Sunday, 23 August 2015

Ng Eng Hen - Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum 2015

PAP's policies are about the heartland: Ng Eng Hen
Party has stayed true to its roots and looked after the ordinary Singaporean, says minister
By Aaron Low, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2015

The People's Action Party (PAP) always crafted policies for people living in the heartland and has stayed true to its roots and looked after the interest of the ordinary Singaporean, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

It does this because the centre of gravity of the political system has always been with those living in three-room and four-room flats, he added.

"All our policies are about the heartland. That's our base, the strength in our political system," said Dr Ng, who is the PAP's organising secretary.

"And I think if we deviate from there, we will be in trouble."

The move by opposition parties to contest all seats at the upcoming general election is a good one because it gives people the choice to decide how Singapore should move forward, he said at the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum at the National University of Singapore last night.

But amid the heat of the hustings, he hoped that Singaporeans would remain focused on why they are voting and what they are voting on - which is to choose their leaders and the next government.

"On Nomination Day, there is no certainty that there will be a PAP government," he said.

Keeping Singapore Special – The Singapore Story told through t...
Singapore has thrived for 50 years, not out of sheer luck, but through the fortitude and resolve of our pioneers. As we prepare to take on future challenges, we should do so with the understanding and an appreciation of our past. Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen said this at the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum held at the National University of Singapore on 20 Aug. Catch highlights of the forum in this video, and journey through some of the changes that have taken place at the Padang, a microcosm of Singapore, and the site of key events in Singapore’s history. #SG50
Posted by cyberpioneer on Friday, August 28, 2015

Dr Ng fielded a range of questions from students, from whether women should enlist as part of National Service, to the economic challenges and rising non-traditional security threats that Singapore faces.

On women, he said there was no real need to enlist them as technology has allowed the Singapore Armed Forces to fight effectively.

The rise of technology, however, has also created new security threats such as information warfare and cyber threats that the Government is closely monitoring.

Students also asked about the upcoming general election, which is widely expected to be called within weeks, and what Dr Ng thought about the younger generation's attitude towards politics here.

He dismissed suggestions that young Singaporeans were politically apathetic, noting that a lack of activism could simply be because things worked in the system here.

And it is this system - which has been established on the pillars of trust, integrity and zero tolerance for corruption - that allowed Singapore to punch above its own weight.

Dr Ng said bigger countries sat down to talk to Singapore because the country always delivered on what it promised.

The Government's fiscal prudence and lack of corruption were also what allowed it to be able to fund major social spending programmes such as the Pioneer Generation Package, which cost more than $8 billion, up front.

"I'd rather have people with honesty and integrity to run a less-than-perfect system, rather than dishonest people run a perfect system," said Dr Ng.

<< Towards SG100 - many more Singapore Stories to Write>> “If anyone tells you that we are done building Singapore,...
Posted by Ng Eng Hen on Friday, August 21, 2015

Call to help shape future of Singapore
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2015

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has challenged younger Singaporeans to build the future of Singapore and shape it into something they can continue to be proud of.

"If anyone tells you we're done building, reject that. We're not done building Singapore.There's so much we can do," he said. "In SG75, SG100, will the Singapore you live in be special to you, to the world? I challenge each of you to make it so."

He was speaking to 160 students at a forum at the National University of Singapore at Kent Ridge last night.

Over the course of an hour, he charted Singapore's progress over a century, citing historically significant events at the Padang and used pictures to show how far Singapore had come over the last 100 years.

In the early days, Singapore developed but did not have the opportunity to decide its future. The British built City Hall in 1929 and laid the foundation for Singapore's administration system.

Then in 1942, the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese - a sombre reminder that it is better for Singaporeans to determine their own future, said Dr Ng. By 1945, the Japanese forces lost and surrendered Singapore to the British in a ceremony at City Hall.

Japanese prisoners-of-war were marched past City Hall, and forced to work on repairing the Padang.

Eventually, the country gained independence, but not before having limited self-determination under the British, self-governance, and a short-lived union with Malaysia from 1963 to 1965.

The Padang witnessed it all, in front of City Hall, where the declarations of self-government in 1959 and union with Malaysia in 1963 took place.

At this point, Singapore's path was not set, he said, noting it would have been intuitively easier to pander to chauvinist instincts of the dominant Chinese community.

But founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew insisted on a multiracial, multi-religious country. And under him, Singapore took shape as a meritocratic country, said Dr Ng, who recounted how he personally grew up in a rental flat but went on to work at a top cancer centre.

The view of the skyline from the Padang is also testament to Singapore's spirit of triumph over adversity. The Suntec City project began after the 1984 recession and property glut. But the Suntec group's $1.2 billion purchase of the site in 1988 turned out to be a good investment after the economy bounced back.

More recently, at the week of mourning for the late Mr Lee in March, some 450,000 people paid their respects at Parliament House, queueing for hours on the Padang.

Turning to the future, he said the students would likely see Singapore celebrate its 75th and 100th year of independence:

"The next 50 years will be shaped by your visions, your dreams. You are a historically privileged group. All of you will very likely experience SG50 and SG100."

Dr Ng later fielded questions on a range of topics, including the upcoming general election, apathetic voters and Singapore's defence, and the impact of slower economic growth.

Leaders should get closer to the people: Ng Eng Hen
By Joy Fang, TODAY, 21 Aug 2015

Turning away from the usual proceedings of a forum, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen instead kicked things off with a presentation at the annual Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum yesterday (Aug 20).

Armed with a pointer, Dr Ng walked among the rows of students as he delivered his presentation on Singapore’s history and its growth, peppering the audience with occasional questions and personal anecdotes.

In the question and answer session that followed, Dr Ng described his presentation style as an example of what he felt leaders should be: Closer to the ground. “It’s a process of communicating and getting closer to people. Sometimes when you’re a leader, you tend to be a bit too far, which is why I decided to ask you questions and come near to you,” he said.

During the presentation, while talking about the Japanese Occupation, Dr Ng shared how his father-in-law planted tapioca during the war and continued to do so until he was 80, and also kept a cupboard full of canned food. “He said ‘you always have to be ready in case there’s war again’,” said Dr Ng, adding that, as a prospective son-in-law, he had to eat all the tapioca set before him.

Organised by the National University of Singapore’s Students’ Political Association, the forum, titled The Years Ahead: National Decisions, Global Impact, was attended by 160 students who were mostly from NUS.

With the General Election (GE) expected to be just around the corner, four out of the 12 questions posed were about the GE. Others included whether there would be compulsory conscription for women, and on Singapore’s stance amid tensions in the South China Sea.

A student, observing the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) “push towards the heartlands as part of its election strategy”, asked Dr Ng what policies are in the works to complement this “growing offensive”.

Dr Ng pointed out that all the policies have been for the heartlands, citing MediShield Life, housing policies and the Pioneer Generation Package as examples. “That’s the strength of our political system; we make sure that the centre of gravity for our policies is for those who are living in three-room, four-room flats ... and if you look at our policies, I think we justify keeping that,” he said.

Dr Ng also reiterated the message that beyond deciding who manages one’s town for five years, elections are also about electing future Government leaders. “Amid the heat, the politics of it, hopefully the serious messages get through — what is this about, what are we voting about,” he said.

In Singapore, “if you don’t get voted in by your constituents, you don’t get to be in the Government,” he said, noting that the Cabinet lost former Foreign Minister George Yeo, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Hwee Hua, and Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zainul Abidin after the PAP’s Aljunied GRC team was defeated in the 2011 GE.

Asked if Singapore has the “unique” role of mediator between nations during international confrontations, Dr Ng noted that big countries approach Singapore for partnership because the Republic offers integrity, honesty and openness. “I’m not just saying this because this is (the) season, but corruption is such a cancer that once it sets in, it’s very hard to eradicate ... if there’s one thing you have to prize, it is complete integrity in the systems.”

Mistakes will be made, but the important thing is to get to the bottom of it when they occur, he said. “If there are people who need to be chopped, so be it. If I lose (my) reputation, so be it.”

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