SINGAPORE, Nov 10 — The upcoming General Election is a high-stakes one and the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) “must be prepared for a tough fight” ahead, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said today.
“This election is not just about the PAP doing a little bit better or a little bit worse. This election will decide if Singapore can sustain a good and stable government, to be different from other countries for a long time to come,” said Lee at the Singapore Expo.
Addressing more than 2,500 party activists at the PAP65 Awards and Convention, he emphasised the challenges that Singapore faces on the global stage, amid the jostle between the United States and China, as well as with the Republic’s immediate neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia.
It is why the coming polls are so “crucial”, said Lee, the party’s secretary-general. The conference was held to mark the 65th anniversary of the PAP’s founding on Nov 21, 1954.
Foreigners watching closely PAP’s mandate
Speaking about US-China tensions, Lee said that both countries have not pressed Singapore hard yet, and are hoping to get Singapore’s support of its own volition.
But as tensions grow, this pressure will likely mount, he warned, adding that managing these tensions will not be easy.
Singapore’s relations with Malaysia and Indonesia are good, but there are difficult issues beneath the surface, Lee said. These include the water arrangements with Malaysia, the South China Sea military training issue with Indonesia, as well as airspace arrangements with both neighbours.
The airspace and military training issue was previously brought up during Indonesian president Joko Widodo’s visit to Singapore last month. The Indonesian military had opposed Singapore’s use of the airspace above Riau for military training, while Singapore has stated that this is compliant with United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“Managing these external issues will not be easy. We will need a capable government, leaders who are tactful and firm, who can negotiate skilfully to defuse bilateral issues, and who are confident and have the full backing of the people,” Lee said today, describing domestic support as “crucial”.
“Others will be watching us closely to see if the PAP wins a strong mandate, especially at a time of leadership transition It is high stakes, not masak masak (Malay for play),” he said.
He called upon party activists to convince the rest of Singapore to give the PAP a strong mandate in the next General Election, which must be called by April 2021, “not just to return a strong PAP Government, but also to secure Singapore for the long term”.
Leadership and succession
He then recalled a conversation with the late Lee Kuan Yew’s PAP branch secretary of Tanjong Pagar, where the founding Prime Minister had served as MP, which had shown how people had faith and confidence in the party.
“He once told me that in the most difficult days of Singapore’s independence struggle, people used to say, ‘if you follow LKY, you will be alright’,” Lee said.
“They saw what Mr Lee and his generation of leaders stood for, how they fought for their convictions and what they did for the people.”
The PAP must sustain this faith in successive generations, and it was what Mr Lee had strived to do in his 15 years as secretary-general.
Later, his speech turned to the fourth-generation PAP leaders. Lee said the job of building this team to carry on this mission was a key task from day one.
Lee said the 4G leaders are aware of what is expected of them and have a difficult task ahead.
“They deserve our full support. Back them, they are our team, they are Singapore’s team,” he urged activists.
He said the General Election will therefore decide the “future of Singapore”, and repeated his warning that there is a lot that Singapore can lose if politics becomes unstable and dysfunctional.
Just as the audience of white-clad party activists began to cheer, Lee said: “Soon, it will be time for battle again.
“We must convince Singaporeans that the PAP continues to be their champion, and that the PAP will work with them and for them and advance Singapore towards a brighter tomorrow.” — TODAY