Member of Parliament (MP) vacated his seat because of an extramarital affair - political analysts TODAY spoke to were split over whether it could be used to gauge if and when a by-election will be held in Punggol East, following the resignation of its MP, Mr Michael Palmer.

The Hougang by-election was called about three months after former MP Yaw Shin Leong was expelled from the Workers' Party for "indiscretions in personal life", after rumours had emerged about an affair with a fellow party member.

Institute of Policy Studies Senior Research Fellow Gillian Koh said any by-election could follow a timeline and process that is similar to the recent Hougang by-election

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Will Santa Oblige?



All we want for Christmas is a ......    by-election.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had to be in India to start "considering seriously if a by-election should be held for the Punggol East SMC, and if so, when to hold one." Lee reiterated that the Constitution does not require him to call a by-election within any fixed timeframe, based on his father's interpretation in 1965: "Since we are no longer a part of the Federal whole, for reasons which we find valid and valuable as a result of our own experience of elections and of government in Singapore, we have decided that this limitation should no longer apply".

Singapore's constitution draws upon the English Constitution tradition and the Malaysian Constitution (which drew heavily on the Indian Constitution), but has been sufficiently adapted to demonstrate some Westminster traits, while exhibiting many non-Westminster components. The general PAP view of institutional arrangements was summarised by then Minister of State for Law Ho Peng Kee:

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Generals shouldn't shy away from an electoral battle in Punggol East

It's good that the Prime Minister is concerned about the constituents of Punggol East and the country; but his decision to call for a by-election should also be seen as being based on what is best for the constituents of Punggol East and the country; and not as what's best for PAP. 

How can calling a by-election early, be not good for the country and for the constituents of Punggol East SMC? The calling of a by-election early sends the right signals, strengthens democracy, and ensures that the citizens of Punggol East a properly represented

Even if the Constitution does not require the PM to call for a by-election within a certain time-frame of a seat becoming vacant, the PM himself had set a precedent when he called for a by-election in Hougang 3 months from the time that seat became vacant. The PM cannot now be seen to be unfairly discriminating between the voters of Hougang and those of Punggol East.

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By election Laws, the spirit and intent of the law

Since the last interpretation of the spirit of the law in the Hougang by election, the govt’s position is that a general election is to elect a govt. When such a govt is in place and when a MP’s seat is left vacant for some reasons, it really does not matter as the govt is already elected. So having a by election or no by election is not of much importance as long as someone else is looking after the constituency on behalf of the MP.

A stand in, a MP on loan from another constituency, or in the same GRC, or a CCC Chairman or any appointee could really fill the seat legally in accordance with the provisions of the Election Laws. This is what I have heard to be the official position and I stand corrected. The govt can always correct me if I am wrong and educate us on the correct interpretation, the law, the spirit of the law, the intent of the law, or the convenience of the law to be interpreted to whoever’s advantage.

If the above premises are true, and if the judgement by Judge Pillay is the absolute truth, that the PM has full discretion to decide to hold or not to hold a by election, then the constituents of any single member constituency may not be served by an elected MP after a GE. Anyone or any appointee would do.

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The Rule of Law and the By-election at Punggol East

I am never a believer in coincidence. However, the retirement of High Court Justice Philip Pillai and the sudden resignation of Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer on the fateful date 12.12.12 gives pause for some reflection. One remembers Justice Pillai as the presiding judge in Vellama v Attorney-General, the case of the Hougang by-election; Michael Palmer brought the Punggol East by-election to the fore.
Lee Hsien Loong, Statement of the Prime Minister, 12 December 2012.
The Constitution does not require me to call a by-election within any fixed timeframe.
In addition to the other good reasons why Lee should call the by-election, I contend that the constitutional reason is still the most powerful one, despite the ruling by Pillai J.

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High Court dismisses Hougang by-election case

A High Court judge has ruled against the application of Hougang resident Vellama Marie Muthu for a declaration that the Prime Minister does not have “unfettered discretion” in determining when to hold by-elections.

In a more than 50-page written judgement issued on Wednesday, Justice Philip Pillai concluded that “there is no requirement” in Singapore’s constitution to call elections to fill elected Member of Parliament (MP) vacancies, and therefore no prescribed time such elections must be called.

“Should the Prime Minister decide to call an election to fill an elected Member vacancy, he has a discretion as to when to call it," Pillai said.

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Constitution demands a by-election in Hougang: experts


Constitutional law experts here say that a by-election should be held in Hougang SMC, even by the terms of our Constitution. (Yahoo! file photo) 

Singapore's constitution does require that a by-election be held in Hougang as the seat for the single member constituency has become vacant, constitutional law experts said Tuesday.

Constitutional law professor Thio Li-ann and adjunct law professor Kevin Tan, both of whom lecture at the National University of Singapore, as well as assistant professor in constitutional law at Singapore Management University (SMU) Jack Lee, spoke in agreement with Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Eugene Tan, who asserted on Tuesday that the law in fact mandates a by-election for Hougang SMC, and that Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong's discretionary power with respect to calling for one is "not an unfettered one".

In a letter published in the Today newspaper on Tuesday, Tan, who is also an assistant professor in law at SMU, rebutted the points raised by MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh group representation constituency (GRC) Hri Kumar Nair in a separate note published in the same paper on Friday that there was "no requirement" for a by-election to be called immediately for Hougang SMC.

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PM's pondering on by election does not reflect well on himself

Really, what is there to think? The constitution spells out clearly. If a ward is vacated, call for a by election. The PM is just playing with time because no time frame is stated. So if there's anything at all that needs to be pondered, it is "when".

However, he is twisting the interpretation if one should be held. Kind of reflects very badly on him, doesn't it? Is that the kind of PM we really want, after paying him filthy amounts of money?

PM Lee still mulling over Punggol East by-election

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Sigh! PM so indecisive about by election
 


PM, don't ask what is good for the PAP. Ask what is good for the residents of Punggol East and what is good for the country. Ask Punggol East if they prefer to have a DPM write letters on their behalf or have a newly elected MP.

How could you be so indecisive? The quality of governance is slipping. If you don't show decisive leadership our little red dot will soon be taken less seriously.

You can't even advise when you could make up your mind!

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Singapore government under pressure to order by-election after sex scandal


Bangkok Post, 13 Dec 2012

Singapore opposition parties urged Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Thursday to call a by-election after the parliamentary Speaker abruptly resigned due to an extramarital affair.
The calls came less than 24 hours after Michael Palmer, 44, publicly confessed and announced his resignation from his parliamentary seat and membership of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP).
By law, the decision to call a by-election is made wholly at the prime minister's discretion.
Lee however gave no indication of his intentions in a Facebook post.
"The Constitution does not require me to call a by-election within any fixed time frame," Lee said on his Facebook page late Wednesday. Full story

Related:
  1. Dr Tan Cheng Bock calls on PM Lee to call a by-election at Punggol East - TR Emeritus
  2. By-election a must for PM's moral authority - Singapore Democrats 
  3. PAP under siege — Chua Chin Leng, The Malaysian Insider
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A by-election in Punggol East?



In a statement to the media on Wednesday, Mr Lee also assured Singaporeans that he will make his decision based on what he said, "is best for the constituents of Punggol East and the country."

Mr Lee pointed out that Singapore is currently focused on several national issues. He cited the ’Our Singapore Conversation’, which he said is making good progress. Mr Lee added the White Paper on Population will be debated in Parliament in January. Separately, the government is also preparing for Budget 2013.

Mr Lee said his first priority is to ensure that the residents of Punggol East continue to be well taken care of.

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Why by-election should be called immediately

AFTER the Punggol East parliamentary seat was vacated recently, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the Constitution does not require him to call a by-election in the Single Member Constituency within any fixed timeframe ("PM to 'carefully consider' by-election"; Dec 13).

The essence of a democracy is having a say in how one is governed.

How will residents in Punggol East have a say in how they are governed if there is no one in Parliament to vote on their behalf?

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Dr Tan Cheng Bock calls on PM Lee to call a by-election at Punggol East

The resignation of Michael Palmer from his post as Speaker of Parliament and MP of Punggol East has left vacant a parliamentary seat.

PM Lee should be more positive when asked whether he will call a by-election instead of to “carefully consider” a by-election. This cast doubts on the peoples’ minds.

This is a single seat constituency and the residents of Punggol East need a representative in Parliament. Proxy representation is no option as the next GE is in 2015.

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By-election a must for PM's moral authority

The Prime Minister cannot avoid calling for a by-election in Punggol East SMC without inflicting severe damage to his and his party's political and moral standing.

Mr Michael Palmer resigned not just as a Member of Parliament but also as Speaker.

His stepping down has left a gaping hole in the legislature that cannot be ignored or papered over. More importantly, voters of Punggol East have been badly let down and they deserve the opportunity to elect another representative.

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WP calls for by-election, stakes claim on Punggol-East


Workers' Party (WP) candidate Lee Li Lian (left) contested in a 3 way fight in Punggol-East the last General Election with PAP's Michael Palmer and SDA's Desmond Lim.

The Workers' Party has called for a by-election to be held in Punggol-East single member constituency, after the SMC's MP Michael Palmer resigned from the People's Action Party this afternoon.

WP noted that Mr Palmer had resigned from the PAP and said that under Article 46 of the Constitution, Punggol East SMC has become vacant.

"In order that the residents of Punggol East SMC are properly represented, the Workers' Party urges the Prime Minister to call a by-election in the constituency as soon as possible," said WP.

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WP ready to offer a choice to voters of Punggol East SMC

The Workers’ Party has noted the announcement today that the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Michael Palmer, has resigned from the People’s Action Party.

By virtue of Article 46 of the Constitution, Mr Palmer’s Parliamentary seat for Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC) has become vacant.

In order that the residents of Punggol East SMC are properly represented, the Workers’ Party urges the Prime Minister to call a by-election in the constituency as soon as possible

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Calls for by-election, PAP reminded of WP’s earlier fiasco


A scene from the Hougang by-election in May 2012. Two opposition parties have called for a by-election in Punggol East following PAP MP Michael Palmer’s resignation on 12 December (Photo: Workers’ Party Facebook page) 

The sudden resignation of Member of Parliament (MP) Michael Palmer, 44, has sparked calls for a by-election in Singapore.

If called by the Prime Minister, it will be the second one after the Hougang by-election in May this year, when former opposition MP Yaw Shin Leong was expelled by Workers’ Party on allegations of an extramarital affair, and vacated his seat in Hougang.

Palmer was the MP for single-seat constituency Punggol East. He was also one of Singapore's youngest Speakers of Parliament when he assumed the post after the May 2011 General Election

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WP and SPP urge Prime Minister Lee to call for by-election in Punggol East SMC


XIN MSN News, 12 Dec 2012

SINGAPORE: The Workers’ Party (WP) and the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) have urged Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to call for a by—election as soon as possible for the vacated parliamentary seat of Punggol East.

The call came shortly after Mr Michael Palmer announced on Wednesday his resignation from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and as MP for Punggol East over improper relationship with a staff member of the People’s Association.

The WP, which contested in the single—member constituency (SMC) in the 2011 General Election, said in a statement that it is ready to offer voters a choice again in a by—election.

SPP chairman Lina Chiam, who is also a Non—Constituency MP, said in a statement that a by—election would ensure that Punggol East residents are democratically represented.
Full story

Related:
  1. SPP Statement on the vacated seat of Punggol East SMC - Singapore People's Party
  2. WP ready to offer a choice to voters of Punggol East SMC - The Workers' Party
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