GE 2015

'Tensions can serve as impetus to improve S'pore'

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin at Geylang Serai Market on Aug 7, 2013.
Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin at Geylang Serai Market on Aug 7, 2013. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The differences that people have had in the general election (GE) will not go away, but Singaporeans must unite and move on, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said yesterday.

And as the dust settles on the elections, he called on Singaporeans to "figure out how to rally around, how to continue to converse as best as we can".

"Differences won't go away. Some things, we will be able to find common ground. Some things, we will just have to agree to disagree.

"But the main thing is, let's all move forward together as one nation," said Mr Tan, who led the five-member People's Action Party (PAP) team contesting in Marine Parade GRC to a decisive victory against a Workers' Party team.

The PAP won 64.07 per cent of the votes, well above the 56.6 per cent in 2011 against a weaker team from the National Solidarity Party.

Speaking to reporters yesterday while visiting residents in Marine Parade GRC to thank them for their support, Mr Tan acknowledged that the heat of the hustings had cast a spotlight on differences, which created tensions.

But such tensions can be useful, the minister said. "It pushes us along and as we jostle, I think we continue to improve. It's the tone and the texture of how that kind of tension takes place," he added.

The PAP won the Sept 11 elections by a landslide, raising its vote share by 9.8 percentage points to 69.9 per cent. Asked about the huge swing of votes towards the PAP, Mr Tan said the sentiment online did not tally with what they saw when walking the ground.

"And then you see the bookies' odds; we were a bit perplexed also because our ground sense was that it was very warm and supportive. Whether that translates to votes, (it is) difficult to say... but I kept focusing on our people and reaching out."

Mr Tan said the PAP will not take the strong support and backing it received for granted: "It will be disastrous if we do that. There are obviously calls for areas to improve as well, things we can do better."

For a start, the Government has adjusted the way it reaches out to Singaporeans and communicates with them, he noted. And it will carry on with this engagement because it cannot get everything "exactly right" when formulating policies, and "input from people makes a lot of difference".

"We have begun to do that in very significant ways in our respective ministries," he said. "It will be messier, it will take a bit longer. But on many fronts, we really should begin to engage our people..."

Mr Tan, together with his teammates - Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and backbenchers Seah Kian Peng, Fatimah Lateef and Edwin Tong - rode on an open-top lorry which made its way around Braddell Heights, Geylang Serai, Joo Chiat and Marine Parade, thanking residents in the area.

One of them even baked and offered the MPs-elect a cake which had a picture of the PAP team hugging one another on Polling Night when the results were announced.

Mr Goh, 74, who has fought 10 general elections since joining politics in 1976, said he had seen many ups and downs, and had taken a step back as the next generation of leaders takes over.

When asked what role he would be playing in the new government that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is putting together, Mr Goh said: "I take a step back and give them my views behind the scenes.

"While (we) look at the rear mirror to learn lessons, always look towards the future.

"And the future belongs to Tan Chuan-Jin and the generation of leaders and younger MPs."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2015, with the headline ''Tensions can serve as impetus to improve S'pore''. Print Edition | Subscribe