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PAP leaders rebut Tan Cheng Bock’s comments, saying next GE will show which party has ‘better ideas’

SINGAPORE — The People’s Action Party (PAP) "fundamentally disagrees" with opposition leader Dr Tan Cheng Bock's comments that the ruling party has lost its way, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Saturday (July 27), adding that the next General Election (GE) will be a test for all parties to prove which has "better ideas and ability to deliver results".

PAP leaders rebut Tan Cheng Bock’s comments, saying next GE will show which party has ‘better ideas’

L to R: Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (in blue), Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and former Cabinet Minister Lim Swee Say speaking to residents during their walkabout at a Bedok South market on Saturday (July 27).

SINGAPORE — The People’s Action Party (PAP) "fundamentally disagrees" with opposition leader Dr Tan Cheng Bock's comments that the ruling party has lost its way, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Saturday (July 27), adding that the next General Election (GE) will be a test for all parties to prove which has "better ideas and ability to deliver results".

Mr Heng was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a joint ministerial walkabout in Bedok South, part of East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC), with Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and former Cabinet minister Lim Swee Say, who is a Member of Parliament for the GRC.

Echoing Mr Heng’s comments, Mr Chan said that the PAP is not distracted by other political parties as its sights are fixed on working hard to meet Singaporeans’ needs and ensure the country stands out among its competitors.  

Their rebuttals to Dr Tan came a day after the 79-year-old said at a press conference on Friday that the ruling party has changed over the years, and that Singapore’s governance under the PAP has “gone astray”.

Responding directly to these comments, Mr Heng, who is the PAP’s first-assistant secretary general and the number two in the party after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said: “We fundamentally disagree with Dr Tan but of course he's entitled to his opinions, just as all Singaporeans are entitled to opinions.” 

He added: “But at the end of the day, I think the test is which party, which group of candidates have better ideas and better ability to deliver results for Singaporeans.”

Mr Heng noted that Singaporeans are “wise” and will decide on which party and candidate can best serve them and to take the country forward.

Mr Chan, who is the PAP’s second assistant secretary-general, stressed that the party's record “is here to stand", pointing out that it continues to evolve to meet the changing aspirations of Singaporeans.

The PAP, he stressed, is not “distracted by whether there's a new party here or new party there”. 

Singaporeans are “fair-minded”, he said, adding that he is confident Singaporeans “will know who to place their trust in”.

All the party needs to do is focus on its commitment in caring for the country and its people, and should not be distracted by other political parties as “people come and go”, he said.

“People say all kinds of things but at the end of the day, we have to see whatever people say, do they stand up to scrutiny,” said Mr Chan.

“We spend our time building up Singapore, we spend our time bringing Singaporeans together to do good for Singapore. If other people just spend their time tearing down things, then we have to ask, ‘Do you have a better alternative? Can you present a better and more credible alternative to fellow Singaporeans?’ And Singaporeans will be fair-minded to choose.”

In a speech on Wednesday, Mr Heng had spoken about the waves of disillusionment sweeping across other mature societies, and said that Singapore’s fourth generation of political leaders must forge “a renewed bond of trust with the electorate”.

When asked whether the next GE – which must be called by April 2021 – will be a battle for trust, Mr Heng said the PAP will put out its manifesto when the time comes. 

The party, he added, will need to focus on major challenges not just over the next one or two years, but the next five to 15 years.

Chiming in, Mr Chan said that at every GE, Singaporeans decide who they can trust not only in the short term but “for the many years to come”.

TAN CHENG BOCK’S COMMENTS CONTRADICTORY 

Elaborating on his disagreement with Dr Tan’s criticisms that trust, transparency and accountability have eroded under the PAP’s rule, Mr Heng said these remarks were contradictory.

“He (Dr Tan) said that there’s no transparency but at the same time he attacked the fact that the issue of Oxley Road was raised in Parliament. Now that is transparency — the fact that PM was prepared to have this issue debated in Parliament, clarified in Parliament, is a very important aspect of our governance,” said Mr Heng.

Dr Tan had criticised how the ruling party had held a Parliamentary debate related to the conflict between PM Lee and his younger siblings over their late father and founding PM Lee Kuan Yew’s home at 38 Oxley Road, saying that Parliament was the wrong avenue for such a discussion.

Mr Heng said the PAP takes governance “very seriously” and that the country’s leaders are focusing on transforming the economy amid rapid technological disruption and geopolitical upheavals such as the trade war between the United States and China and Brexit.

Mr Chan added: “Whether it is election or non-election time, we must make sure that fellow Singaporeans are well taken care of.”

The PAP looks forward to “good ideas that Dr Tan may have”, said Mr Heng, adding: “But so far he has not articulated policies to bring Singapore forward.”

NEW ANCHOR MINISTER AT EAST COAST GRC?

Asked why both Mr Heng and Mr Chan were conducting a walkabout in Bedok, the former said that it is part of the PAP’s ministerial community visits.

Thus far, the party’s leaders have made 40 of 90 such visits. It is also not the first time that both he and Mr Chan have done a joint walkabout, he said, adding that they have done it twice previously in other GRCs and will do more as their schedules allow.

East Coast GRC has been a hot seat in previous elections, the site of fierce and close contests between the PAP and opposition Workers’ Party (WP).

In the 2015 polls, the PAP won just over 60 per cent of the vote in the GRC, while WP secured 39 per cent. In the 2011 GE, the PAP won by 54.8 per cent of the vote, with WP garnering 45 per cent.

With Mr Lim retiring from Cabinet last May, the PAP does not have an anchor minister in East Coast GRC. Aside from Mr Lim, the PAP’s East Coast MPs are Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, Mr Lee Yi Shyan and Ms Jessica Tan.

When asked whether another minister would be deployed to East Coast, Mr Heng said that the party will “decide on our deployment in time to come”.

Pressed on whether he would leave Tampines GRC, where he is currently the MP, and stand in the next GE as East Coast’s new anchor minister, he replied: “We should not speculate. And we have our slate of candidates in mind. But we will decide at the right time. PM will decide at the right time.”

Related topics

PAP Heng Swee Keat Chan Chun Sing Lim Swee Say Tan Cheng Bock Politics

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