'Take the fight to opponents, even when the going is tough'

Yesterday's meeting was attended by 1,500 activists. PM Lee urged them to convince people about what the PAP stands for.
Yesterday's meeting was attended by 1,500 activists. PM Lee urged them to convince people about what the PAP stands for.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

People's Action Party activists must have the courage of their convictions and have the confidence in persuading Singaporeans to support the party, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

"We have to take the fight to our opponents, even when the going is tough, because, ultimately, Singaporeans back fighters. That's why they have backed the PAP for more than 60 years," he told MPs and party activists.

Mr Lee reminded party members that they have to listen to residents and remain humble, especially after the big electoral victory the party won. But they must also convince people about what the party stands for. "If you are just a hao hao xian sheng (Mr Nice Guy), yes to everything, but you have no ideas of your own, you don't stand up for what you believe in, you will not win votes," he said.

Mr Lee singled out for mention veteran MP Charles Chong, who won back Punggol East SMC from the Workers' Party. He also cited the performance of the PAP candidates in Aljunied GRC and Hougang, who did not win but raised their vote share, and asked them to stand up and take a bow - to applause from the audience.

"They had the hardest mission but they kept at it with the right attitude. And they showed that the PAP has fight, that no opposition constituency can consider itself 'safe'," he said.

PAP candidates must also have staying power despite losing elections or receiving brickbats, Mr Lee said, citing Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin and MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling, who won by comfortable margins in GE 2015.

Mr Sitoh lost twice to opposition veteran Chiam See Tong, but insisted on standing for the third time in 2011 and won the long-time opposition ward back by 114 votes. "I told him, next time, better don't give us so many palpitations," Mr Lee quipped.

Mr Sitoh made sure it was not a nail-biting finish this year by delivering a 66.4 per cent victory.

In 2011, a barrage of online flak was directed at Ms Tin, then in Marine Parade GRC, over her age. "It's not easy for a first-time young lady fighting, but she has a stout heart; she concentrated on serving her residents," Mr Lee said, noting that this time, she won 65.6 per cent of the votes in a three-way fight. Noting that the "people's judgment was an awesome thing", he told his MPs they should not be found wanting.

Chong Zi Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2015, with the headline ''Take the fight to opponents, even when the going is tough''. Print Edition | Subscribe