Covid-19 has disrupted all areas of modern life, including politics. While the lunchtime rally at Fullerton has been a staple and tradition of Singapore politics, the pandemic meant that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had to deliver his speech online on July 6.
There were no crowds standing shoulder-to-shoulder, no rain to fall on onlookers, but there was still a speech, much like how Singapore has adapted another facets of life around Covid-19.
Here's a summary of what he said:
PM Lee began, as widely expected, by speaking about the Covid-19 crisis and said the stakes have never been higher in Singapore's history.
He touted Singapore's successes -- the low fatality rate and the improving situation in the migrant worker dormitories.
But this was due to effort and preparation, not luck. He referred to Singapore's experience with SARS, and how we have built up resources and capabilities to deal with another outbreak.
PM Lee pointed out that during the early days of the crisis, there was little confirmed information but the government still had to act urgently and decisively.
One of these major decisions was the Circuit Breaker, which would have a huge impact on jobs and the economy.
This led to his main point -- it required a good government to mitigate the effects of the crisis.
PM Lee said that without a team of capable ministers and public service officials working together, the anti-Covid measures could not have been implemented.
PM Lee sounded a warning that even as Singapore emerges from the Circuit Breaker period, there is still the threat of a second wave of infections and flare-ups after relaxation of lockdown measures.
Opposition 'silent' on how to tackle Covid-19
PM Lee then brought up the opposition politicians, and criticised them of talking as though they could "keep to our old ways", and as if the crisis did not exist.
"They show no recognition that we are facing the crisis of a generation. They have been completely silent on how to tackle Covid-19, both during the last six months, and in this election campaign.
What contribution will they make in Parliament, adding “contrast” to the discussions, they say, if they get elected as MPs? What will happen to Singapore, if they form the government?"
PM Lee then turned to the economy, which had "never been hit so hard before."
The Parliament passed an unprecedented four Budgets, with over S$90 billion specifically allocated to fight the effects of Covid-19.
But he said it wasn't a matter of "writing cheques indefinitely." Instead the government is looking to provide targeted assistance to those who need it most.
He mentioned measures such as the Jobs Support Scheme and the rental waiver, and gave credit to Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam, Senior Minister of State of Law and Health Edwin Tong and Attorney-General Lucien Wong for working on the emergency legislation to make it possible.
PM Lee said, "This is the difference that highly competent government can make to your lives."
1985 and a previous crisis
PM Lee referred to an earlier chapter in Singapore's history, when Singapore was going through economic troubles in 1985.
Annual GDP growth had turned negative for the first time since independence, and then Minister Tony Tan tasked the then-newcomer PM Lee to chair the Economic Committee to come out with ideas to overcome the crisis.
PM Lee said decisive measures were taken, such as cutting CPF contributions. With the support of Singaporeans for the tough measures, the situation turned around. Singapore then went on a charm offensive to attract investors.
PM Lee said those multinational corporations that decided to invest in Singapore did so because of its tripartite relationship between labour, capital and the government, the quality of its public service, and the industriousness of its workers.
However, PM Lee also said the investors had trust in Singapore's "first-rate government", and that the public supported the government if tough measures were necessary for the benefit of the economy.
He said that maintaining this global reputation was crucial, and that the "world was watching" for the outcome of this election:
"And that's why in this election, the PAP seeks not just your mandate, but your strong mandate, to lead Singapore through this crisis."
Opposition have no new ideas
PM Lee criticised the opposition again, saying that they had no new ideas to overcome the economic downturn, or to create new jobs.
"They prattle on about a minimum wage, or a universal basic income. These are fashionable peacetime slogans, not serious wartime plans."
He questioned the effectiveness and practicality of ideas like a minimum wage or a Universal Basic Income, and asked if voters really wanted parties who can't come up with better ideas than "old recycled manifestos" in a crisis.
PM Lee then spoke about the PAP fielding the "strongest-possible team" for the upcoming general election.
He said it was a mix of seasoned, experienced politicians who will look after their constituencies, speak up for residents in Parliament, and make sure the government is focused on their needs and aspirations.
He also commended the new candidates, who come from all walks of life and are able to provide new perspectives. At 27, this is the largest number of new candidates ever.
PM Lee asked voters to look at their track record, and to vote for the PAP if they believe they have made their lives better. If not, vote them out.
Opposition may not deliver on their promises
He added that voters should not vote for the opposition if "what you really want" is for the PAP to look after their constituency and for a PAP government to run Singapore.
He said that the PAP delivers everything they promise, unlike the opposition, and gave this analogy:
"Don’t buy insurance from someone on a promise, especially when you have reason to suspect this company cannot pay out on the insurance, and their cheques will bounce."
PM Lee referred to other countries who change governments and said their political consensus has "frayed." He said those countries have not done better than Singapore, and not to be "taken for a ride" by those who say it is important to have more choices.
PM Lee promises to see Singapore through this crisis
PM Lee ended with a recounting of his own journey in politics, from the 1980s until the present day.
He said he did not expect to encounter such an overwhelming crisis in the last stretch of his Premiership, but he counted himself fortunate to be chosen by the voters and his colleagues to lead them through the crisis. He said:
"You have my word: Together with my older colleagues like Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, as well as the 4G ministers, I will see this through. I am determined to hand over Singapore, intact and in good working order, to the next team."
He ended by asking Singaporeans to vote for the PAP, and closed with their slogan of "Our Lives, Our Jobs, Our Future."
Top image from PAP YouTube.