Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s message at the People’s Action Party (PAP) rally at Rivervale Thursday night was plain and simple: “The PAP is on your side.”
Speaking for more than half an hour in English after speaking in Malay and Mandarin, PM Lee reiterated that point more than once as he went through the various initiatives and programmes that the government has put in place in the last decade to help improve Singaporeans’ lives.
He also asked what kind of politics Singaporeans prefer and the kind of opposition that people may want.
“Do you want the Workers’ Party (WP) of last week’s rally, when they were supporting PAP’s policies and claiming that they do not to blindly oppose policy but give the PAP time to show what they can do...? Or do we want yesterday’s WP -- frightening residents… [going] within one week from a constructive position to a demanding and destructive position?” Lee asked.
“The Workers’ Party’s policies are like the moon. On the first day and the 15th day it’s different," he remarked.
Stressing that the new faces that have entered the government from the last general election have done very well, the PAP secretary-general said that he would like to further strengthen his team and asked for residents to vote for his party’s candidate Dr Koh Poh Koon at the Punggol East by-election.
Questions on WP
The prime minister also addressed the different nature of leadership over the decades, in reference to a point made by Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang, at a rally on Wednesday night that the PAP is not that same kind of party it once was.
Lee said that during his father Lee Kuan Yew’s time as prime minister, it was necessary for Singapore to survive and the focus was on self-reliance. When Goh Chok Tong took over, there was a “many helping hands’ approach and a softer approach, and the leadership was working for a different generation.
For the younger Lee, he said his own government greatly increased social programmes, especially for elderly and less fortunate.
“It’s not to say one policy was right or the other was wrong. But each was what we needed for that period when Singapore was young and then in the 1990s and then, mid 2000s and beyond,” Lee explained.
“Indeed we have changed, indeed the PAP has changed its policies but Low Thia Khiang was looking at the rear-view mirror, he got the direction wrong," he said.
Rebutting Low again, on his question as to why the government can’t nationalise public transport and utilities to make costs lower for Singaporeans, Lee posed this comeback: If it were so simple, why other countries in the world haven’t done that?
“Why is it many countries that used to do it have decided this is bad? If the government solves all problems, then why in China, did Deng Xiaoping have to do liberalisation and opening up, and upturn so many things which Mao Zedong believed in, and depend on the market and profits and depend on people getting wealthy and bringing the country forward?“ Lee asked.
“If the government can do everything and all will be well, then the North Koreans should be the most prosperous people in the world!” he declared.
He said, if people had problems with transport fares and utilities, the government will help. Even though the structure is privatised, he stressed that the government is an activist one and that they would be responsible and intervene when it is important to do so.
In proving a point that Singaporeans from all walks of lives and starting points can go far if they work hard in Singapore, Lee cited Workers’ Party candidate Lee Li Lian as one of the Singapore success stories.
“She went to N levels, she did her O levels, and went to Ngee Ann Polytechnic and did well, and later on got a degree on her own and now she is a candidate. So I say she shows that the Singapore system built by the PAP is a good one!” he said to a roaring crowd.
Drawing out the extent of progress that can be seen at Punggol East, which used to be farm land, it was the hard work of the people and the government that transformed the area, said Lee.
He also said that Singaporeans can get a good flat and pointed out at the various Built-To-Order flats in the area and added that if there was a stable government in place, the flat will maintain its value as well.
“The PAP is on your side,” he concluded and asked for voters to select PAP and Koh when they cast their ballots on Saturday.
Touching on the seemingly unpopular sentiments online, Koh said that he knew he there would be negativity when he decided put on “white-on-white.”
“There were times I felt demoralised. Some of the comments can wear down your morale. Some of them can hit you where it hurts the most – your family. But walking the ground for the last nine days has shown me that the real world is different from what is existing in cyberspace," the colorectal surgeon said. “I feel the warmth of the people I have touched and the passion of people in Punggol East”.
In his final passionate push to garner support for his campaign before Cooling Off Day on Friday, Koh promised to address the various infrastructure woes and lack of facilities and services in the constituency.
"This is the place we want to build with a home with a heart. Please work with us. Vote for PAP!” shouted Koh over the deafening cheers from supporters.