PM Lee Hsien Loong aims to see through COVID-19 crisis, calls for 'responsible and loyal' opposition

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Cabinet swearing in at the Istana on 27 July 2020. (SCREENSHOT: CNA/YouTube)
Singapore Cabinet swearing in at the Istana on 27 July 2020. (SCREENSHOT: CNA/YouTube)

SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday (27 July) that he will see through the COVID-19 crisis and hand over Singapore into “good hands” who can take the country further forward, following the swearing in of his new Cabinet.

Speaking at the State Room of the Istana, Lee also noted the 12 new opposition Members of Parliament, saying the recent General Election reflected a strong desire among Singaporeans for greater diversity of views in politics.

Lee asked Singaporeans to extend to the younger ministers the same support that they have given him all these years of his public service.

But Lee said leadership renewal is a never ending task. “We continue to need more good people from every generation to step forward, stand for election and serve our country. Singapore must have leaders who can take the rough and tumble of politics and who would commit all their energies to work and fight for what they believe in.”

Urging unity among all Singaporeans regardless of political persuasions, Lee said the country is facing major health and economic challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the government has been extending financial and other forms of support for busineses and workers to get the economy going, Singapore must be prepared to face the realities of the post COVID-19 world, he added.

The government and businesses will face “difficult choices” as some industries will not return to what they were before, according to Lee.

“We cannot afford to prop up failing industries indefinitely, or trap workers in jobs that are no longer viable. The better long-term solution is to invest our resources to develop new capabilities, grow new industries and create new jobs.”

Role of Opposition in Parliament

On the recent GE, Lee said while voters want the People’s Action Party (PAP) to form the government, they also want more robust debate of policies and plans.

The trend is here to stay and Singapore will evolve its political system to accommodate it while maintaining its cohesion and sense of national purpose, he added.

The 14th Parliament will have 83 MPs from the PAP, 10 MPs from the Workers’ Party and two Non-Constituency MPs from the Progress Singapore Party. The government will designate WP chief Pritam Singh as Leader of the Opposition and provide him with staff support and resources to perform his role.

Workers' Party Aljunied GRC MPs at the Cabinet swearing in ceremony at the Istana on 27 July 2020. (PHOTO: Pritam Singh/Facebook)
Workers' Party Aljunied GRC MPs at the Cabinet swearing in ceremony at the Istana on 27 July 2020. (PHOTO: Pritam Singh/Facebook)

Lee said he looked forward to more vigorous but constructive debates in Parliament.

“I hope our colleagues across the aisle will step up to play their role of a responsible and loyal opposition. Their duty is not merely to raise criticisms and ask questions of the government, necessary as these functions are. But also, more importantly, to put forward serious policy alternatives to be scrutinised and debated.”

Through such debates, MPs can help voters better understand the issues and in the process, improve policies to deliver better outcomes for Singapore, Lee added.

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