Singapore

PM Lee: Strong team needed to face huge challenges ahead

This article is more than 12 months old

He urges Singaporeans to do the 'sensible' thing and give PAP the mandate to steer country out of crisis

Singapore will face a very difficult next few years dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and creating jobs. This is why the election is being called now, so the strongest team will have the mandate to see the country through this crisis, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In an online rally rounding out the People's Action Party's election campaign last night, he said jobs are on top of everyone's minds, with many having lost theirs or earning significantly less.

"You can tell they are very concerned. And (those in their 50s) are the group which we have focused on because we know they have the most difficulties - they've got kids they are still looking after, they've got old folks at home who need medical care," PM Lee added.

He said these are practical issues that weigh on people's minds, and which any leader and government of Singapore must focus on once the General Election is over.

This was why he called the election now, "so that we can clear our minds and focus on these big things which everybody considers important, and which are in fact the key issues in front of Singapore".

He said he was satisfied looking at the trends after the circuit breaker that the Covid-19 situation was stable enough for the election to be conducted safely.

PM Lee wanted to "get this out of the way quickly" because of the uncertainties looming in the next 12 to 18 months.

"There are many uncertainties and very likely many difficult spots to come, and therefore decisions which have to be taken and actions which have to be dealt with very rapidly.

"And it's best that we've got a team in place which is going to be able to deal with that with the full support of the population who elected you, knowing that you are going into a very tough spot," he said.

While young Singaporeans entering the workforce face challenges, there are schemes such as the SGUnited Traineeships Programme.

Addressing concerns that the jobs available are concentrated in the technology and IT sectors, PM Lee said many services jobs are needed for the "massive operation" of managing Covid-19 - from testing and tracing, to ensuring safe distancing and taking care of the sick.

He gave the assurance that investors continue to take an interest in Singapore because they have faith in how the country is run, and this is how thousands of new and good jobs will be created for Singaporeans.

"We want to keep that reputation, that standing, that credibility - that sense that this is a special place."

He urged Singaporeans to "do the most rational, sensible thing to get through this", and give a strong mandate to a team able to steer the country out of the crisis.

During the e-rally, PM Lee also called for caution when discussing the "sensitive" issue of race and religion.

Younger people, he noted, have different perspectives on the issue, and these are valid and need to be taken into account as they will one day inherit Singapore.

But at the same time, such sensitive matters can cause "great umbrage" and so must be handled delicately.

"In fact, now we discuss things about race and religion, (such as) whether there is a trade-off between one's racial or religious identity with a national one - things which 20 years ago would have been very uncomfortable to talk about. As we go forward, more of these conversations can be held."

PM Lee was responding to a question on Workers' Party Sengkang GRC candidate Raeesah Khan, 26. Two reports were made against her, the police said on Sunday. They were in relation to comments she had made on social media, which allegedly promoted "enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race".

Investigations are ongoing.

Ms Khan later said she regretted making "insensitive" remarks and apologised to those who may have been hurt.

PM Lee said that because of the Internet age, some things that were never sensitive in Singapore have become so because they are now sensitive in other countries.

Noting it would not be realistic to treat one another in a completely colour blind way, PM Lee said: "So that's a view which we have proceeded on - tolerance and harmony. Not quite everything which young people aspire to, but a considerable achievement. And if we want to go beyond that and do better, I think we should.

"But we should do it carefully, and we should discuss between the young ones and the older ones so that we gradually get a meeting of minds... and go forward together." - THE STRAITS TIMES

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GENERAL ELECTION 2020