SINGAPORE - The People’s Action Party takes governance and governing Singapore very seriously and has always worked hard to improve the lives of Singaporeans, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Saturday (July 27) as he rebutted the assertion by Progress Singapore Party (PSP) leader Tan Cheng Bock that the ruling party had lost its way.
“We fundamentally disagree with Dr Tan. But of course he’s entitled to his opinions just as all Singaporeans are entitled to opinions,” added Mr Heng, who is the PAP’s second-in-command as its first assistant secretary-general.
The test, he said, is which party and group of candidates has the better ideas and ability to deliver results for Singaporeans.
Mr Heng noted that Singaporeans have placed their trust in the PAP over the years.
“The trust that Singaporeans have placed in the PAP Government over the years is because (it) has delivered a better life for Singaporeans,” he said.
“We would need to focus on what are the major challenges ahead. Our ability to think long term and address issues early will be key,” he added, citing ongoing efforts to transform the economy, create better jobs, and better care for an ageing population.
The Deputy Prime Minister’s remarks come a day after Dr Tan had said at a press conference to introduce his party that the PAP no longer hewed to the standards of good governance.
Dr Tan, a former PAP MP of 27 years turned opposition politician had, among other things, charged there was a lack of transparency, accountability and independence in the appointment of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife Ho Ching as chief executive of Temasek, and in the use of Parliament to debate the issue of the fate of first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s house at 38 Oxley Road.
To this, Mr Heng said Dr Tan had contradicted himself.
“He said that there’s no transparency but at the same time he attacked the fact that the issue of Oxley Road was raised in Parliament,” he added. “Now that is transparency, the fact that (the) Prime Minister was prepared to have this issue debated in Parliament, clarified in Parliament, is a very important aspect of our governance.”
Mr Heng was speaking after a joint visit to East Coast GRC with Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing. They were hosted by former minister Lim Swee Say, who is an MP of the constituency.
Many residents had expressed support for government policies and told him how they have improved their lives, said Mr Heng.
Mr Chan added that ministers are focused on working together as a team to tackle major challenges facing Singapore, and are “not distracted by whether there’s a new party here or new party there”.
“Our record is here to stand, I think fellow Singaporeans can make up their minds,” he said.
“As long as we are in Government, our commitment to Singapore and Singaporeans is that we will work our hardest to bring the country together to stand out from the competition and if we do our job well, the results will take care of itself.”
Both ministers also questioned whether Dr Tan had better alternative policies. Said Mr Heng: “We look forward to good ideas that Dr Tan may have, but so far he has not articulated policies to bring Singapore forward.”
Mr Heng added that he welcomed good policy ideas as part of the Singapore Together movement to shape the nation’s future.
Added Mr Chan: “We spend our time building up Singapore... If other people just spend their time tearing down things, then we have to ask ‘Do you have a better alternative? Can you present a better and more credible alternative to fellow Singaporeans?’”
They added that Singaporeans would be fair-minded and would know who to place their trust in.
The coming general election that is due by April 2021 will be the test of which parties have “better ideas and better ability to deliver results for Singaporeans”, said Mr Heng.
“In every election we see many (parties) forming, some continue some don’t. That shows that democracy is alive in Singapore... What counts at the end of the day is: Can we deliver a better life for Singaporeans?,” he added.
On Saturday, both ministers and Mr Lim met residents and stall holders at the wet market and food centre at 58 New Upper Changi Road, near the PAP headquarters.
The ministerial walkabout was the 40th such visit that the fourth-generation PAP leaders have made since the new format of community visits was launched last July.
Mr Heng said the visits are “a way for us to get close to the ground to understand the concerns, the aspirations of people”.
East Coast GRC was a hot battleground in the 2015 election, with the Workers’ Party fielding their next-generation leaders there.
Asked if the PAP would send a minister there soon, as Mr Lim had retired from Cabinet, Mr Heng said: “We will decide on our deployment in time to come. We take every seat, every contest seriously.”