The Republic’s future and society are at stake in the next General Election (GE) because it will be about who forms the Government and not merely how many seats the Opposition captures, said People’s Action Party (PAP) chief Lee Hsien Loong to 6,000 party activists yesterday, as he characterised the coming contest as a “deadly serious fight” that his party must win convincingly.
Speaking at the PAP60 Rally at Singapore Expo, Mr Lee hinted at the prospects of a freak result, saying the 12th GE of independent Singapore, which must be held by January 2017, “will be about whether we continue to have a First World Government”. It will not be about a “so-called First World Parliament”, he said, taking a dig at the opposition Workers’ Party’s (WP) campaign slogan of working towards a First World Parliament in the 2011 GE.
“The next GE is critical for Singapore and for us. It is not just about expressing approval or disapproval. It is not just about winning a seat in Parliament. It is not a by-election,” he said, adding that every seat will be a national contest. “The next GE is about choosing a clear vision for Singapore, choosing a capable leadership for Singapore, choosing a brighter future for Singapore.”
Mr Lee added: “A great deal is at stake, comrades. Our future is at stake because if we do not remain a nation of opportunity, our children will have no future. Our society is at stake because if we do not uphold a fair and just society, our society will be pulled apart. Our country is at stake. If the PAP fails, Singapore is in deep trouble. We shall not fail.”
Issuing a rallying cry to activists to fight to win the hearts and minds of Singaporeans, he signalled that the PAP, which has run Singapore since 1965, will fight to win every seat and do its best to regain the Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East wards it lost to the WP.
He starkly contrasted how the PAP was different from other political parties here. The PAP, he said, brings different groups together, solves problems and plans for the future. “In short, only the PAP truly cares for the people and for the future of our children and grandchildren,” he said.
To this end, the party yesterday amended its objectives — encapsulated in Article II of its Constitution — for the first time since 1982 to put forth its updated vision for Singapore as a nation of opportunity, a fair and just society, and a democracy of deeds. The revisions to the party’s objectives represent the PAP’s promise to Singaporeans, he added.
The Opposition, on the other hand, does not see any duty to bring people together and plan for the future, simply saying to “do more” when the Government puts out a popular policy, Mr Lee said in a speech that was peppered with cheers from the activists.
“They say they can’t form the Government, no need for (a) vision. In fact, they dare say that, not because they can’t form the Government, but because they are trying to avoid answering hard questions, until well after they are elected. Maybe even after that, they will waffle,” he said.
Arguing against the Opposition’s perennial proposition of being a check on the ruling party, Mr Lee said: “If everybody accepts what they say, we’ll have a lot of checkers, but no workers ... For every one more checker you have in Parliament, there’ll be one fewer doer, thinker or leader in the Government to serve the nation, to serve the people.
“And eventually there’ll be no more PAP to check. There’ll be no able team of ministers working and solving problems for Singapore, no progress for Singapore, no future for Singapore. That will be the last ‘check’, because it will be checkmate!”
The ruling party, however, is a national party that looks after the interests of a broad range of Singaporeans and spends what it can afford and that which is justified, he said.
“When we face problems, we acknowledge them publicly and deal with them. We do not pretend there’s no problem: ‘No comment, studying the matter, thinking about it, will verify one day’. We settle now,” he said. “If you lie low, hoping the public will forget the issue and the issue will go away, the public will forget you and you might as well go away.”
The PAP’s responsibility is to set the standard that other parties here should be measured by and should aim for, he added.
Mr Lee also said the party has identified many promising candidates, including a few potential office holders, for the next GE. They comprise individuals working in the government and private sectors, as well as grassroots activists. With the support of voters, his team after the next GE — including faces inducted in 2011 — will be renewed, strengthened and more seasoned, he promised. And his successor is likely to be among them, he added.
Party activists and Members of Parliament (MPs) welcomed Mr Lee’s call to action. Mr Justin Foo, 57, of West Coast GRC and Mr Chandroo Methani, 54, of East Coast GRC said working the ground and serving the people were continuous efforts not reserved to the GE period.
Holland-Bukit Timah MP Christopher de Souza added: “It’s very easy to be a people’s party or a party for the people and speak about ideas; all the more difficult to translate those ideas into action. It’s also the PM telling us to continue the effort and to meet every resident, every home in every estate, and that every vote and every seat matters.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LAURA PHILOMIN
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