For Singapore to get its politics right, and to remain a "high trust society", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singaporean voters must apply high standards of integrity and honesty to every group and every person participating in politics, whichever side they may be on.
"Otherwise, we will be signalling we are prepared to lower standards, and this will eventually drag our system down," PM Lee said in the People's Action Party (PAP) annual party convention, mentioning earlier that PAP’s rigour on its political leaders sets the tone for Singapore politics.
PM Lee, who is the Secretary-General of the PAP, was speaking to more than 2,000 activists through a hybrid event format from Suntec Convention Centre across Singapore on Nov. 28.
PAP must show S'poreans it is "not afraid of opposing views or being challenged"
PM Lee told the activists that the PAP must "show Singaporeans we are not afraid of opposing views or being challenged".
He added in his speech that the PAP must encourage healthy discourse and welcome good ideas, regardless of who proposed them.
He cited the Conversations on Singapore Women’s Developments, the work of the Emerging Stronger Taskforce, and the decision to allow nurses in public hospitals to wear the tudung as examples of encouraging discourse and welcoming ideas.
However, PM Lee said that political discourse is not just a matter of accepting or marketing good ideas.
The government will have to rebut wrong views, if possible gently, but when necessary firmly, so as to "expose those who, for their own reasons and political purposes, try to exploit issues to confuse people and to make them unhappy", he said, using the recent debates in Parliament on the CECA and on work pass holders as an example.
New PAP leaders have to hold their own
PM Lee also had a word of advice for his younger colleagues.
"In politics, if you are not able to hold your own, stand up, argue your case and retain the support of voters, you are finished," he said.
"You may have noble intentions and good ideas, but if you can't get re-elected, you can't do anything about them and you won't be able to do good for Singapore," PM Lee added.
PAP's emphasis on integrity and honesty
PM Lee said that one important reason Singapore politics has delivered results for Singaporeans is PAP's emphasis on integrity and honesty.
He said that if politicians are dishonest, and voters cannot trust their motives, they will ultimately lose faith in the whole political class and the political system itself.
If trust goes down the drain, the country will be in a bad state, PM Lee said.
In Singapore, people expect MPs and political leaders to be clean, to be above reproach in their personal conduct, and to be scrupulously truthful in what they say, inside or outside Parliament, he highlighted.
PM Lee said that "all our ministers, MPs and activists" know this. If someone misbehaves, he will be disciplined. If someone misspeaks, he will put it right because it is the right thing to do and the party insists on it.
"The PAP’s rigour sets the tone for Singapore politics. And voters have to apply these same standards of integrity and honesty to every group and every person participating in politics and public life, whichever side they may be on.
Because otherwise, we are signalling that we are prepared to lower standards, and this will eventually drag our system down".
On leadership renewal, PM Lee said that the 4G leaders have since been re-looking at the issue of succession, though the "4G team will need a little longer to make the decision".
He is confident that the 4G leaders will settle the issue well before the next GE.
He reiterated that leadership renewal is not about selecting a “boss” or the winner of a “race”, but about developing a strong team and finding the "first among equals, one who can bring others together and bring out the best of every member of the team".
PM Lee added that Heng Swee Keat remains a key member of the 4G carrying heavy responsibilities, especially for the economy, as deputy prime minister.
PM Lee concluded that the "whole 4G team deserves a lot of credit for managing the Covid-19 situation" as Covid-19 has been a stern test for them.
He said that this is a leadership team that Singapore can depend on, in good times and tough times, and urged the party activists to give them their full support.
Launch of PAP's newsletter
At the convention, PM Lee launched Petir.sg, the digital platform of the Party’s newsletter Petir.
"It is the new socio-political website of the PAP, the digital counterpart of the Petir newsletter," PM Lee said.
The platform will produce content that reflects PAP’s values and its purpose, so that a wider audience can know more about PAP and its stance.
Besides galvanising activists and supporters, Petir.sg aims to engage Singaporeans and bring about constructive discussions.
Petir.sg's target audience will include activists, supporters, and Singaporeans, including and especially younger digital natives, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.
Ong, who is PAP's Chairman of the Publicity and Publications Committee, said in an interview with the party in a press release that Petir.sg can be found on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
He added that readers will be able to find insightful commentaries, key speeches and human-interest stories of PAP activists.
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Top photo from PAP Facebook.