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GE2020: PAP’s Heng speaks out against SDP’s ‘bogeyman’, says candidates must have integrity and honesty

SINGAPORE — The People’s Action Party’s first assistant secretary-general Heng Swee Keat on Friday (July 3) underscored the importance of integrity and honesty among all electoral candidates seeking to serve the people, as he took issue with the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on the population issue.

Mr Heng Swee Keat from the People’s Action Party speaks to a resident during a walkabout at Block 216 Bedok Food Centre and Market on Friday, July 3, 2020.

Mr Heng Swee Keat from the People’s Action Party speaks to a resident during a walkabout at Block 216 Bedok Food Centre and Market on Friday, July 3, 2020.

  • PAP’s first assistant secretary-general said Singapore “must keep honesty and integrity in our system”
  • Spreading falsehoods with no basis “not the right kind of politics”, he added 
  • Workers’ Party chief Mr Pritam Singh said the issue between PAP and SDP could be due to the nature of falsehoods and Singapore’s fake news law
  • Progress Singapore Party’s chief Dr Tan Cheng Bock said that the Government should give clear data to avoid speculation

 

SINGAPORE —  The People’s Action Party’s first assistant secretary-general Heng Swee Keat on Friday (July 3) underscored the importance of integrity and honesty among all electoral candidates seeking to serve the people, as he took issue with the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on the population issue.

“You erect a bogeyman and then after that you declare success,” he said of the SDP, echoing an earlier statement by the PAP on Thursday night which criticised SDP chief Chee Soon Juan over his election slogan which is based on its claims that the incumbent party plans to increase Singapore’s population size to 10 million.

“The reason why so many of our businesses have been doing well overseas is that Singaporeans are known to have integrity,” said Mr Heng, adding that Singapore “must keep honesty and integrity in our system”.

“We must expect that of all candidates.”

Mr Heng, who was on a walkabout on Friday morning at a hawker centre at Bedok North, was then asked why SDP was not corrected earlier given that it has spoken about the 10 million figure for some time.

“I don't know how people are choosing to spread falsehoods. It is most unfortunate,” he said.

“Singaporeans can judge whether you are saying something serious, or you are just spreading statements like this with no basis whatsoever,” added Mr Heng.

“This is not the right kind of politics. I think we must be sincere and honest in seeking to serve our people.”

The SDP adopted the “Say ‘no’ to 10 million population” message in an pre-election rally in October last year.

Its campaign for the upcoming July 10 General Election is titled 4Y1N — four yeses, one no — which includes saying “no” to a 10 million population in Singapore.

During a one-hour live television debate on Wednesday which featured representatives from four political parties, SDP’s chief Chee Soon Juan and PAP’s Vivian Balakrishnan had crossed swords when the former asked about what he claimed was the Government’s plan to increase Singapore’s population to 10 million.

During the debate, Dr Chee said that the PAP government had “toyed with the idea” of bringing Singapore’s population to 10 million, citing a Straits Times article which carried remarks that Mr Heng had made at a forum last March. 

This drew a sharp rebuke from Dr Balakrishnan, who said that Dr Chee was peddling a falsehood and that the Government had no such plans.

On Thursday, Mr Heng clarified that the Government has never proposed or targeted for Singapore to increase its population to 10 million and neither did he say that nor mention the figure previously.

The SDP then issued a statement on Thursday saying it had “achieved victory” and that Dr Chee had “successfully extracted” an assurance from the PAP that it has no intention to increase Singapore’s population to 6.9 million or 10 million.

This in turn led the PAP to respond the same day that Dr Chee is “further twisting the facts”. PAP added that the SDP slogan, which it described as “a key plank” in the opposition party’s election campaign is a “falsehood (which) renders the campaign pointless, and calls into question the integrity of the whole party”.

On Friday, Mr Heng said Singaporeans should not get distracted by the falsehoods and instead stay focused on how the country can pull through the challenges ahead.

“Let’s see how we can create a better life for all Singaporeans,” he added. “This is the core issue of this election.”

“ROOM FOR FAIR COMMENT”: WP’S PRITAM SINGH

Asked for his views on the issue, Workers' Party chief Mr Pritam Singh said on Friday morning that “there is room for fair comment” on the population size.

Mr Singh noted that the 10-million figure seemed to be an issue because of the nature of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) and falsehoods.

Pofma was passed as legislation last year to curb the spread of fake news. 

“How do we describe a falsehood? We know it’s a false statement of fact, but when you have ministers in the past make allusions...(that) we possibly could have a larger population size, then I think there is room for fair comment about really what is the size that they are aiming towards,” Mr Singh told reporters at his party’s walkabout in Punggol West Single Member Constituency where the WP is contesting.

Mr Singh added that he did not understand why these issues were not raised “well before elections”.

“I mean it’s the Government’s position so it should state that very clearly,” said Mr Singh, adding that he did not want to delve too deeply into the matter as it did not involve his own party.

CLEAR DATA NEEDED TO AVOID SPECULATION: PSP’S TAN CHENG BOCK

Dr Tan Cheng Bock, the chief of Progress Singapore Party (PSP), was also asked by reporters on the issue during a walkabout on Friday morning at Teck Whye Lane with the party’s Chua Chu Kang Group Representation Constituency candidates.  

He said that clear data should be given to the people to avoid speculation on any Government plan for the country’s population size. 

“If data is not given to you, people will speculate,” he said.

“Don't give us in bits and pieces... The fundamental reason why people start to question you is because of trust,” added Dr Tan, who claimed that Singaporeans ‘no longer trust’ the PAP.

Related topics

PAP Heng Swee Keat SDP population Singapore General Election SGVotes2020

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