SINGAPORE, June 30 — People’s Action Party (PAP) secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong yesterday expressed confidence in the ruling party’s recruitment process and cautioned against a culture of “trial by internet” of candidates.
He added that PAP will investigate the allegations against former candidate Ivan Lim after the July 10 General Election (GE).
Speaking at a virtual press conference to announce the PAP candidates for Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC), Lee said that Lim did the right thing to withdraw his candidacy and not let the GE be distracted by his case.
“But I don’t think that should be the end of the matter because we can’t let such serious things be said about somebody and have somebody live with the cloud permanently hanging over him (with) a question mark. I think it would be unfair to Ivan,” Lee, who is also prime minister and anchor minister for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said.
“It sets a very damaging precedent that you can condemn somebody and write him off on the basis of an internet campaign. We don’t have time to settle it now, but we can’t simply write off and destroy people like this,” he added.
“So, after the elections, the party will investigate the veracity of allegations against Ivan and we will come to a view on the matter.”
Lee was responding to a question from the media on how PAP manages social media allegations against its candidates that cannot be verified in a short time.
Lee said that the larger question is on the quality of PAP’s candidates and whether they are good ones who want to “do good work for Singapore”.
“The PAP has a thorough process to choose our candidates, assess them, vet them. No process is perfect, no candidate is perfect.”
He added that the party has put together a team of individuals with varied backgrounds and experiences who have been “knocked about”.
“They make mistakes along the way and hopefully, have learned from them,” he said.
“I think if we look for the perfect candidate, we will lose many good men and women. And if we encourage a culture of trial by internet, then we will not find anybody willing to stand and put themselves and their families through this ordeal, even if at the end of it, they’re able to clear themselves,” he added.
“So I would say we have a good process. We have good candidates. And we have confidence in how the process has worked this time and in the candidate line-up that we have produced and presented to you this election.”
Shortly after Lim’s introduction by PAP on Wednesday, several claims surfaced online on his attitudes while in military service and in his career at Keppel Offshore and Marine. He was accused of displaying elitist behaviour during a military exercise and being arrogant, among others.
On Saturday, the PAP announced that Lim has withdrawn from contesting in the July 10 polls — less than a half a day after he broke his silence on the matter to refute some of the allegations.
Yesterday, Lee noted that Lim is not the only PAP candidate who has been criticised.
Questions have also been raised on Ng Ling Ling about her role in the setting up of the Social Service Training Institute, which she addressed yesterday morning.
Lee said that with social media, it is easy for criticisms to be spread and possibly gain currency, whether or not they are founded.
This is not a new thing, he added, pointing to Tin Pei Ling’s candidacy in 2011, which drew flak from the members of the public.
“When we fielded her, there was an enormous controversy and she had a very tough time. She was really flamed...,” Lee said, adding that Tin had persevered and worked hard in her MacPherson ward.
“We had confidence in her, we showed confidence and supported her,” he said, adding that she held her ground in the last election “amply”.
“So I think that we have confidence in our system and our candidates. If problems come up, we will look at them.”
But if allegations against the candidates turn out to be unfounded, the party will back the candidate, Lee said.
“(Our candidates) must know that if they have done nothing wrong, if they are straight and open and candid with the party, and we know what is the truth, and we are satisfied that he is fit to be a candidate, we will stand by him and we will defend him,” he said.
“In the end, it will be proven whether our judgement was right or our judgement was wrong.” — TODAY