THE People's Action Party (PAP) changes its policies as new challenges emerge, but what it stands for - serving the people with integrity - will never change, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night.
Responding to the attack on the ruling party by Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang on Wednesday, Mr Lee said the PAP's ideals, objectives and integrity remain "absolutely the same" as those of its founding members.
Pointing to his party whites, Mr Lee said the PAP has always worn the uniform because it is honest with Singaporeans.
When it comes to tough policy trade-offs, it will not sugar-coat matters, he said, or say the easy, popular thing.
Rather, it will always make clear to Singaporeans "what we have to give up" - like the possibility of falling behind if there is slower growth and a less competitive school system.
At the same time, it handles its mistakes and embarrassments with transparency and integrity, said PM Lee, pointing to the way the party dealt with former Speaker Michael Palmer's admission of an extra-marital affair.
On Wednesday, Mr Low had used Mr Palmer's downfall - which triggered the by-election - as one example of how the PAP is now a shadow of its former self.
Last night, PM Lee said that after Mr Palmer came forward, party leadership accepted his resignation and disclosed the matter to the public immediately.
"What the PAP did in Punggol East is quite different from how the WP handled Hougang when Yaw Shin Leong went missing in action," he pointed out.
Last February, the WP leadership kept mum for two weeks on allegations of infidelity on Mr Yaw's part, before abruptly expelling him for failing to account to them. Mr Yaw fled the country and has not been seen since.
In his rally speech, Mr Lee conceded that the PAP has changed in one way: its social policies are now more generous than they were in former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's "tough love, self-reliance" era.
Social and financial aid, especially for the elderly and the low-income, have been ramped up because the present generation has different needs, he noted.
"That's not to say one policy was right or another was wrong, but each was what we needed for that period," said Mr Lee.
In her speech at last night's rally, Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor ran down the list of programmes in place to defray senior citizens' medical bills, monetise their flats and incentivise their employment.
"It's disingenuous of the WP to imply that only they care for the elderly and will speak up for them," she said. "The PAP cares too and not merely by speaking up, but by formulating, testing, refining and implementing policy."
In her speech, Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Intan Azura Mokhtar also brought up policies - from the Comcare assistance fund, to the recent $2 billion Marriage and Parenthood package - to show that "the PAP has done a lot for families, including the Malay-Muslim community".