Parliament: Constructive politics will help S'pore scale new heights but "wrong politics will doom us", says PM

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong answers questions during the 20th International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo on May 22, 2014. It is very important for Singapore to get its politics right because constructive politics will h
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong answers questions during the 20th International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo on May 22, 2014. It is very important for Singapore to get its politics right because constructive politics will help it scale new heights, but wrong politics will doom it, said Mr Lee on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - It is very important for Singapore to get its politics right because constructive politics will help it scale new heights, but wrong politics will doom it, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday.

He joined the ongoing debate in Parliament over constructive politics, first mentioned in the President's Address on May 16.

Mr Lee criticised Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang's speech delivered on Monday and responded to Mr Low's point "that whatever way 'politics' is described and coloured, it is still politics".

Calling this a "breathtakingly cynical view of politics", Mr Lee said: "Politics cannot just be about politics alone. Singaporeans' lives and Singapore's future are at stake."

He went on to lay out how he defined constructive politics.

First, constructive politics should develop effective policies and improve the lives of Singaporeans.

It is also about putting forward capable people of integrity and character to be Ministers and Members of Parliament, he said.

Having robust and open debate and not just engaging in "soundbite politics" is also critical, he said. Proposals should be examined and debated.

Politicians must also be subject to scrutiny - but "not through anonymous innuendos and insinuation, especially online, that deter good people from entering politics".

Instead, scrutiny should be conducted "responsibly, through open, direct raising of pertinent questions, and establishing the truth, to prevent incompetent, dishonest or self-serving people from getting into positions of responsibility".

"Certainly, if ever a People's Action Party MP were accused of making false and untruthful statements, I would get to the bottom of the matter. And if he didn't do anything about it, I will come to conclusions about the sort of MP he or she was," he said.

Lastly, constructive politics should also rally people together around a common cause.

"If we end up with factional politics, each group pushing for single issues...or dividing society in pursuit of political advantage, then our politics would have failed Singapore," said Mr Lee. Some issues he listed as examples were nimbyism, the anti-development green agenda, and those for and against gay rights.