SINGAPORE - "With you, for you, for Singapore" - this is the campaign slogan of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) as it heads for the Sept 11 general election.
The party's election manifesto was also unveiled by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a party event held at Infinite Studios near Portsdown Avenue on Saturday (Aug 29) morning.
Addressing more than 1,000 party activists, PM Lee said the slogan "tells of what we have achieved together, it tells you what we are doing together, it sets out the challenges we are facing together, and it points to what more we can build together".
In his English speech, he noted that the PAP has renewed its team at every election, and has kept up as Singapore changed.
"All these years we have been here, with you, for you, and for Singapore," he said, reiterating the slogan. "Now, we are at a turning point. The pioneer generation is fading away - Mr Lee Kuan Yew himself passed away this year," he said, but Singapore still needs outstanding leaders to keep it special.
He told activists that no other party but the PAP is in a position to provide leadership for Singapore. "That is why I need a fresh, strong mandate from Singaporeans. That is why I am calling elections," he said, adding that the next Prime Minister will be an MP elected into the next Parliament.
He warned against voting for opposition parties, saying: "If you vote for the opposition and they win many constituencies to form the Government, then Singapore is sunk."
Looking ahead to Singapore's 100th anniversary, he asked: "Which direction will we go? Up or down? There's no in-between."
If Singapore becomes ordinary, other countries, neighbouring countries and the big powers will deal with it differently, he said. "That's what election is about - to build a good team for Singapore. A team for now, a team for the future."
Mr Lee also thanked each of the 14 PAP MPs who will be stepping down, including former ministers Mah Bow Tan and Wong Kan Seng.
Also thanking Mr Lui Tuck Yew and Mr Raymond Lim, who have both served as Transport ministers, he said: "They made contributions to our transport system that will show up over the years in the years to come. This is a job that no one says thank you when you are doing it..."
He also introduced the new faces contesting this election. Among them is Fengshan SMC candidate Cheryl Chan, whom he said: "She knows where to get the best laksa in Fengshan and I think she is ready for any opposition parachutists who will be there whether they are male or female."
Ms Chan, 38, a PAP volunteer for more than 10 years, is being fielded in the new single-seat ward.
Mr Lee also rallied the candidates who will be standing in opposition-held wards and told them: " You need courage, you need a thick skin, you need stout hearts."
Two veteran MPs - Charles Chong and Yeo Guat Kwang - were asked to leave their seats to stand in Punggol East and Aljunied GRC respectively. Neither MPs "hesitated for a moment" when he spoke to them, he said, adding that the PAP will hold a rally in the opposition wards and he will visit them.
"Where we send you, we will back you up fully."
Earlier, PM Lee spoke in Malay, thanking retiring Malay MPs and talked about leadership renewal in the Malay community.
Of the upcoming election, he said "this is not masak-masak or main-main", referring to playing games. "This is an important issue."
In his Mandarin speech, he noted that 2015 was Singapore's 50th year and that last year the PAP celebrated its 60th anniversary.
"You can say Singapore's development and the PAP are inextricably linked," he said.
He told the activists that Singapore has reached a turning point and was entering a new phase of development. "That's why I thought this was an opportune time to hold a GE."
The coming election was important because Singaporeans are not just choosing their MPs and leaders for the country but also "the future of your children".
He said that some people thought the election was about voting in alternative voices, and that by weakening the support for the Government, the Government would do more for the people.
"But this cannot be," he said in Mandarin. "Every PAP minister and MP has their strengths and are able to make contributions. If you harm the team, it is to your disadvantage."
While the party was confident about the election, he cautioned party members about complacency.
"We cannot take for granted that PAP will form the government. We must fight for every vote," he said.
The 1,000 PAP activists gathered include ministers, current and retiring MPs and the party's new candidates for the coming Sept 11 election.
Earlier, the event started with veteran MP Charles Chong telling the audience that "every vote counts".
Mr Chong, 62, took aim at opposition parties for being evasive. By contrast, the PAP has been transparent, open, and "where we have fallen short, we have taken decisive action to right our wrongs", he said.
"In this election, besides keeping seats we have, we also want to eat orh luak and orh neng in Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East, and they will taste even better if the PAP is voted in," he told the crowd, referring to wards held by the Workers' Party (WP) and playing on the orh luak - oyster omelette - analogy that has been tossed about in the campaigning so far.
Mr Chong is running in Punggol East SMC against WP incumbent Lee Li Lian.
Madam Rahayu Mahzam, 35, a new candidate for Jurong GRC, spoke about why she decided to join politics.
"If I wanted to continue living in a country where the government is strong and clean, I had to do my part. It's time to roll up my sleeves," she said.
Another speaker was lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai, 47, a candidate for opposition-held Aljunied GRC. The five-man PAP Aljunied team was introduced on Friday.
To laughter from the audience, he said: "We have been described as a suicide squad."
On a more serious note, he added: "We will convince them that it's time to bring the PAP home."
Another new candidate, Mr Ng Chee Meng, 47, painted a picture of the challenging future that lies ahead for Singapore. "How then will we find our way forward? This is a key factor in our immediate elections," he said.
The former defence chief is running in the six-member Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC and is tipped to be an office holder.
MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling, 31, talked about her three-week-old son, who will be 50 when Singapore marks SG100, and how she is concerned about his future.
She also spoke about providing support for single mothers, equipping the young for the future, and meritocracy.
In another jibe at the WP, she said: "To all Singaporeans out there, I believe the PAP has the foresight, the abilities, the right heart to do this. We are not here to supervise, to check, we are here to build a better future for Singapore."
The PAP has introduced all its 89 candidates for the election, Singapore's 12th since independence. Singaporeans go to the polls on Sept 11, with Nomination Day on Sept 1.