Tuesday 8 December 2015

Singaporeans can be confident of stability, good governance: PM Lee Hsien Loong at PAP Convention 2015

PAP Convention 2015
Strong GE 2015 result will help him hand over to new leadership after next elections, he says
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 7 Dec 2015

The People's Action Party's (PAP) strong showing in the Sept 11 General Election has assured Singaporeans of at least another decade of predictability, political stability and good governance, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the party's first convention since GE 2015.

Taking 69.9 per cent of the votes and 83 out of 89 seats was not just a good result for the PAP, but "a tremendous plus for Singapore", said Mr Lee, PAP's secretary-general, at the annual party meeting attended by some 1,500 activists yesterday.

Crucially, the solid mandate had enabled him to strengthen the team in the Cabinet, renew the ranks of MPs in Parliament and prepare to hand over to his successor and the next generation of leaders after the next general election, due by 2021.

The strong result also enables Singapore to complete the transition from citizens and leaders who experienced 1965 to a completely post-independence generation, he added.

"It's a transition which we must succeed in, because it will show that Singapore will not just be exceptional once off, for one generation... but that we have institutionalised a system of governance, a society with the values and the resolution so that Singapore can endure."

Mr Lee elaborated on several measures that have been made possible by the PAP's "solid victory".

First, Singapore can carry out a smooth leadership transition.

"With this election and the 2011 election, I have been able to assemble and gather together a new team to reinforce the team," he said.

"And there is now time for this new team to gel and to take over the reins, well before the election after next," he added.

Second, Singapore will be able to transform its economy and society, and transition to a new phase of development.

And third, Singapore will be able to deal with external challenges as "one united people".

Mr Lee cautioned that bilateral relations with some countries might be challenging in the next decade as they face various difficulties.

"We need to be able to deal with this external rough weather without being weakened or distracted by internal divisions," he added.

Looking ahead, Mr Lee noted that the Government has been working on long-term plans, with master plans for policy areas such as ageing, sustainable living and transport. New parts of Singapore are being developed and heritage sites are being preserved.

He said the Government is working out the programme for its new term, with the PAP's election manifesto having set out the main ideas: building on the previous term's work but going further. It will see through works in progress, such as public transport improvements and MediShield Life.

And to look beyond SG50 to SG100, there is the Committee on the Future Economy and the public SGfuture discussions.

Mr Lee noted that two momentous occasions this year - founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's death and Singapore's 50th birthday - made Singaporeans realise "that we had worked together - the Government and the people - to build a special society".

"What will strengthen us further is not having all problems solved by Government, but to have Singaporeans doing things together, for one another," he added.

The SG50 celebration fund encouraged such ground-up initiatives, he noted. "The spirit is, get involved, get your hands dirty, get things done together."

To keep that spirit going, the Government is holding the Future Of Us exhibition and SGfuture conversations, to get Singaporeans working towards a shared future.

"We call them conversations, but actually, they should be conversations leading to actions," he added.

That is the kind of society that the PAP wants to build, he added, using a phrase from pioneer leader S. Rajaratnam: "a democracy of deeds".

If society is divided, politics will be divisive, Mr Lee said. But if society is cohesive, constructive politics has a chance to work, and the PAP can continue working for the interest of all Singaporeans, he added.

Three factors key to strong win in polls: PM Lee
PAP's hard work, policy changes, and jubilee year won GE2015
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 7 Dec 2015

Singaporeans gave the People's Action Party (PAP) a strong result at the Sept 11 General Election due to the party's efforts on the ground and in policy changes that showed results, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Public goodwill towards the party was also reinforced by the special circumstances of Singapore's Golden Jubilee and founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's death, which gave people a stronger sense of identity and nationhood, he added at the party's convention.

Political observers have cited a range of reasons for the PAP's 69.9 per cent vote share nationwide, but this was the first time Mr Lee spoke at length on the subject. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is still leading a formal post-mortem, said Mr Lee, as he shared his preliminary thoughts on three factors that explained the strong election result.

First, hard work by the PAP MPs and activists not just during the campaign period, but over the last four years and before that, paid off.

For instance, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say - whom Mr Lee described as the "chief salesman for the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) and MediShield Life" - conducted more than 100 dialogues with residents in his Bedok ward, "block by block, weekend by weekend", to explain the schemes.

Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman also systematically covered his Siglap ward by creating a computer database to log visits and make sure he personally connected with every resident, even if he had to return to the same area twice or thrice.

Both stood in East Coast GRC, which was expected to see a close fight from the Workers' Party. Their work saw the PAP team win a comfortable 60.7 per cent of votes.

Second, the PAP Government made progress in areas such as housing, transport, immigration and healthcare - areas that became hot issues during the 2011 General Election when the PAP scored 60.1 per cent of the popular vote, its lowest share since independence.

The PGP was a "big hit", Mr Lee said, easing worries over healthcare, while programmes like the SkillsFuture initiative showed that the Government is planning for the future.

Still, there remains work to be done, he added, citing how Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan is being kept busy improving public transport, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong is working on MediShield Life and new hospitals and polyclinics, and Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo is occupied with population issues.

Third, the sense of national identity strengthened this year. The 50th anniversary of independence and the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew reminded Singaporeans that it took a united people for Singapore to succeed, PM Lee said. These were "one-off events", but "left a deep mark on all of us", he added.

Whether one lived through independence or only read about it in books, "we all shared the national moment of grief when Mr Lee passed away, and we all shared the moment of rejoicing when we sang Majulah Singapura and recited the Pledge on National Day", he said.

Turning his eye to the next elections, GE 2021, PM Lee said it will be "a new battle" even as the good result of GE 2015 was a "good base".

"Voters will judge the PAP afresh the next time, not only by what we have done before, but what we will be doing this term and what we can continue to do," he said. "They will ask whether our promises merit their trust, whether our actions strengthen their conviction, whether our policies and plans will continue to take Singapore forward."

'Take the fight to opponents, even when the going is tough'
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 7 Dec 2015

People's Action Party activists must have the courage of their convictions and have the confidence in persuading Singaporeans to support the party, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

"We have to take the fight to our opponents, even when the going is tough, because, ultimately, Singaporeans back fighters. That's why they have backed the PAP for more than 60 years," he told MPs and party activists.

Mr Lee reminded party members that they have to listen to residents and remain humble, especially after the big electoral victory the party won. But they must also convince people about what the party stands for. "If you are just a hao hao xian sheng (Mr Nice Guy), yes to everything, but you have no ideas of your own, you don't stand up for what you believe in, you will not win votes," he said.

Mr Lee singled out for mention veteran MP Charles Chong, who won back Punggol East SMC from the Workers' Party. He also cited the performance of the PAP candidates in Aljunied GRC and Hougang, who did not win but raised their vote share, and asked them to stand up and take a bow - to applause from the audience.

"They had the hardest mission but they kept at it with the right attitude. And they showed that the PAP has fight, that no opposition constituency can consider itself 'safe'," he said.

PAP candidates must also have staying power despite losing elections or receiving brickbats, Mr Lee said, citing Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin and MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling, who won by comfortable margins in GE 2015.

Mr Sitoh lost twice to opposition veteran Chiam See Tong, but insisted on standing for the third time in 2011 and won the long-time opposition ward back by 114 votes. "I told him, next time, better don't give us so many palpitations," Mr Lee quipped.

Mr Sitoh made sure it was not a nail-biting finish this year by delivering a 66.4 per cent victory.

In 2011, a barrage of online flak was directed at Ms Tin, then in Marine Parade GRC, over her age. "It's not easy for a first-time young lady fighting, but she has a stout heart; she concentrated on serving her residents," Mr Lee said, noting that this time, she won 65.6 per cent of the votes in a three-way fight. Noting that the "people's judgment was an awesome thing", he told his MPs they should not be found wanting.


Party activists throw up ideas to shape policies
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 7 Dec 2015

Around 1,500 People's Action Party (PAP) members at the party convention yesterday heard a range of ideas from fellow activists on shaping lifelong learning, caring for the aged and disabled, sustainability and ways to engage people.

Plans are being made to help put some of these ideas into action.

Community engagement, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the convention at the Singapore Expo, was key for Singapore's future.

"What will strengthen us further is not to have all problems solved by Government, but to have Singaporeans doing things together, for one another," he added.

Mr Lee and other party leaders were in the audience as panels of activists presented their views and ideas on key issues for the near future.

One suggestion from the panel on lifelong learning was to encourage learning across generations, with senior citizens taking an active part in mentoring younger people.

Mr Lee said this was a useful idea for the national SkillsFuture initiative, which aims to spur a culture of continual learning and upgrading.

The suggestion also stood out for MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling, who said: "The elderly have always had a role to play in our society, and even more so now, as they can impart skills and pass on their experiences accumulated over time to the juniors."

Mr Lee also noted that, given Singapore's ageing society, it is important that those above 65 "should have a chance to continue working, and we should encourage them".

The panel on caring suggested helping seniors to age "in place" - at home and in their estates - and to professionalise care-giving jobs so the elderly can be looked after "with a human touch but also more efficiently".

Mr Lee said these are suggestions the Government will follow up on.

Central Singapore District mayor Denise Phua pointed out during the discussions that care-giving is not just about the elderly, but also about the needy and the disabled.

Mr Lee agreed, citing his recent visit to the Enabling Village in Lengkok Bahru which trains people with disabilities and helps them find jobs.

He noted how the FairPrice outlet there had worked to serve customers and staff with disabilities better, such as with lighter trolleys that can be fitted on wheelchairs.

"It's a very nice effort by many groups... coming together to do something," he said. "We are family. We all have a place in our home."

Mr Benjamin Tay, chairman of the PAP Policy Forum which helped to organise the presentations, said the topics were inspired by Mr Lee's speech at the swearing-in of the new Cabinet in October, when he spoke about the Republic's next chapter.

"They are parts of an overarching national conversation, and we will look to implement some ideas if they are worthwhile," he said.

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher de Souza said it was good that activists had a platform to spell out at the micro level what could be done to, say, encourage greater recycling among residents, as details matter on the ground.

"And unless activists are given a platform to voice out their suggestions, the wider party will not know."

PAP activists honoured for efforts and commitment
Party chairman Khaw Boon Wan calls on PAP branches to identify, groom potential leaders
By Lim Yan Liang, The Sunday Times, 6 Dec 2015

When Mr Lim Joo Kwan first volunteered with the People's Action Party more than 50 years ago, one of his tasks was to put up candidate posters during election campaigns.

In those days, that meant climbing up coconut trees to nail the posters, and his chest and singlet would be stained with blood.

"Back in 1959, there were no lampposts - only coconut trees," the 71-year-old recalled. "We had to 'hug' each tree, climbing them to put up the campaign posters."

He stuck with the party through 13 general elections, and helped the PAP improve its vote share in East Coast GRC in the Sept 11 election.

Yesterday, the businessman was one of nearly 600 PAP members to receive awards for sweating it out for the party, including those who made significant efforts in GE2015.

Mr Lim was one of three recipients of the Dedicated Service Star.

PAP chairman Khaw Boon Wan lauded the commitment of the award winners and activists to being "servants of the people" and for helping win voters' trust at the GE in a speech to 2,000 party members at the awards ceremony at the Singapore Expo.

Mr Khaw, who is Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport, called on party branches to identify and groom potential leaders to help the PAP do more for Singaporeans.

Self-renewal was a continuing priority for the party, he stressed.

He also said that an "overwhelming" 70 per cent of Singaporeans said they wanted the PAP to be the government. This was an endorsement of what the PAP had done, and sent a clear signal of the direction they wanted Singapore to take beyond SG50 and the kind of government they wanted to work with.

"Much work remains to be done. We will continue on the new way forward: more inclusive focus on social needs, especially for the elderly and the disadvantaged," he added. "And more involvement by citizens, working in partnership with the Government to improve our lives."

Mr Khaw cited Mr Lim and several award winners as activists who carry the PAP core values proudly. Among them was Mr Mohamed Said Ali, who took two weeks of leave over the GE to oversee daily operations at the Changi-Simei branch. Also recognised were Mr and Mrs Gopal Kanapatty from the Queenstown branch. Mrs Gopal, 68, speaks English, Tamil, Mandarin, Malay and some Hokkien, Mr Khaw noted.

At the ceremony, the cast of local movie Ah Boys To Men also performed a song dedicated to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the PAP's first secretary-general, who died in March, aged 91.

In his speech, Mr Khaw said senior party members should also ensure that skills that have helped the PAP earn the trust of the people are passed down to the young.

For Mr Tan Kim Hock, 77, from PAP's Changi Simei branch, who also won a Dedicated Service Star, this means passing on values such as keeping one's promises and always being honest. Said the retired teacher: "Today's Singapore may be different, but basic values like these do not change."

Mr Lim said other skills that more experienced members can pass on to younger ones include ways to show empathy to residents at weekly Meet-the-People Sessions. "People come to see their MP because they are facing problems, so we must always remember not to say things that might antagonise them," he said. "It's about how you listen to them and take the case. There are no hopeless cases."

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