PAP 'respects voters' wish for choices'

Returning PAP candidate Ong Ye Kung was part of the team that stood in Aljunied GRC but lost to the Workers' Party in the 2011 General Election.
Returning PAP candidate Ong Ye Kung was part of the team that stood in Aljunied GRC but lost to the Workers' Party in the 2011 General Election.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Party does not take political support for granted, says Khaw Boon Wan

Voters' desire for opposition in Parliament and choice at the ballot box is a reality the People's Action Party recognises and respects, its chairman Khaw Boon Wan and returning candidate Ong Ye Kung made clear yesterday at a press conference in Sembawang GRC.

Mr Ong, who was part of the PAP team that stood in Aljunied GRC but lost to the Workers' Party in the 2011 General Election, said that politics is no longer as predictable as it used to be.

"I don't think people want total dominance. Therefore, ministers can lose their seats," he said, referring to his previous running mates: former foreign minister George Yeo, former second minister for transport and finance Lim Hwee Hua and former senior minister of state for foreign affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed.

"So, if you are prepared to come into politics and try to do something for residents, understand that this is the situation. Do it with your heart and soul, with your eyes open. And if you face a loss, never let one loss become a defeat," he said.

KHAW FOR TRANSPORT?

I think I have made enough trips to Sembawang Park, I cannot be camping there whole day.

NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT MINISTER KHAW BOON WAN, when asked if he would volunteer for the transport portfolio after Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew this week said he will not contest the election. Mr Khaw had volunteered for his current job, which oversees housing, and yesterday shared that he took walks with his wife at Sembawang Park whenever he was stressed by housing issues.

This is why even though the PAP did well in Sembawang GRC at the previous election, winning with 63.9 per cent of the vote, Mr Khaw said they do not take their political support for granted.

"Every new term, there will be new voters and the mood of previous supporters may also change.

"So we have to always work hard for every vote and the support of our constituents," Mr Khaw, who is National Development Minister, told reporters at the session in Sembawang's Swami Home for the elderly needy, where he unveiled the new five-man slate for the GRC.

Two of his team members are familiar faces: his fellow GRC MP Vikram Nair and Nee Soon GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak, whose Canberra ward is part of the GRC after the last electoral boundaries review.

Mr Ong, 45, and newcomer Amrin Amin, 36, were introduced while Ms Ellen Lee, 58, and Senior Parliamentary Secretary Hawazi Daipi , 61, will leave politics.

Singaporeans, too, should not think that the country's success comes easily, said Mr Khaw.

Any success can be eroded easily if a country does not have good politics, he said, pointing out that other countries have "gone backwards". "We think politics has a lot to do with it. For example, if corruption is rampant, if politics become money politics whereby huge amounts of money have to be raised to fight in an election... corruption and cronyism come about," he said.

Singapore does not have a culture of money politics because of laws put in place by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to limit campaign expenditure and make it compulsory to account for every cent spent in an election.

In this spirit, the PAP chose the Swami Home for yesterday's event because it found the rent for the venue affordable, said Mr Khaw. "This is a political culture which is fairly unique to Singapore and let us appreciate and protect that political legacy," he said.

No matter which party wins, as long as every political party protects this ethos by putting forward candidates of good character, Singapore's future will be safe, he said.

Character is the key quality the PAP looks for in its candidates, said Mr Khaw, who described his Sembawang GRC teammates as having their hearts in the right place.

"We look for people who are honest, with high standards of ethics and integrity and are passionate about wanting to help others."

He welcomed the National Solidarity Party's plan to contest in the GRC, saying it was important to give voters a choice at the ballot box.

He hoped the NSP would disclose their plans and candidates for the GRC soon to give voters a chance to interact with them.

He said: "Democracy is a contest of ideas.

"Let the best ideas prevail and let the stronger team win."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'PAP 'respects voters' wish for choices''. Print Edition | Subscribe