Thursday, 24 January 2013

Punggol East By-election: PAP Rally, 24 Jan

Koh pledges to work hard to make improvements in estate
By Goh Chin Lian and Leonard Lim, The Straits Times, 25 Jan 2013

PEOPLE'S Action Party candidate Koh Poh Koon closed his campaign last night with a straightforward message for Punggol East voters: Vote for me and my team, we will work hard for you.

He said at the party's rally: "The team we have that stands before you is a team that has concrete plans, a team that takes action seriously.

"We are a team that has real potential, that sees real opportunities for improvement to our estate... We are prepared to work hard."

He vowed to voice the concerns of Punggol East residents in Parliament, "vigorously and energetically and emphatically".

Taking an indirect swipe at opposition attacks on government policies, he said a resident told him it was easy to criticise, but much harder to do the work.

Introduced just two weeks ago as the PAP's candidate and a "son of Punggol", the political newcomer set out once more his plans for the ward, including improvements to make life better for the elderly as well as young families.

When campaigning kicked off last week, the colorectal surgeon went house to house on his own, with only a few volunteers.

But in the final push this week, in what PAP leaders and activists expect to be a close fight, Cabinet ministers, MPs and more than 300 activists have been out in force on the ground.

Activists from PAP branches islandwide have fanned out across the ward and, by Wednesday night, covered all 127 Housing Board blocks.

The office-holders who joined in the campaigning last night included Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Senior Minister of State (Education and Law) Indranee Rajah.

Mr Gan said: "We try our best to cover as much ground as possible to help the candidate, to engage, to reach out to residents, to share with the residents what the candidate can do for them, what he stands for."

Ms Indranee added: "We've got a good candidate. As a team, we want to support him."

At last night's rally, Dr Koh made his final pitch to voters in Malay, Mandarin and English, thanking residents, volunteers and activists for their support.

"This has been a transformative journey for me," he said.

Reflecting on his decision a month ago to enter politics and run on the PAP ticket, he said to cheers from the crowd: "As a person who has benefited from the system, I want to stand up and be counted. I want to stand up and give back to society."

He held up as an example a family of four he met whose sole breadwinner and his wife were injured in a road accident.

The PAP team in the ward, led by former MP Michael Palmer, helped to pay the family's utility bills and gave them NTUC FairPrice vouchers and food packages.

"We are the People's Action Party. We are about action. We are about putting concrete plans in place and making them a reality," he said.

"We can build the infrastructure. We can build childcare centres. We can build coffee shops. But you, Punggol East, you are the software which makes this place into a home with a heart, so please work together with us.

"Vote for me, vote for PAP. Let us turn Punggol East into a home with a heart."

PAP is on the side of S'poreans: PM Lee
He spells out actions the party has taken to serve the needs of the people
By Jeremy Au Yong, The Straits Times, 25 Jan 2013

THE People's Action Party (PAP) stands for the same idealism as at its founding and that is to stand by the side of the people, fighting to improve their lives, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night.

All the policies crafted are with this singular purpose in mind, he said, as he set out the record of the ruling party over the decades, making clear it had done right by voters.

In a carefully pitched speech that was at times impassioned, at times measured and calm, Mr Lee said: "The PAP has not changed its purpose. And what is its purpose? Action for the people. To act on your behalf, to be your representative, to be your servant, to be your agent to make happen in Singapore what we all would like to see happen."

He was speaking at the final rally in the campaign of Dr Koh Poh Koon in Punggol East.

Just the night before, the Workers' Party (WP) had signed off at its last rally with a blistering attack on the PAP. WP chief Low Thia Khiang slammed the ruling party for having changed from the PAP of old and urged voters to back his party as insurance.

PM Lee said Mr Low's assertions that the PAP's ideals, integrity and policies had changed for the worse were wrong on 23/4 out of three counts.

That fraction he got right was what policies had changed, but he said: "They have changed from less to more, not from more to less."

He spoke about how the party had to change as Singaporeans changed: "When Mr Lee Kuan Yew was PM, it was tough love... but that created the opportunities for people to look after themselves and to get up. And it was the right policy...

"When I took over from Mr Goh Chok Tong, society had changed further. That is not to say one policy was right or one was wrong, but each was what we needed for each period."

PM Lee outlined a string of policies the Government rolled out as it systematically sought to help the different demographic groups: the elderly, the young and the sandwiched class.

He placed special emphasis on the debt young Singaporeans owed to their elders last night, in an oblique response to the WP accusing the party of not doing enough for that group.

"We will not forget this generation, because we owe them so much," said PM Lee as he cited a slew of programmes the Government has introduced to help the elderly.

Even as he laid out what the PAP and its policies stood for, PM Lee noted that it was the PAP's policies that helped not just the PAP candidate, but also the WP candidate Lee Li Lian.

Like the PAP's Dr Koh, Ms Lee also rose to success from hardship, a point WP leaders had made on Wednesday.

"She shows the system built by the PAP is a good one," he said.

He added: "So indeed PAP has changed its policies but Mr Low Thia Khiang was looking in the rear-view mirror, he got the direction wrong. We must look forward and do what is right for Singapore for the future."

But PM Lee's speech also looked ahead, beyond the by-election, as he called on Singaporeans to determine for themselves what sort of politics they wanted in 10 or 20 years.

Here, he framed the choice as one between politics of division and politics of cohesion.

"Divisive politics is where we slap one another and we call that checks and balances... Getting people to work together for the common good is what the PAP wants," he said.

The speech ended a hectic day of campaigning for all four parties. Candidates from the WP, Reform Party and Singapore Democratic Alliance all gave one final push as they tried to cover all their bases before Cooling-Off Day.

The two major parties, the PAP and WP, sent out party leaders and MPs on the ground, knocking on doors even at night.

The show of force by these two front runners on the last day of campaigning served to reinforce what Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean predicted on Day 1: Punggol East will be a close fight.

What kind of leaders do you want? Do we want honest leaders who will explain our challenges, who will work with you to find solutions and overcome these challenges? Or people who will make empty promises and leave it to others to get the job done? Their job? Just to slap the other fellow once in a while.
- PM Lee

Cohesion or division? You decide, says PM
He defends PAP against attacks and accuses WP of flip-flopping
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 25 Jan 2013

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday urged Singaporeans to ask themselves if they wanted politics of cohesion or division in the country.

In a cohesive, constructive political scene, parties work together for the benefit of Singaporeans, he said.

With politics of division, "we slap one another and call it checks and balances", he said, referring to Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang's famous analogy of its desire to act as a "co-driver" to slap the People's Action Party (PAP) when it falls asleep.

Pointing to Mr Low's fiery speech at the WP's final rally on Wednesday, PM Lee said that "it's very easy to excite people, agitate people, especially during election time".

"It's much, much harder to bring people together and get people to work for the common good.

"But that is what the PAP wants and what Singaporeans want," he added.

In his hour-long rally speech that capped the PAP's by-election campaign in Punggol East, Mr Lee defended the ruling party's integrity from Mr Low's attack and accused the WP of flip-flopping.

Within a week, they went from striking a constructive note at their first rally last Saturday to wielding the politics of division as the campaign drew to a close, he said.

In WP's first rally last Saturday, both Mr Low and party chairman Sylvia Lim stressed that the party was not out to "cripple" the PAP Government but would be a reasonable and responsible opposition.

But in its final rally on Wednesday, its rhetoric took a sharp turn and it tried to frighten residents into voting against the PAP, said Mr Lee.

On Wednesday, Mr Low asked residents to vote for the WP to strengthen it for a "rainy day".

"Don't wait for PAP to be corrupt, and we have to riot on the streets. Singapore cannot take such turmoil," he had said.

Last night, invoking a Chinese saying, Mr Lee said the WP was like the moon: different on the first day and the 15th day of the lunar cycle.

He urged voters to ask themselves what sort of leaders they want.

"Do we want leaders to explain challenges honestly and find solutions to overcome our problems?

"Or have people make empty promises and leave it to other people to get the job done? Then just slap the other fellow once in a while?"

What kind of politics do you want? The politics of cohesion or the politics of division? Cohesion politics, constructive politics is where we work with one another and we make policies which will benefit all of us. Divisive politics is where we slap one another and then we call that checks and balances.
- PM Lee

Choice of Koh 'in line with plan for Team Singapore'
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 25 Jan 2013

KOH Poh Koon is the kind of person Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wants on his team, not only because of his ability but also his passion, commitment to serve and desire to improve the lives of Singaporeans.

PM Lee said his choice of Dr Koh is also in line with his plan to build up his team, which he called "Team Singapore".

Dr Koh will add to the group of more than 20 new PAP MPs and ministers brought in during the 2011 General Election.

Mr Lee told the audience at last night's rally that Singapore needs to develop capable leaders who can run the country.

He has reinforced his team and new ministers like Mr Heng Swee Keat, Mr Chan Chun Sing, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin and Mr Lawrence Wong are "making a contribution".

"But I would like to strengthen the team so that it can do even better for Singapore, so that your future can be even more secure," he added.

Recommending Dr Koh to Punggol East voters, he said: "He came through our system. I met him. I persuaded him to come in because I decided he was a good man and I'm confident he will make you a good MP."

But Mr Lee had to meet the colorectal surgeon and father of two more than once before he would accept his offer.

"He took a while to think it over because what I was asking of him is not a light thing. It's a difficult decision.

"If I had asked him and he said 'yes' straightaway, I would have been a bit shaken: Does he know what he is in for?

"It's not just a by-election he has to fight, but after that, the commitment, the obligation, the responsibility, what it means to be a PAP MP and to wear these whites. Eventually he decided yes, he was ready. He answered the call. He was prepared to give it a fight. My respect for him went up after that," he said.

Mr Lee also referred to Dr Koh's passage from poverty to medical school to becoming a doctor.

He said Dr Koh epitomised how the policies that the PAP Government put in place enabled Singaporeans to make good.

The path of WP candidate Lee Li Lian also demonstrated the success of this system, Mr Lee said in a surprising twist.

"She completed her N levels... did her O levels. She went to Ngee Ann Polytechnic. She did well. And later on, she got her degree on her own, and now she's a candidate.

"So I say she shows that the Singapore system built by the PAP is a good one," Mr Lee said.

Solution for cheaper transport fares 'not as simple as nationalisation'
By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 25 Jan 2013

ACHIEVING cheaper transport fares and lower utility bills is not as simple as nationalising public transport and utility companies, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at last night's People's Action Party (PAP) rally.

Otherwise, every country would have done it, he said. It was a rebuttal of Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang's criticisms that essential services had been privatised to the detriment of citizens.

Mr Low's reasoning, he said, was that if such services were nationalised, "then you don't need profits, then it'll be cheaper".

It is not true, said Mr Lee. "If it were so simple, why hasn't every other country in the world done that? Ask yourself," he charged, adding that many countries have privatised essential services, while the government regulates.

Using the Hokkien term for "to do everything", he asked if the Government could "pao ka liao, solve every problem", then why did China pursue economic liberalisation under late leader Deng Xiaoping?

"If the Government can do everything and all would be well, then the North Koreans should be the most prosperous people in the world!" he said, prompting laughter from the crowd.

That said, the PAP Government is an "activist Government" and does not sit back while leaving things to the private sector, he added.

He said that the Government helps those who have problems coping with high utility bills and transport fares, with vouchers and schemes like U-Save. Members of Parliament are there to help too.

The authorities will spend $60 billion over 10 years on public transport, and aim to double the rail network by 2030.

In housing, they have intervened to ensure market stability, and programmes like the Build-to-Order scheme to ensure citizens get flats whose value would be maintained, he added.

PM Lee noted that it was easy for some at election rallies to talk about the Government doing more, without explaining how they would be funded.

"I'm honest with you. If there's a trade-off, if there's something tough, I will have to explain that to you. I'm not pretending. I think that's an important part of wearing white on white."

PAP will keep serving people with integrity: PM
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 25 Jan 2013

THE People's Action Party (PAP) changes its policies as new challenges emerge, but what it stands for - serving the people with integrity - will never change, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night.

Responding to the attack on the ruling party by Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang on Wednesday, Mr Lee said the PAP's ideals, objectives and integrity remain "absolutely the same" as those of its founding members.

Pointing to his party whites, Mr Lee said the PAP has always worn the uniform because it is honest with Singaporeans.

When it comes to tough policy trade-offs, it will not sugar-coat matters, he said, or say the easy, popular thing.

Rather, it will always make clear to Singaporeans "what we have to give up" - like the possibility of falling behind if there is slower growth and a less competitive school system.

At the same time, it handles its mistakes and embarrassments with transparency and integrity, said PM Lee, pointing to the way the party dealt with former Speaker Michael Palmer's admission of an extra-marital affair.

On Wednesday, Mr Low had used Mr Palmer's downfall - which triggered the by-election - as one example of how the PAP is now a shadow of its former self.

Last night, PM Lee said that after Mr Palmer came forward, party leadership accepted his resignation and disclosed the matter to the public immediately.

"What the PAP did in Punggol East is quite different from how the WP handled Hougang when Yaw Shin Leong went missing in action," he pointed out.

Last February, the WP leadership kept mum for two weeks on allegations of infidelity on Mr Yaw's part, before abruptly expelling him for failing to account to them. Mr Yaw fled the country and has not been seen since.

In his rally speech, Mr Lee conceded that the PAP has changed in one way: its social policies are now more generous than they were in former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's "tough love, self-reliance" era.

Social and financial aid, especially for the elderly and the low-income, have been ramped up because the present generation has different needs, he noted.

"That's not to say one policy was right or another was wrong, but each was what we needed for that period," said Mr Lee.

In her speech at last night's rally, Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor ran down the list of programmes in place to defray senior citizens' medical bills, monetise their flats and incentivise their employment.

"It's disingenuous of the WP to imply that only they care for the elderly and will speak up for them," she said. "The PAP cares too and not merely by speaking up, but by formulating, testing, refining and implementing policy."

In her speech, Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Intan Azura Mokhtar also brought up policies - from the Comcare assistance fund, to the recent $2 billion Marriage and Parenthood package - to show that "the PAP has done a lot for families, including the Malay-Muslim community".

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