Pritam Singh charged: Nearly 50% of S’poreans polled found to be upset or angry
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Pritam Singh charged: Nearly 50% of S’poreans polled found to be upset or angry

A quarter of poll respondents angered by Pritam Singh charges; proceedings unlikely to affect WP’s standing: Experts

On 19 March, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh was charged with two counts of lying to a parliamentary committee regarding former Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan.

Singh, 47, pleaded not guilty and has said he will continue to discharge his roles as an MP and as Leader of the Opposition while the case is ongoing.

An Answers.sg poll conducted by MS News found that almost half of more than 2,800 respondents were either upset or angry at the charges.

Conversely, around one in seven of those polled said they were happy. Nearly a quarter reported feeling neutral.

Experts MS News spoke to say they don’t see the charges dealing any immediate damage to the standing of Singh or the party, nor do they see WP’s ability to win being significantly weakened.

A second poll we conducted concurred, with 70% of respondents believing the charges will not affect the WP’s performance at the next General Elections (GE), which must be held by November 2025.

One respondent, however, remarked that if Singh is found guilty, he should be disqualified from being the Prime Minister if the WP — which Singh is Secretary-General of — ever wins a majority of seats in Parliament.

Almost 50% of poll respondents upset or angry by charges against Pritam Singh

In a poll of 2,852 respondents, 24% reported being angry with Singh’s charges, while 22% said they felt upset.

Meanwhile, 27% indicated their feelings as neutral, and 14% felt pleased or surprised.

32-year-old project manager Mandy Tan said while she does not know the truth until the case concludes, Singh has not lost her respect.

“Right now, he is said to have lied, but he pleads not guilty. We have to trust that the court proceedings will be as fair as they can be, considering this is a high-profile case, and his stature as Leader of the Opposition,” Ms Tan said.

“I still think he is the best person to lead the opposition and WP,” she added.

Mind changed after Pritam Singh got charged

A media executive who only wants to be known as Christopher previously believed Singh was the best person to lead the WP, adding that he was “won over” by his activities.

“My opinion, after a while, was that he thoroughly deserved to lead the party even though there were more senior members in the party such as Sylvia Lim,” he said.

But Christopher, who is in his 30s, felt that what happened with Ms Khan had changed his mind.

On 8 Aug, Singh, Ms Lim, and Mr Faisal Manap met Ms Khan at Singh’s home, where she confessed her lie. It is during this meeting, she said, that Singh told her to take the information “to the grave”.

Singh denied this, and testified that he did not discuss the lie further or how to make a correction for it, as the party leaders were “more focused on her well-being, given the state that she was in”. The conclusion was she had to speak to her parents.

From 8 Aug to 3 Oct, there was apparently no further discussion between any of the three leaders — either among themselves or with Ms Khan about how and when to clarify the truth, ST reported.

Too seasoned to not have spoken to peers, says respondent

“If you believed that Pritam did not communicate with Sylvia and Faisal when they knew Raeesah lied, then he’s incompetent,” Christopher said.

“If he did communicate with them, either to figure out their thoughts or to come up with a plan for it, then he lied when giving his testimony.”

Christopher added that he was unconvinced that Singh did not discuss the matter with the other leaders.

“I believe that Pritam is too seasoned, too smart, and has the right amount of paranoia to not have spoken to his peers.”

He feels Singh should be disqualified from becoming the Prime Minister if found guilty, even if his standing as an MP is not affected.

WP’s credibility won’t be heavily affected: Experts

To a majority of more than 500 respondents polled on Answers.sg, the charges levied against Singh are unlikely to cause a dent.

Seven out of 10 respondents polled believe the case would not affect WP in the next GE.

Associate Professor of Law at the Singapore Management University Eugene Tan agreed.

The allegations are not new, he explained, and were known since the 2022 Committee of Privileges report, which stated that Singh will be referred to the Public Prosecutor for perjury.

The question then, is whether he will be found guilty. “The trial and the sentence meted out, if he is convicted, could be pivotal in driving up or lowering public support for him and WP,” Assoc Prof Tan said.

Mr Viswa Sadasivan, a corporate strategy consultant, former NMP, and political observer, also felt sentiment on the ground hasn’t been affected significantly.

“If anything, this episode is more likely to garner more sympathy votes for Pritam Singh in particular and WP in general,” said Mr Sadasivan, who was an NMP between 2009 and 2011.

He added: “I sense that the general sentiment on the ground is appreciation and possibly gratitude for what the opposition MPs have been doing in Parliament and on the ground, in spite of the formidable headwinds from the ruling party leaders.”

Mr Sadasivan noted the “quality and calibre” of several opposition MPs — both in WP and the Progress Singapore Party — who are seen to have done enough homework to share compelling observations and ideas, as well as ask the right questions.

“To me, the ground has become more discerning and mature, and possibly less risk averse in the last few years.”

Incident may cause some to have “element of doubt” in whether WP can take on more responsibility

Singh, along with the rest of his Aljunied Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) MPs, were voted into Parliament partly on a campaign calling for more alternative voices in the chambers.

Though WP has had several controversies, including the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council issue that found Ms Lim and former party secretary-general Low Thia Khiang liable for negligence in the payment process, as well as a scandal involving his MPs Leon Perera and Nicole Seah, Assoc Prof Tan also thinks the party still has an edge.

“The WP still has the strongest reputational cachet as the leading opposition party and so that will maintain their promise and form despite the charges against Pritam,” he noted.

However, he felt that the incident may leave WP with “fewer bragging rights”, given that it cannot honestly claim to be ‘whiter than white’.

“All the recent controversies have given rise to an element of doubt as to whether they can take on greater responsibility in governance.”

And compared to the past controversies involving WP, this is potentially the most severe body blow given that Singh is the WP top leader, Assoc Prof Tan said.

“If he is convicted, his leadership of WP could come under even more intense scrutiny.”

Issue with Singh different from previous controversies

Mr Sadasivan believes most people perceive Singh’s charges as different from past incidents.

“The others involved moral indiscretion and, in Raeesah Khan’s case, it was an integrity issue,” he explained. “In Singh’s case, many see it as a lapse in good judgment and not as a wanton act of lying.”

He also believes WP has a “decent chance” of retaining the seats it currently holds in Aljunied GRC, Sengkang GRC, and Hougang Single Member Constituency.

“I am certain the PAP will give a righteous fight,” Mr Sadasivan predicted.

“Much will depend on the quality and calibre of the PAP candidates fielded in these wards. It will not be a walk in the park for the WP.”

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Featured image adapted from govsg on YouTube.

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