PAP to field new faces from private sector for next GE

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at a People's Action Party lunchtime rally at Boat Quay in 2011.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at a People's Action Party lunchtime rally at Boat Quay in 2011. PHOTO: BT FILE

More individuals from the private sector will join the ranks of the People's Action Party (PAP) for the next general election (GE), with some probably going on to become Cabinet ministers.

Three out of four of the new faces are from outside the PAP's traditional grazing ground of the Government and armed forces, PAP organising secretary and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen disclosed in an interview.

This is an increase from the 2011 GE, in which fewer than half of the new candidates were from the private sector.

 

Some of the fresh blood this time will still come from the civil service, military and police, but they will be "in the minority", he said.

Among the likely candidates are corporate managers, finance professionals, lawyers, doctors and civil society activists. The Straits Times last month identified more than 20 newcomers, including top public sector leaders.

COUNTRY'S LEADERS

You need MPs who can both deal with the day-to-day municipal issues, understand their residents, understand their concerns and deal with bread-and- butter issues, as well as come into Government when they are needed... You have to bring in enough people, or as many as possible, who can do both.

'DR NG ENG HEN, Defence Minister

The varied slate is to provide a representation of viewpoints from different groups of Singaporeans, Dr Ng said. "We're a broad church, so we want diverse perspectives."

Overall, about a quarter of the current PAP MPs will step down to make way for new hopefuls, many of whom started reaching out to residents years ahead of the next polls.

The approach helps avoid criticism that potential candidates are out of touch with the ground and "parachuted" into branches.

Also, about one-third of the fresh faces could eventually become office-holders, Dr Ng said.

Having both these abilities - people skills on the ground, and leadership ability to make it to office and run the Government in a crisis - is what the PAP looks for in an ideal candidate, he added.

"You need MPs who can both deal with the day-to-day municipal issues, understand their residents, understand their concerns and deal with bread-and-butter issues, as well as come into Government when they are needed," he said.

"Obviously we wish that the person can be good in both, but sometimes you don't get that combination. So, you have to bring in enough people, or as many as possible, who can do both."

Indeed, one reason the PAP often brings top civil servants into the fold is that they have what it takes to help lead a country:

"Who are these people? They will be people who have been civil servantsand understand the challenges, who are from the military and given overseas exposure, or who police large organisations...So from that point of view, I don't think it's surprising that we draw from the civil service or people who perform well."

Fiona Chan and Rachel Chang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2015, with the headline 'New faces from private sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe