Monday 12 November 2018

PAP Conference 2018: PM Lee Hsien Loong sets out plan for People's Action Party ahead of next General Election

It must know people's concerns, give them hope, bring them together and lead well
DPMs Teo Chee Hean, Tharman and 3 senior PAP members step down from Central Executive Committee
By Royston Sim, Deputy News Editor (Politics), The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2018

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday charted the path forward for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), saying it must win the next general election convincingly by taking a centrist approach and uniting Singaporeans.

The party has only two years left to prepare for the next election, said Mr Lee, who is PAP secretary-general, as he outlined four things it must do to maintain good politics and keep improving people's lives.

He called on party members to understand and address Singaporeans' concerns, give people hope for the future, encourage inclusive politics and provide good leadership.

"We are setting a clear direction, supported by the broad mass of Singaporeans who want to see stability and progress continue for many years."

He was at the party's biennial conference at Singapore Expo, where cadres elected a new central executive committee (CEC) - the PAP's top decision-making body.

"The new CEC will be leading the party into the final stretch, gearing up to put our record before voters," Mr Lee said.

The new CEC also reflects a major transition for the party.

It comprises largely fourth-generation leaders, with heavyweights such as Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam stepping down.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, labour chief Ng Chee Meng and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah were elected to the top 12 positions.

Mr Lee said the CEC will meet "within a couple of weeks" to elect a new slate of office-holders, and observers expect the line-up to provide more clarity on who the country's next prime minister will be.

This will be followed by a Cabinet reshuffle in due course, he added.

Addressing about 3,000 party members, Mr Lee noted that many countries are under serious stress, from citizens who feel their lives are not improving and hot-button issues like immigration. Politics becomes polarised, and the country goes into a downward spiral.

Singapore has coped better than most countries, but "we should not take what we have for granted", he said, stressing the need to get both policies and politics right.

Noting that cohesion does not come naturally or easily to any society, Mr Lee said the PAP must keep Singaporeans together.

The party aims to be a broad tent, he said, highlighting the importance of finding common ground and maintaining a shared space where differences can be aired without eroding social cohesion.

"The PAP must strive to reconcile different views and interests, and work hard to strengthen confidence and trust between different groups," he said. "So that we can keep this a society with a broad middle ground, multiracial, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive."

The party must also understand the concerns of Singaporeans well, and help address their specific worries, he added.

He called on every party activist to play his part by complementing the Government's policies with a human touch.

"By showing voters that you personally care, it convinces them that the PAP cares, and the PAP government cares," he said.

Beyond that, the PAP must give Singaporeans hope about the future, Mr Lee added. One important aspect of this, he said, is social mobility - people believing they have every chance to improve their own lives and that of their children.

Singapore's meritocracy has to be about helping one another reach their best, without holding back others who are doing better, he added.

Mr Lee also stressed how providing good leadership is key. The party has had two smooth political transitions so far, he said, providing both continuity and renewal.

He noted that the 4G leadership team has been in the Cabinet for several years now.

They have been - and been tested - in several portfolios, and are learning to complement one another's strengths and weaknesses, he said, describing them as "a team of able men and women with a good combination of skills among them".

"I can see them gelling as a team, and am confident that they have what it takes to lead Singapore."

PAP unveils new party leadership with 4G leaders at helm
New line-up marks next phase of political renewal
By Rachel Au-Yong, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2018

The People's Action Party (PAP) has renewed the ranks of its top leadership, in a move that formally marks the start of Singapore's next phase of political renewal with the younger, fourth-generation (4G) leaders at the helm.

Heavyweights such as Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan are no longer in the party's top decision-making body to take the PAP to the next general election.

Instead, the new central executive committee (CEC), voted in at the party's conference yesterday, is made up of (in no particular order): Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Mr K. Shanmugam, Mr Chan Chun Sing, Ms Grace Fu, Mr Gan Kim Yong, Mr Heng Swee Keat, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Ms Indranee Rajah, Mr Ng Chee Meng, Mr Ong Ye Kung, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

The 12 received the most votes from about 2,000 cadres who picked them from a list of 19 names.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo were co-opted into the CEC as they got the 13th and 14th highest votes. The PAP did not disclose the number of votes each received.

The two new faces in the CEC are Mr Ng Chee Meng and Ms Indranee.

Others on the ballot were Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary, and Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP and PAP executive director Alex Yam.

The new CEC will lead the party into the next general election, for which it has "only two years left to prepare", PM Lee said.

Calling the latest CEC changes "a major transition point for the party", he said they were partly made possible by five longstanding party leaders stepping down.

PM Lee thanked the five - outgoing party chairman Mr Khaw, vice-chairman Yaacob Ibrahim, assistant secretaries-general Mr Teo and Mr Tharman and treasurer Lim Swee Say - for their contributions over the years.

"They have played vital roles in the last few CECs, they put in place plans so that PAP can remain relevant and relatable, they led the party in helping residents resolve their problems," he said in his Mandarin speech.

Turning to the new line-up, which he described as a "major step forward in our political renewal", he said in his English speech that the positions they will hold in the new CEC will be decided when the committee meets in a couple of weeks. "In due course, I will follow up with changes in the Cabinet line-up."

Noting the smooth transitions of power from founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew to his successor Goh Chok Tong, and from Mr Goh to PM Lee himself, he expressed the hope that party members would give their "wholehearted support to the new CEC and our 4G leaders".

The 4G team, he said, has been in the Cabinet for several years, and been tested in several portfolios.

"It is a team of able men and women, with a good combination of skills among them. They are gaining experience, willing to serve and, most importantly, with their hearts in the right place.

"I can see them gelling as a team, and am confident they have what it takes to lead Singapore," he said.

Who among them will be appointed to the positions of first and second assistant secretary-general (ASG), vacated by Mr Teo and Mr Tharman respectively, will be closely watched. These deputy chief roles will be the strongest indicator of who could succeed PM Lee.

There is talk among the cadres that Mr Chan, as well as Mr Shanmugam or Mr Heng, will occupy the positions.

Institute of Policy Studies deputy director Gillian Koh said the PAP is still "a half-step away" from seeing a new leader.

She believes Mr Shanmugam would take one of the two spots as "one of the deputy prime ministers is traditionally the security czar, and it's clear the Home Affairs and Law Minister is the one with that experience".

She added: "With one more ASG spot left, the potential PM would be clearly known, since the current PM has said Singapore is not ready for a non-Chinese leader. But if the CEC sets out three deputies, then it shows the 4G corpus has yet to make up its mind on who to give their full support."

PM Lee thanks five senior outgoing CEC members
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2018

All five senior members of the People's Action Party (PAP) central executive committee who are stepping down "served the party with loyalty and distinction", party secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

They are Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who will stay on in the Cabinet; and former ministers Yaacob Ibrahim and Lim Swee Say, who both retired from the Cabinet in May.

Prime Minister Lee outlined their achievements in his speech at the party conference.

Dr Yaacob, who stepped down as vice-chairman, has strengthened the party's support from the Malay community and assured Malay-Muslims that they are fairly treated in a multiracial society, he said.

On outgoing party treasurer Lim Swee Say, Mr Lee said his greatest strength is his ability to relate to ordinary Singaporeans with "folksy, vivid slogans" and persuasive skills when speaking face to face with residents.

Mr Lee also called Mr Khaw, Mr Teo and Mr Tharman "three of my closest comrades-in-arms".

"We go back a long way," he said. "We have fought many battles over the years and gone through countless ups and downs together."

He said Mr Khaw has tackled and made progress on difficult policy challenges in the areas of healthcare, transport and housing, while Mr Tharman has played a major part in shaping Singapore's new economic and social policies.

On Mr Teo, with whom he has worked the longest, Mr Lee said: "I rely on his independent judgment and steady support on many matters. He doesn't hesitate to tackle spiky issues and to take political flak on behalf of the team, especially at critical moments and during elections."

Mr Lee also commended former PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng, awarded the distinguished service medal for four decades of service to the party. Mr Lim, who retired from active politics in 2011, contested seven general elections. He continues to mentor the PAP teams in Hougang and Aljunied, and identifies candidates to join the PAP.

The outgoing committee members expressed their confidence in the fourth generation of leaders who will take the helm. "I have confidence in the 4G ministers because I have worked with them in Cabinet, I know who they are and what they're capable of doing," Dr Yaacob said.

"They are capable, will work well as a team, and most importantly, have their hearts in the right place," said Mr Tharman in a Facebook post after the event.

Asked if Singaporeans should expect to see more senior ministers, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said: "I would think so.

"It's possible that as part of the planning process, the Prime Minister will require some senior ministers. Going by my experience and Mr Lee's (Mr Lee Kuan Yew's) experience, vacancies may be created."

4G exco's first tasks - winning the ground, keeping PAP at the centre
By Zakir Hussain, News Editor, The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2018

Singapore's past two transitions of political leadership were gradual and, as they turned out, fairly uneventful. Its current leaders are striving to ensure the next one is as smooth. But this is not a given, especially as it comes with two years to go - perhaps less - before a general election that will not be as easy for the party as in 2015, when it secured a strong 69.9 per cent vote share.

There is no shortage of examples to show how rapidly voters' moods change, or how major parties can split.

The People's Action Party (PAP) has, over the years, adapted its workings to ensure it stays united and relevant. After an attempted takeover by pro-communists in 1957, the party introduced a cadre system so that only trusted members could elect top leaders.

This system remains to this day.

Over the years, the PAP also set up youth and women's wings, a seniors' group and policy forum to reach and engage various groups.

And it has assiduously set out to renew its ranks, and ensure it remains, as PAP secretary-general and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday, "a broad tent" and a party that caters to all Singaporeans.

This is seen in the line-up of seven candidates nominated by the outgoing central executive committee (CEC) for election at yesterday's party conference, where experienced and younger politicians, the three main races and women were represented, and elected: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and ministers K. Shanmugam, Chan Chun Sing, Grace Fu, Gan Kim Yong, Heng Swee Keat and Masagos Zulkifli.

Also elected were ministers Indranee Rajah, Ng Chee Meng, Ong Ye Kung and Vivian Balakrishnan, and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin. After coming in 13th and 14th, ministers Ng Eng Hen and Josephine Teo were co-opted into the CEC.

Most of this group form the core of the fourth-generation (4G) leadership. But some in the party clearly wonder whether the 4G cohort is ready and fully able to take the helm - or hold the view that even if seniors in the party should step aside, at least some more of them ought to remain to lend experience to the new mix in the CEC. For example, Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, at 62 and 61 respectively, are hardly due for retirement. This could help explain why not all of those from the 4G cohort on the ballot made the cut. Such sentiment could also reflect how Singaporeans feel about the broad slate of younger leaders: There is still time to hone their skills, but until then, keep experienced hands on deck.

There is no doubt that will indeed be the case in government, as these seniors will continue to play key roles in Cabinet, including as mentors to younger ministers. And no doubt at the party level too.

Such is the nature of political renewal. Just as 2G and 3G leaders had to work to convince voters they had what it took to lead, and that they could work as a team, the same will apply to the new CEC.

There have been promising signs of progress. Mr Ong and Mr Ng Chee Meng got voted in directly for the first time - an indication of the support they have within the party. Both were on the ballot in 2016 when they were much newer ministers, but did not make the cut. Mr Ong was co-opted then and served as an organising secretary.

This year, younger ministers and members who have been less prominent in the party failed to muster enough votes: ministers S. Iswaran, Lawrence Wong, Desmond Lee and Janil Puthucheary, and MP Alex Yam.

Housing, under Mr Wong's watch as National Development Minister, has not been an easy portfolio, while Mr Lee, Dr Janil and Mr Yam are also much younger and less well known to cadres.

One development many will watch when the new CEC next meets will be who will become assistant secretaries-general. Another will be who else gets co-opted into the CEC. Might one or more of those who missed out be among them? Might MPs who will lend the slate more diversity and experience be drawn in? Another factor could be the need for more Malay MPs in the CEC.

Who will be co-opted into the CEC won't be known for some weeks yet. But the remaining four to be picked could be those who can help strengthen the PAP on the ground and in its leadership transition, and ensure it remains the party for the broad middle of Singaporeans.

PM Lee: Important for PAP to bring different groups, opinions together
He urges activists to keep Singaporeans united and encourage inclusive politics
By Adrian Lim, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2018

Members of the People's Action Party (PAP) hold a spectrum of views on many issues, ranging from the conservative to the liberal, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is the party chief, yesterday.

For instance, some want to keep the Primary School Leaving Examination while others favour scrapping it, and some want to retain Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men, while others want to repeal it, he noted.

But regardless of their differences, all can be good party members, and it is important that the PAP can bring different groups and opinions together, he said.

The PAP's aim is to be a "broad tent", or a "broad church", PM Lee told the more than 3,000 members at a party conference as he urged them to keep Singaporeans united and encourage inclusive politics.

"We may not be able to reach a consensus on all issues, all the time.

"But we should always try to find common ground, and more importantly, maintain a shared space where the different views can be aired constructively, where we can engage in a way that does not erode trust and social cohesion," he said.

Failing to do so will result in the middle ground withering away. "The extremes will grow," he added.

Politics would become a "zero-sum game", organised along fault lines in Singapore society, and such politics would only make the fault lines deeper, he said. "People would be forced to take sides, you are either for me or against me."

Citing the United States, PM Lee said the politics is so deep that when families gather, they cannot talk politics. And it is reaching a point where marriages between Democrats and Republicans are frowned on.

"It is like between Romeo and Juliet - different clans, different tribes and different nations," he added.

In such a situation, it will be tough for the PAP, a centrist party, to hold everyone together and bring people from two ends together, he said.

Extremist protests, radical and populist groups will gain ground, and once society moves in this direction, it will be a downward spiral. It will be "practically impossible to rebuild centrist politics again and bring Singaporeans together again", he said.

Referencing a nursery rhyme, he said: "Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall... fell down, finished. It has happened to many countries, and it can happen to us, too."

PM Lee also noted that Singapore has done better than most in coping with stresses such as economic disruption and loss of identity.

This, he said, is not just a case of good luck but the result of deliberate choices and hard work over the generations.

Citing tripartism, he said it is a salient example of how Singapore brings people together. Although employers, unions and the Government have their own interests, they can work harmoniously because trust and confidence have been built up over many years.

"So when we talk about maintaining cohesion and centrist politics, it may sound ordinary and dull, but, in fact, it is vital for Singaporeans and very rare in the world.

"It is a key reason why we have done better than most," he added.

To give hope for the future, 'escalator' must keep moving up: PM Lee
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2018

Car manufacturing has returned to Singapore, 40 years after American automaker Ford closed its factory in Upper Bukit Timah Road.

But the new plant will be manufacturing electric cars, a high-tech venture by British company Dyson.

This new investment was cited by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday to drive home the point that with technology and a skilled workforce, Singapore can overcome its traditional constraints of scarce land and higher labour costs, and create new and exciting opportunities for Singaporeans.

He was speaking about the importance of keeping the economy growing and pressing on with economic transformation at the People's Action Party's conference.

Referring to a metaphor used by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, PM Lee said the "escalator" must keep moving up so everyone in society has the chance to do better. If the escalator stops, Singapore will be in trouble, as people will fight over who moves up or down, he added.

"We see such games of snakes and ladders in other economies which have stagnated. The fight over who is up and who goes down becomes much nastier."

Mr Lee also highlighted that Singapore has achieved some early successes in its economic transformation. They include big and small companies that are restructuring, embracing technology and training workers; high-tech industries such as robotics and aerospace engineering; and a start-up scene that is starting to thrive, like fintech.

While Singapore no longer soars with spectacular growth rates like in the past, the Prime Minister is confident it can still achieve steady and sustained growth, so people can look forward to good jobs and better standards of living.

Such advances will give people hope for the future, he said, in spelling out one of the party's key goals.

Thinking and planning for the long term are also a must to imbue Singaporeans with hope, he added.

The huge infrastructure investments in Changi Terminal 5, the Tuas megaport and more MRT lines are examples of how the country is preparing ahead, he noted.

An important aspect of hope is social mobility, Mr Lee said. Hence, the emphasis on education and learning, from pre-school to the workforce and skills upgrading.

He said: "That is what our meritocracy is about - helping each other reach the best of our ability, and not holding back others with the potential to do better than ourselves.

"We cannot cut tall poppies down. We must encourage every poppy to grow. We will be different colours, different heights. But we will be one community, one Singapore succeeding together."

Mr Lee said an egalitarian spirit must also be maintained in society, with people interacting comfortably as equals. Using the Chinese saying "ping qi ping zuo", he said: "We sit together, we rise together, we are on the same level. We feel the kinship and comradeship."

Party activists urged to give human touch to policies
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2018

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called on his party's activists to provide the human touch to government policies, like building more flats or ramping up pre-school places.

In doing so, they help people to better understand the benefits and broader intent of policies, which are aimed at addressing their concerns.

"Beyond these individual policies, we need to connect the dots, to paint the overall picture for Singaporeans, so that people get the broader message," PM Lee said at the People's Action Party (PAP) conference yesterday.

"The broader message is that the Government understands your concerns, that the PAP is working with you to tackle problems together, and that whatever your difficulties, in Singapore you will never walk alone.

"To do that, we have to complement good policies with a human touch," PM Lee said in setting out a key objective of the party.

Speaking to more than 3,000 activists, he added: "By showing voters that you personally care, it convinces them that the PAP cares, and the PAP government cares."

He told them that they give the party a human face when they work with people on the ground.

"When you go door-to-door on house visits, you understand the residents' circumstances and needs. You can explain how exactly they can make use of government policies to personally benefit themselves."

He gave the example of how they can show young parents the way to use the Marriage and Parenthood Package to ease the financial burden of raising children, or explain to seniors how the Pioneer Generation Package and upcoming Merdeka Generation Package will help with their healthcare needs.

"You are not just helping to write letters and send them off to the Housing Board or Central Provident Fund Board or some other government agency," said PM Lee of their work at Meet-the-People Sessions. "You are offering residents friendship and encouragement, so that they identify with you, trust you and confide in you - help you to help them more."

In his speech, he also commended several activists for their long service, leadership and dedication to the party. "I know your work is not easy. It will be tiring, and sometimes even discouraging," he told the audience.

"But we are all here today because we count it a privilege to serve. Each person we succeed in helping, and whose life we make better - even by a little bit - makes it all worthwhile."

Heng Swee Keat picked as PAP's first assistant secretary-general, indicating he will be Singapore's next prime minister

No comments:

Post a Comment