Scratching the surface won't solve deep issues: DPM

PAP supporters attending the rally for East Coast GRC at Bedok Stadium last night.
PAP supporters attending the rally for East Coast GRC at Bedok Stadium last night.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Getting together to rub out root of the problem is much harder task that PAP has done, says Teo Chee Hean

It is easy to put on an act to make someone feel better. But to get together to rub out the root of the problem, something the People's Action Party has done, is far more difficult, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean last night at Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC's rally.

Pretending to solve a problem was like pretending to cure an itch, he suggested.

"It's like a mosquito bite, says, 'Look, let me scratch. Does that feel better? Let me scratch some more, does that feel better?' And in the end, what happens? You get a sore forming and you become sick and ill," said the anchor minister for the six-member Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, whose team faces one from the Singapore Democratic Alliance. "It is easy to deliberately rake up and accentuate differences to cause confrontation and disharmony, but it is not so easy... to have constructive dialogue and build consensus to bring people together, to achieve a common goal."

He held up the Our Singapore Conversation exercise as a positive example of consensus-building which resulted in new programmes and policies for Singapore.

Speaking from a stage in a field beside Buangkok MRT station, he also reminded Singaporeans not to take the nation's current state of peace, stability and harmony for granted.

Singaporeans, he said, need not look very far to find "unhappy examples" of race and religion sparking riots and killings in neighbouring countries and terrorist attacks in the region.

Referring to the recent violence in the region - like the unfolding terrorist plot in Bangkok, the Bersih 4.0 rallies in Malaysia, Occupy Central in Hong Kong and the student occupation of Parliament House in Taiwan that brought "chaos and paralysis" to the country - he asked: "Is that the kind of democracy and freedom that we want? The democracy and freedom to bring a country into stoppage and unable to progress?"

He also reminded Singaporeans that almost exactly 51 years ago, racial riots broke out here, a bomb went off in Orchard Road at MacDonald House and the Singapore economy was cut off from Indonesia and then from Malaysia too after separation.

Back then, he said, Singaporeans feared for the value of the Singapore dollar.

"I still remember they preferred to keep the ringgit because we had no tin, we had no rubber to keep the Singdollar strong. What a tremendous change 50 years has brought us. Today, the Singdollar is worth three ringgit," he said, to cheers in the audience.

"We have achieved much together but we must never take what we have for granted," he added.

His Pasir Ris-Punggol teammate, new candidate and former defence force chief Ng Chee Meng, described Singapore as "a small red dot in a turbulent sea".

"Good leaders are needed to ensure that we have a strong economy, so that Singaporeans can have good jobs, and make a living for ourselves and for our families," he said, citing the party's proven record over the past 50 years. He also pointed to future plans in store for the area.

Among the projects that are under way are the widening of Loyang Avenue, the doubling of the LRT's capacity, a new polyclinic and the ramping up of childcare facilities.

His GRC teammate Sun Xueling, also a new candidate, said that Singapore's journey was "not one paved by talkers or the critics or the man who just points out how the strong man stumbles".

Describing the path travelled thus far as long and rugged, the investment director at Temasek Holdings said: "As long as we stay together, we will be able to overcome all challenges... I hope you remember one word, cherish."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2015, with the headline 'Scratching the surface won't solve deep issues: DPM'. Print Edition | Subscribe