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GE2020: Opposition ‘completely silent’ on how to tackle Covid-19 crisis, says PM Lee

SINGAPORE — As Singapore deals with the Covid-19 pandemic and gears up for greater challenges and difficult times ahead, opposition parties have been “completely silent” on how to tackle the crisis throughout the election hustings, Mr Lee Hsien Loong said.

Speaking at a lunchtime “Fullerton Rally” that was live-streamed via Facebook and YouTube on July 6, 2020 from the party’s New Upper Changi Road headquarters, Mr Lee Hsien Loong said that the Covid-19 situation here is stable.

Speaking at a lunchtime “Fullerton Rally” that was live-streamed via Facebook and YouTube on July 6, 2020 from the party’s New Upper Changi Road headquarters, Mr Lee Hsien Loong said that the Covid-19 situation here is stable.

  • Mr Lee Hsien Loong said that the opposition has shown no clear plans for a country in the midst of a crisis
  • Without a team of capable ministers, Singapore would have suffered unnecessary deaths like other countries with incompetent leaders, he added
  • The circuit breaker was a difficult "political decision" made because ministers had "responsibility", he said

 

SINGAPORE — As Singapore deals with the Covid-19 pandemic and gears up for greater challenges and difficult times ahead, opposition parties have been “completely silent” on how to tackle the crisis throughout the election hustings, Mr Lee Hsien Loong said.
 secretary-general of the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP)

Speaking on Monday (July 6) at a lunchtime “Fullerton Rally” that was live-streamed via Facebook and YouTube from the party’s New Upper Changi Road headquarters, the secretary-general of the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) said that the Covid-19 situation here is stable.

Mr Lee, who is also prime minister, added that Singapore has avoided the situation in other countries where political incompetence in dealing with the pandemic has led to a loss of trust in governments and unnecessary deaths, because Singapore has a team of capable ministers working closely on different aspects of tackling the crisis.

The opposition, on the other hand, has been “talking as if we can just keep to our old ways and the crisis did not exist”, he said.

“They show no recognition that we are facing the crisis of a generation. They’ve been completely silent on how to tackle Covid-19 — both during the last six months and in this election campaign.”

He added that while more difficult decisions and “creative, radical solutions” have to be taken if Singapore is hit by a second global wave of the pandemic, the opposition has shown no clear plans for a country in the midst of a crisis.

“What contribution will they make in Parliament — adding contrast to the discussions, they say —  if they get elected as Members of Parliament? What will happen to Singapore, if they form the government?” he asked.

Ahead of the July 10 General Election, PAP leaders have said that the election should be about how to lead Singapore through Covid-19. PAP’s manifesto is placing a central focus on overcoming the Covid-19 crisis, with Mr Lee himself earlier calling the polls a “crisis election” that could “change the course of history”.

The party’s second assistant secretary-general Chan Chun Sing said last week that there was a “glaring” lack of discussion of Covid-19 recovery plans among the opposition — which some parties have refuted.

Among the manifestos unveiled by the opposition parties so far, checks showed that not all contained plans to help the country cope with the Covid-19 crisis. The Workers' Party (WP) and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) were among those that did.

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The Fullerton Rally in the heart of the Central Business District at Fullerton Square is a PAP tradition that is held after the midpoint of every General Election (GE) campaign since Singapore's independence, but it could not be physically organised this year due to the pandemic.

In his speech, Mr Lee said that the rally is held to take stock of the hustings so far and to focus voters’ minds on what is at stake.

Monday’s rally is online but its purpose is the same, he said, noting the significance of the upcoming polls.

“Hardly ever in our history have the stakes been higher than now,” he said, adding that as tough as the past months have been, Singapore’s biggest challenges lie ahead.

He said that it was on the Cabinet ministers and himself to have the “responsibility” to call for difficult decisions such as the circuit breaker in April and May that saw businesses being closed and workers asked to work from home.

“Doing it would come at a great cost to jobs and business, but not doing it meant risking a major outbreak and loss of lives,” he said. “As it turned out, we acted just in time, as the numbers were growing, but before they shot up dramatically.

“This was a political decision, not an administrative one.” 

These measures, Mr Lee added, has allowed Singapore to avoid the fate faced by other countries.

“You’ve seen this happen many times elsewhere — political leaders fail to act competently, voters lose trust in them, they are confused and dismayed, their faith in the whole system is shaken,” he said. “People suffer greatly, and many die unnecessarily.”

In Singapore, the Covid-19 situation “is stable”, and the healthcare system has held up well, he said, noting that the nation’s fatality rate is among the lowest in the world and the outbreak “is being systematically cleaned up” in the migrant worker dormitories.

“We have managed to get to this stage not by chance, but by dint of immense effort.” 

Since the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003, the Government has been preparing for another pandemic, he said. This includes stockpiling masks and protection gear, training healthcare workers and practising contact tracing.

“We dealt with H1N1, and prepared for Ebola and Mers (Middle East respiratory syndrome),” he added. “We never took our eyes off the ball.”

Singapore also had to adapt to the new challenges along the way, he said, such as having to secure face masks in the midst of a worldwide shortage and setting up laboratories to make more Covid-19 tests when countries banned the export of instruments and chemicals needed for testing.

“Behind the scenes, this was a highly complex operation,” he said. “For now, test capacity is no longer a constraint for us, but we are still building up reserve testing capacity, just in case.”

A huge operation involving the Singapore Armed Forces and the Home Team under the Ministry of Home Affairs also had to be mounted when in April, cases surged in the migrant worker dormitories.

New isolation and medical facilities, with almost 30,000 bed spaces, were built within weeks to house and care for these workers in order not to overwhelm the hospitals.

“All these extremely demanding tasks had to be performed in the fog of war. We had to decide and act urgently, based on incomplete information,” he said.

Crucial decisions were made by the multi-ministry task force, and the public service responded “magnificently”, he added.

“All our experience since the beginning of this year has made clear just how important a good government is to fight Covid-19, support the economy, and get out of this crisis intact.

“This is what this election is about — whom do you trust to get you through the very difficult times ahead?”

Related topics

Singapore General Election Covid-19 Lee Hsien Loong SGVotes2020

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