By Asia Samachar Team | SINGAPORE |
As the dust settles on Singapore’s 2020 general election, one hero has emerged almost singing.
Pritam Singh overcame numerous obstacles to emerge head over shoulders amongst the political players in the city-state that jumped into a general election in the middle of a novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Pritam is a hero,” a Singapore lawmaker told Asia Samachar when asked to comment on the elections results in the morning after. He singled out the Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general.
As expected, long-time ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) won the 13th general elections, cornering 83 seats against WP’s 10.
In his victory speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the new government would appoint Pritam as the Opposition Leader, with an office to boot. This is new for Singapore that has been known to treat almost with disdain lawmakers from the opposition ranks.
“Nothing worthwhile is easy,” Pritam tells Asia Samachar when we asked him why he joined an opposition party. See our interview below.
Married to Singaporean theatre practitioner Loveleen Kaur Walia, the couple has two daughters. In an Insgragram post two days ago, the 43-year-old lawmaker underscored the importance played by spouses.
He wrote @pritamsingh76: “Making our vote count in GE2020! Everyone who attended my wedding dinner in 2012 knows that I cried at one point when I delivered my wedding speech. I did so exactly at the point when I verbalized the fact that my wife would make sacrifices because of my decision to enter politics and my position as a Member of Parliament. I felt it was an unfair imposition. And I felt it was asking for a lot for a person to make such a commitment, supporting a spouse who would be absent during certain stretches and worse – mentally at work even if he was physically at home. And I have had my fair share of challenges, obstacles and doubts about my chosen path in the intervening years as an MP. But my dear wife walked with me, and did so much more. It has been almost exactly what 8 years since we tied the knot. Two beautiful daughters later, she continues to be my pillar of strength, the wind beneath my wings. There is nobody else who rocks my world, and who has done so much to make me a better person. As our older daughter, and in time, our younger one will say, I love you to the moon and back. Looking forward to the many many more miles to come my love. #iloveyou.”
Pritam has also won the hearts of the voters. One Facebook posting captures the emotions of many voters, who cherished his manners.
“Listen to his tones and humility,” said the Facebook yser. “He does not talk down. Even when sharing , he does not try to lecture. Such a refreshing listen. This is what we have been missing for far too long.”
Pritam graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) with a bachelor of arts degree in history in 2000. He then won a Chevening Scholarship for postgraduate studies at King’s College London where he completed a master of arts degree in war studies in 2004. In the same year, he completed a juris doctor degree at the Singapore Management University (SMU) and also got himself qualified to the bar.
In politics, his big break came in 2011 when he was elected as a Member of Parliament along with the team that won the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) of Eunos.
In 2015, he was made chairman of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, the only town council cornered by the opposition party in General Election 2015.
He kept on rising in politics. In April 2018, he was elected as WP’s secretary-general to succeed Low Thia Khiang. It was a major change in the opposition party as it prepared for the next general election and as ruling PAP worked out its 4G leadership transition.
But the next phase of the challenge has just begun for Pritam and fellow lawmakers from the opposition slate, as well as the whole of Singapore, as they confront the Covid-19 and other issues.
He captured the sentiment in his remarks immediately after the GE2020 results were announced.
He then said: “Today’s results are positive but we have to hit the ground running. We should not get over our heads with the results, there is much work to do.”
Why are you in politics?
To make a contribution towards a more democratic Singapore.
It’s surely not easy being in the ranks of an Oppositon party in Singapore politics. What keeps you going?
Nothing worthwhile is easy. I am passionate about what I do. I may not have all the answers, but I do invest time and energy in the effort to serve the community I represent. That sense of purpose keeps me going.
Are you able to encourage others from the Sikh community to join active politics?
As a citizen in a multi-racial country, I would encourage not just members of the Sikh community, but every community to step up to politics and make a difference. As long as our people are motivated by the right reasons, they should participate actively in the community and society. However, as citizens in a multi—racial country, active participation also means walking in the shoes of our brothers and sisters from other races. Such an approach promotes a greater tolerance in our approach towards Singapore politics.
What are your hopes for this general election?
That we succeed in giving a reason/s for Singaporeans to vote for the Workers’ Party.
What Sikh values, if any, do you hold dear?
My values are enshrined by how I interpret and apply the pillars of the Sikh faith in my daily life. Kirat Kaarni – to earn an honest living; Wanda Chakkna — To live charitably and share with others and Naam Japna — to reflect and mediate on the word of one God who looks after all of us, regardless of race or religion.
Election results may delay Singapore leadership handover, says political analyst (Asia Samachar, 11 July 2020)
Pritam Singh leads a stronger Singapore opposition (Asia Samachar, 11 June 2020)
Singapore ruling party is safe till 2030 (Asia Samachar, 30 June 2020)
Pritam named Aljunied-Hougang Town Council chairman (Asia Samachar, 3 Oct 2015)
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