Tuesday 15 September 2015

Close ranks and unite after 2015 General Election: Ministers

By Jermyn Chow, Defence Correspondent, The Straits Times, 14 Sep 2015

Ministers yesterday (Sept 13) called on Singaporeans to close ranks, reflect and move forward together as a nation after the heat of the hustings.

They also said the strong mandate voters gave the People's Action Party (PAP) meant it was even more important for the Government to consult and involve citizens more deeply in shaping its policies.

The PAP won 83 out of 89 seats in Parliament at last Friday's (Sept 11) General Election, and got 69.9 per cent of the popular vote - an upward swing of almost 10 percentage points from the 2011 General Election.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told reporters it was also important for the opposition to reflect on what happened, and how it can continue to play a constructive role in Singapore politics going forward, as it must.

"Everyone will be included in the way we go forward, and everyone must feel included in the way we go forward," he said. "With a very strong mandate, the Government is in a unique position to unify everyone and to take us forward."

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said that while differences of opinion would not go away, the key was to find common ground on some things and agree to disagree on others.

And Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said the strong support for the PAP "makes it even more important for us to engage even more extensively and even more deeply".

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a short speech to residents at The Pinnacle@Duxton, said the poll result shows Singaporeans and the world "which way we are going".

"That we know how to come together, that we know how to work as one team, that we are able to find a good set of leaders and people in order to take Singapore forward."

Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew represented Tanjong Pagar for 60 years, and the GRC turned in one of the best results for the PAP nationwide.

Said PM Lee: "I think if Mr Lee had been looking at the result, he would have been very happy. We are happy too."

He added: "Let us go forward and make sure that we keep on building Singapore for many years to come."

Opposition can continue to contribute to Singapore, says DPM Tharman
It fielded interesting new faces and should continue playing constructive role: Tharman
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 14 Sep 2015

As Singaporeans reflect on the general election and move forward, the opposition can adopt a more reflective attitude and see how it can keep playing a constructive role in Singapore politics, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has said.

He told reporters that the opposition plays a critical role in advancing the country. "It is important for the opposition to reflect on what happened - not just in terms of whether the electorate didn't know better or the electorate made a mistake - but how they could have done better in their strategies," he said.

"We need a more reflective attitude after each election, and on how the opposition can continue to play a constructive and positive role in Singapore politics, as they must."

His comments come after the People's Action Party's landslide victory in the Sept 11 elections saw it sweep 83 out of 89 seats in Parliament and get 69.9 per cent of the popular vote, a near 10 percentage point swing from 2011.

Mr Tharman also acknowledged the presence of several new opposition candidates who failed to get elected, and hoped they would continue to be active in public life.

"It is very good that we saw some new faces in the elections. Several very interesting new faces," he said.

"I hope they continue to contribute to Singapore - even though they didn't win - whether in politics or outside."

Singapore, he added, has to remain a society with diverse voices and views, not just during elections - a point Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had made over the past two days.

"We will take views from the opposition, we will take views from civil society, we will take views from people from different walks of life," Mr Tharman said, adding: "Everyone will be included in the way we go forward, and everyone must feel included in the way we go forward."

This includes online and social media, which play an important role in shaping opinion, and should continue to do so as constructively as possible, he said.

"This is a very unique moment for Singapore in an uncertain world, but a vote for steady progress and a vote for inclusive progress," he added.

Mr Tharman was in Chinatown to launch the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations. Some 2,300 giant lanterns, alongside decorative installations, will be lit nightly until Oct 12.

He also said there was a high degree of uncertainty in the region, which could affect Singapore.

"We've got to make sure our economy - not just short term but over the next few years - stays on an even keel and we are able to continue to create good jobs for Singaporeans."

Tan Chuan-Jin: 'Tensions can serve as impetus to improve Singapore'
By Jermyn Chow, Defence Correspondent, The Straits Times, 14 Sep 2015

The differences that people have had in the general election (GE) will not go away, but Singaporeans must unite and move on, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said yesterday.

And as the dust settles on the elections, he called on Singaporeans to "figure out how to rally around, how to continue to converse as best as we can".

"Differences won't go away. Some things, we will be able to find common ground. Some things, we will just have to agree to disagree.

"But the main thing is, let's all move forward together as one nation," said Mr Tan, who led the five-member People's Action Party (PAP) team contesting in Marine Parade GRC to a decisive victory against a Workers' Party team.

The PAP won 64.07 per cent of the votes, well above the 56.6 per cent in 2011 against a weaker team from the National Solidarity Party.

Speaking to reporters yesterday while visiting residents in Marine Parade GRC to thank them for their support, Mr Tan acknowledged that the heat of the hustings had cast a spotlight on differences, which created tensions.

But such tensions can be useful, the minister said. "It pushes us along and as we jostle, I think we continue to improve. It's the tone and the texture of how that kind of tension takes place," he added.

The PAP won the Sept 11 elections by a landslide, raising its vote share by 9.8 percentage points to 69.9 per cent. Asked about the huge swing of votes towards the PAP, Mr Tan said the sentiment online did not tally with what they saw when walking the ground.

"And then you see the bookies' odds; we were a bit perplexed also because our ground sense was that it was very warm and supportive. Whether that translates to votes, (it is) difficult to say... but I kept focusing on our people and reaching out."

Mr Tan said the PAP will not take the strong support and backing it received for granted: "It will be disastrous if we do that. There are obviously calls for areas to improve as well, things we can do better."

For a start, the Government has adjusted the way it reaches out to Singaporeans and communicates with them, he noted. And it will carry on with this engagement because it cannot get everything "exactly right" when formulating policies, and "input from people makes a lot of difference".

"We have begun to do that in very significant ways in our respective ministries," he said. "It will be messier, it will take a bit longer. But on many fronts, we really should begin to engage our people..."

Mr Tan, together with his teammates - Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and backbenchers Seah Kian Peng, Fatimah Lateef and Edwin Tong - rode on an open-top lorry which made its way around Braddell Heights, Geylang Serai, Joo Chiat and Marine Parade, thanking residents in the area.

One of them even baked and offered the MPs-elect a cake which had a picture of the PAP team hugging one another on Polling Night when the results were announced.

Mr Goh, 74, who has fought 10 general elections since joining politics in 1976, said he had seen many ups and downs, and had taken a step back as the next generation of leaders takes over.

When asked what role he would be playing in the new government that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is putting together, Mr Goh said: "I take a step back and give them my views behind the scenes.

"While (we) look at the rear mirror to learn lessons, always look towards the future.

"And the future belongs to Tan Chuan-Jin and the generation of leaders and younger MPs."

We went around Marine Parade GRC for about nearly 5 hours? To thank residents for their support. These shots were just...
Posted by Tan Chuan-Jin on Sunday, September 13, 2015

PAP will do even more to engage public: Heng Swee Keat
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 14 Sep 2015

The strong mandate that voters gave the People's Action Party (PAP) at the ballot box last Friday (Sept 11) makes it all the more important for the party to step up its efforts to consult and involve Singaporeans in shaping programmes and policies, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said.

Their support for and confidence in the PAP meant the party had to "engage even more extensively and even more deeply", he said on Sunday (Sept 13) when visiting residents in Tampines GRC to thank them. And he hopes more people will offer ideas, propose solutions and join the Government in initiating projects to build Singapore.

Mr Heng led the year-long national engagement effort started in 2012 - Our Singapore Conversation - on a range of issues.

On Sunday, he said that while public engagement has always been part of how the PAP has worked, the conversation "significantly intensified the process".

For one thing, many ministries have since set up units to consult the public, he noted, and many major policies were borne out of "very intense" public consultation.

This style of getting ideas from people will continue, he said.

Mr Heng, who chairs the SG50 steering committee, also acknowledged residents' efforts in initiating ground-up projects to celebrate the Golden Jubilee.

Our heartfelt thanks to the residents of Tampines. We have a truly special town with a warm kampung spirit.
Posted by Heng Swee Keat on Sunday, September 13, 2015

The five-member team he anchored won 72.06 per cent of the votes against the National Solidarity Party, an upward swing of 14.8 percentage points from the 2011 result - outpacing the PAP's 9.8 percentage point national vote swing, which saw its popular vote share rise to 69.9 per cent.

Mr Heng, with teammates Masagos Zulkifli, Baey Yam Keng, Desmond Choo and Cheng Li Hui, rode on a lorry through Tampines, thanking residents.

He attributed the PAP's improved performance to a sense of pride over how far Singapore has come over the last 50 years, amid a time of increasing regional uncertainty and anxiety. The death of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in March also reminded many of the challenges Singapore had to overcome to succeed.

"Having come so far in 50 years, there is a sense of excitement that we are poised to take Singapore forward in the next 50 years," he said. "What we must do is to make sure we harness the ideas and the creativity of our people, so that we can work together for a better future."

Newly elected MPs hit the ground running
Raring to go, rookies and seasoned hands alike kick off Meet-the-People sessions and get town councils in order
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2015

The nine days of marathon campaigning are over, but for the newly elected MPs, the hard work has just begun.

Diving almost immediately into constituency work on Monday (Sept 14) night, more than 50 People's Action Party (PAP) MPs held their first Meet-the-People sessions following the Sept 11 polls.

Similarly, three Workers' Party (WP) MPs kicked off these weekly sessions in their Aljunied GRC.

The PAP, which romped home with 83 of the 89 seats, is getting the nitty-gritty in order for the new five-year term.

Three new party branches will be set up. One is Limbang in southern Yew Tee, part of the new Marsiling- Yew Tee GRC. It will be helmed by minister Lawrence Wong.

Another is Gambas branch in Sembawang GRC, to be led by new face Ong Ye Kung.

Fellow newcomer Sun Xueling will also have her own branch in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. It will be named Punggol West. The current Punggol West branch, headed by Dr Janil Puthucheary, will be renamed Punggol Coast.

Another order of business is the town councils.

The revived Jalan Besar GRC will have a town council headed by Dr Lily Neo. The GRC was unexpectedly wiped off the electoral map in the 2011 General Election but made a comeback this year, reuniting wards that were scattered to Moulmein- Kallang GRC, which has been dissolved, and Tanjong Pagar GRC.

Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, noted that transfers have to be done for areas housed under different GRCs in the 2011 General Election.

But for single-seat Punggol East, the transfer involves a handover between the PAP and WP. Punggol East MP Charles Chong is working on transferring the constituency's town council out of opposition-held Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and into the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council.

On the ground, both fresh-faced rookies, who come armed with years of grassroots experience, and seasoned hands appear raring to go.

This, despite being sleep-deprived from the punishing pace of the past two weeks, when they were on the hustings canvassing for votes and then thanking residents for their support at the polls.

"It's business as usual," said second-term MP Zainal Sapari of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

"Even when it's not campaign period, we have a lot of things to do. Our weekends are normally full with community events," he added.

Last night, an unruffled Mr Amrin Amin held his debut Meet-the-People Session in Woodlands ward in Sembawang GRC.

"My experience has prepared me. I've learnt the key thing is to listen closely and help as best as possible," said Mr Amrin, who has helped at such sessions since 2004.

"I draw a lot of energy and strength from my grassroots, who are ever enthusiastic, and from residents who cheer us on," he added.

The ever-tireless Ms Lee Bee Wah, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, is also motivated by her residents. "I'm just like their family member," she said. "I'm glad I can have my sessions again. I look forward to seeing them again."

The seasoned MPs said the number of cases typically surges in the weeks after an election. Usually, it is a 50 per cent uptick, said Mr Zainal, adding that he has roped in more volunteers. "We will try to meet all the residents who come for the session, and listen to their problems and worries. It's our duty."

Additional reporting by Melissa Lin

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