PM: Unity of Singaporeans is first line of defence
He says next general election will decide if Singapore can keep good Government
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday set out what is at stake for the next general election, saying it will decide if Singapore can sustain a good and stable Government that can safeguard Singaporeans' lives and well- being.
Addressing 2,500 People's Action Party (PAP) activists at what could be the last major party gathering before the general election, he told them to be prepared for a tough fight.
PM Lee, the PAP's secretary-general, called on activists to continue working hard to convince Singaporeans to give the ruling party the mandate to lead the country again.
There is a lot to lose if Singapore's politics turns unstable or dysfunctional, he said, adding the polls are "not just about the PAP doing a bit better or a bit worse", but whether Singapore can be different from other countries for a long time to come.
The general election must be held by April 2021 but is widely expected to be called next year.
PM Lee began his speech by highlighting what the PAP Government has done since the last general election to improve people's lives, from increasing pre-school and tertiary subsidies and rolling out the Merdeka Generation Package for seniors born in the 1950s to help manage the cost of living, to creating better jobs for workers and improving the public transport network.
He then set out the challenging external environment Singapore has to navigate and outlined what the party has to do to retain the electorate's trust, from giving people hope for the future to ensuring unity and social cohesion.
Externally, Singapore is likely to come under more pressure from the US and China to take a side, as tensions between both powers grow, PM Lee noted.
While relations with Malaysia and Indonesia are good, there remain difficult issues to resolve, he said.
Mr Lee said aside from a capable government, strong domestic support is crucial in managing these external issues.
"The unity of Singaporeans is our first line of defence," he said at the convention.
He said the PAP will have to maintain the "deep reservoir of trust" it has with Singaporeans - a compact he said the party had built up by being upfront with unpopular but necessary policies and delivering what it promises.
He also reiterated the rationale for potential hot-button issues at the next election, including raising the goods and services tax some time after the election and amendments to the Constitution to ensure the president is from a minority group from time to time.
On changes to the elected presidency, he said minority ethnic groups now have an assurance that their place in society will always be safeguarded.
"Overall, from a short-term perspective, this issue is a political minus for the Government, for the PAP," he said. "But this is part of governing. I am convinced we did the right thing. We must never, ever be afraid to do what is right for Singapore."
The country also has to guard against fault lines like a disconnect between the masses and the elite, he said.