No small matter if we lose Aljunied: PM Lee

Jeffrey Oon
PM Lee says losing Aljunied GRC would be 'no small matter'. (Reuters photo)

PM Lee Hsien Loong says losing the hotseat of Aljunied GRC will be "no small matter."

Appearing to contradict his father, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew -- who had earlier said that losing the GRC would not be "the end of the world" -- PM Lee said, "The Aljunied team is made up of very strong and capable people. So to lose such a team, with five fierce warriors, is no small matter."

Asked for his views on MM Lee's earlier comment, PM Lee -- who is the PAP's secretary-general -- was quoted on The Straits Times as saying, "Well, I'm running the election, MM Lee is expressing his view. But my view is this is an important fight."

He was speaking during his Monday walkabout at Kaki Bukit market, his first visit to Aljunied GRC since campaigning began.

Aljunied is seen as the key battleground for this GE with a strong team from the Workers's Party led by former Hougang MP Low Thia Khiang going up against the PAP incumbent team led by Foreign Minister George Yeo.

At a separate conference later in the day, PM Lee also admitted that the PAP "doesn't always get things completely right, and that when things turn out unexpectedly or problems arise, I hope Singaporeans will understand this."

He asked for the people's patience and faith and said, "I think we can fix the problems and we keep going in the right direction, I have no doubt that in five years' time, we'll have a Singapore which is much better than today's."

As the GE fever heats up, PM Lee also promised to look into the "sandwiched middle-income class" in Singapore, acknowledging that the S$8,000-a-month income ceiling for young couples looking to buy new HDB flats may be too low.

He said the review would be done after a study of the latest effects of the recently introduced property cooling measures.

PM Lee also addressed the hot topic of ministerial salaries, an issue he said he would have to explain "again and again, during times when temperature is not so high."

He said, "The last time we made changes was in 2006 and we had three days of parliamentary debate -- full debate... there was a full airing of the issues and explanations... not just ministers, but judges, civil servants, Singapore Armed Forces officers... all the public sector."

"None of those arguments get rehearsed in rallies. When it comes to rallies, you just throw big numbers down and excite envy and disaffection. But I suppose that is the nature of the election campaign," he said, according to Today newspaper.

At a separate event, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said the debate of ministers' salaries was the opposition's "favourite flogging horse."

Speaking after a walkabout in his Marine Parade GRC, he said the "majority" of the population is not concerned about it.

"All they want (to know) is: Have we produced jobs for them, can we look after their medical care, can their medical care be affordable, can we cope with the cost of living, can we deliver good housing at affordable prices?" said SM Goh.

Although he acknowledged the issue has cost the PAP "some votes", he said, "You go and examine the pay of the chairmen, CEOs of the public-listed companies in Singapore... every CEO is earning twice the ministers' pay, even more. CapitaLand's (CEO) easily earns about S$10 million. Why should they come and join us in politics?"

Foreign Minister Yeo, who is anchoring the PAP team contesting Aljunied GRC, also gave his take on ministerial salaries on the sidelines of a separate event.

He told the same paper that while "it's an awkward question because I have a vested interest in this", he noted the country's key advantage was its public administration and that salaries had to be competitive.

"If they are not, then the people whom they are regulating, managing or trying to attract to Singapore would be smarter and more able than they are."

Related General Election articles:

Give PAP a wake-up call: WP's Sylvia Lim

WP's Pritam Singh: George Yeo for President

Minister George Yeo to WP: Show us your plans

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