PUNGGOL EAST BY-ELECTION: PEOPLE’S ACTION PARTY

Cohesion or division? You decide, says PM

He defends PAP against attacks and accuses WP of flip-flopping

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday urged Singaporeans to ask themselves if they wanted politics of cohesion or division in the country.

In a cohesive, constructive political scene, parties work together for the benefit of Singaporeans, he said.

With politics of division, "we slap one another and call it checks and balances", he said, referring to Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang's famous analogy of its desire to act as a "co-driver" to slap the People's Action Party (PAP) when it falls asleep.

Pointing to Mr Low's fiery speech at the WP's final rally on Wednesday, PM Lee said that "it's very easy to excite people, agitate people, especially during election time".

"It's much, much harder to bring people together and get people to work for the common good.

"But that is what the PAP wants and what Singaporeans want," he added.

In his hour-long rally speech that capped the PAP's by-election campaign in Punggol East, Mr Lee defended the ruling party's integrity from Mr Low's attack and accused the WP of flip-flopping.

Within a week, they went from striking a constructive note at their first rally last Saturday to wielding the politics of division as the campaign drew to a close, he said.

In WP's first rally last Saturday, both Mr Low and party chairman Sylvia Lim stressed that the party was not out to "cripple" the PAP Government but would be a reasonable and responsible opposition.

But in its final rally on Wednesday, its rhetoric took a sharp turn and it tried to frighten residents into voting against the PAP, said Mr Lee.

On Wednesday, Mr Low asked residents to vote for the WP to strengthen it for a "rainy day".

"Don't wait for PAP to be corrupt, and we have to riot on the streets. Singapore cannot take such turmoil," he had said.

Last night, invoking a Chinese saying, Mr Lee said the WP was like the moon: different on the first day and the 15th day of the lunar cycle.

He urged voters to ask themselves what sort of leaders they want.

"Do we want leaders to explain challenges honestly and find solutions to overcome our problems?

"Or have people make empty promises and leave it to other people to get the job done? Then just slap the other fellow once in a while?"

rchang@sph.com.sg