GE2015: PAP does not have 'a tradition of backstabbing our mentors', says Vivian Balakrishnan

Mr Vivian Balakrishnan speaking at the PAP rally at a field along Commonwealth Avenue on Sept 7, 2015.
Mr Vivian Balakrishnan speaking at the PAP rally at a field along Commonwealth Avenue on Sept 7, 2015.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

SINGAPORE - Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan opened his rally speech on Monday (Sept 7) night with: "I will be making the most boring but the most important speech of my life."

But it was anything but "boring".

The former school debater, who is leading the People's Action Party's (PAP) Holland-Bukit Timah team, took on his opponents from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) with thinly-veiled criticism and scathing remarks.

He told the crowd at Commonwealth Avenue: "Just this afternoon at Fullerton, one candidate said he hoped that our Deputy Prime Minister Tharman would have a falling out with our Prime Minister, join the opposition and form a grand coalition of opposition parties, I call it a motley crew.

"This reveals the mentality, mindset and attitude they have in politics," he said. "I have just one message to send to the SDP: In the PAP, we do not have a tradition of backstabbing our mentors."

While he did not name the candidate, there was little doubt he was referring to SDP candidate Paul Tambyah who spoke at the Fullerton rally on Monday afternoon.

It was also clear to political pundits that the "message" he had was a swipe at SDP chief Chee Soon Juan, who had a falling out with his mentor Chiam See Tong.

Dr Balakrishnan and his team - Minister of State Sim Ann, Mr Christopher de Souza and Mr Liang Eng Hwa - face a team led by Dr Chee, Dr Tambyah, Mr Sidek Mallek and Mr Chong Wai Fung.

His team was also challenged by SDP - but a different team - in the last election in 2011. The SDP candidates garnered 39.9 per cent of the vote in that election.

Dr Balakrishnan, who spoke about the challenges Singapore faces such as technological changes that could wipe out jobs, had more to say about his opponents in his speech.


He shared with the audience how Singapore's model was better than the Western welfare model offering "universal benefits" which would mean higher taxes for the middle class.  "It's not a model that we should adopt because it's fashionable, because I make trips to Europe, receive fees to make speeches there, and therefore copy their ideas and bring it back to Singapore and  offer it to Singaporeans," he said. "It is a route to disaster."

He also reminded the residents how he and his teammates have been serving the GRC for the past four years, unlike the opposition.

"A relationship is not a one-night stand, it's not about finding the most interesting or entertaining partner. It's about finding someone you have to spend another 50 years or more with," he said.

"Someone who doesn't bother to go on the ground, is that a relationship? Is that trust?"

Continuing with the analogy, he pointed out that "there will always be opportunities for a third party to come in when they sense the relationship is not close or strong or when there are issues that are not yet resolved".

The opposition has claimed that their presence in Parliament would act as a form of checks and balances on the ruling PAP, when in fact it would lead to paralysis and gridlock, he said.

"What they are trying to do is to barge into our homes," he said, and a member of the audience shouted "we should close our doors!"

The rest of his team mates were also in a combative mood.

Mr Liang Eng Hwa, the first candidate to address the crowd, wasted no time in firing the first salvo.

He said MPs in Singapore not only have to debate policies in Parliament, they also have to address problems faced by residents, and "even check the drains if need be".

SDP however, appeared to be more interested in the "glamorous" aspect of the job, such as delivering grand speeches at rallies.

"We cannot have our MPs lazy to walk the ground and only interested in making speeches," he said.

His colleague, Ms Sim, turned up the temperature by a few notches when it was her turn to speak.

Ms Sim, known to be effectively bilingual, used a Singlish phrase - "chut pattern", which means someone who full of antics, to describe SDP's Dr Chee. "If Dr Chee says he is second when it comes to 'chut pattern', no one else would dare to claim first."