Singapore GE2020: PM Lee Hsien Loong's full speech at launch of PAP manifesto

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the launch of the People's Action Party's campaign manifesto on June 27, 2020. PHOTO: PEOPLE'S ACTION PARTY/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party (PAP) launched its election manifesto on Saturday (June 27) in a Facebook Live session.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is the party's secretary-general, also unveiled the PAP's campaign slogan for the upcoming election "Our Lives, Our Jobs, Our Future".

Here is his speech in full:

Party comrades, brothers and sisters of the NTUC, my fellow Singaporeans, good morning.

We are going into elections in the midst of a global crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected many lives and livelihoods. After great effort, we have stabilised the situation in Singapore. Now we are resuming some activities and reopening our economy, cautiously, but our work is only just beginning.

The next government has a huge task ahead. It will have many important decisions to make, decisions that will affect our lives for years to come.

This is why I have called the general election now. It is to give Singapore a new government, a government with a full five-year term ahead of it and a fresh mandate from voters, a government which can focus on the urgent problems and deal decisively with them.

Today, the PAP is launching our manifesto for the general election. In a normal election, our manifesto would focus on all our long-term ideas to improve and transform Singapore - projects like the Tuas Megaport and Changi Terminal 5, development plans for the Greater Southern Waterfront and Jurong Lake District, more and better pre-schools, healthcare for the elderly, preparing for climate change.

All these plans are ambitious, but credible, because generation after generation, we have never stopped building on what we inherited in Singapore.

And also, because election after election, PAP governments have never failed to deliver on our promises to the people.

In normal elections, what is usually of much less interest to voters is the routine business of keeping Singapore going.

Singaporeans expect everything to continue running smoothly, and the PAP to continue to govern properly, before and after the election. They are confident the country will stay safe, our health services will continue to run, the economy will keep humming along, and jobs will always be available.

In other countries, this would be heroic, even reckless assumptions to make, but in Singapore, they are quite realistic, and have become the expectation and the norm.

But this time is different. This is not a normal election, and we are not in a normal situation.

We are in the middle of the most severe crisis in the world, that the world has faced for many decades. The immediate business of running Singapore is anything but routine.

Without a Herculean effort by us, we cannot be certain that what we have painstakingly built over decades will continue to stand, and not collapse in the storm.

Right now, keeping Singapore going, flying straight and level, safely through the turbulent weather is the most challenging and urgent priority for the Government.

Therefore, the central focus of this manifesto is how we will work together to overcome this crisis of a generation.

How we will keep Singaporeans and our migrant workers safe, and prevent Covid-19 from overwhelming our healthcare system and hospitals, how we will restart and transform the economy, save jobs and businesses, and reskill workers to take on new jobs, how we will provide care and support to one another, so that together we can keep ourselves all of us safe amidst the uncertainties and dangers.

These issues are at the top of people's minds.

Singaporeans understand that this is not business as usual, or politics as usual. You want to know how the Government will work with you to solve your pressing worries.

This manifesto - Our Lives, Our Jobs, Our Future - answers your questions.

Beyond Covid-19 and jobs, Singaporeans will also want to know what longer-term future you can look forward to. Where will Singapore be, in five, 10, 20 years' time?

After the crisis passes, can Singapore resume our journey, onward and upward?

So this manifesto also sets out the PAP's longer-term plans to build a better Singapore, because our aim is not just to survive the storm, but also to maintain the long-term direction for the country, and keep on building and improving Singapore.

This is the manifesto of a responsible party and government. Singaporeans can rely on the PAP government, both to address your immediate needs, and also to work with you to secure your long-term future.

What the PAP promises, the PAP will deliver.

To put this manifesto into action, we need the full support of Singaporeans.

We also need a strong, steady and capable leadership team - a team with experience who've been through previous crises, who know what to do, what resources are at your disposal, and what pitfalls and traps to watch out for, a team with young faces and new ideas who can look at old problems from fresh perspectives, and come up with better solutions, and a dedicated and committed team who have a heart for people and a willingness to listen and who are determined to serve and to do their best for Singapore.

Hardly ever before has government been so crucial to protecting lives and livelihoods of Singaporeans. This is why leadership is key.

Whom you choose to form the next government and the quality of that leadership, is absolutely critical.

But even the best leadership team is only as strong as the support it gets. So we must fight hard to convince Singaporeans that our PAP team is their team, and deserves their full support.

In this general election, we have made an exceptional effort to put together such a national team.

We are fielding 27 new candidates this time - more than a quarter of our total slate, and more than in any previous election. They have all been introduced over the last few days.

But actually, most of them were already familiar to many residents, because they have been working on the ground for some time. Quite a few have been grassroots leaders and party activists for several years now.

We also have a good mix: entrepreneurs, businessmen and women, lawyers, social workers, public servants and SAF officers. And we have more women this time, 10 new candidates are female - double the last round - including our first female SAF general.

Individually, each of the new candidates brings something different to the team. They are each proven in their respective fields and professions.

One of them co-founded a restaurant business, which eventually expanded into an entertainment and F&B company especially popular with younger Singaporeans.

Another is currently vice-president at an aerospace company. He came back to Singapore to lead a major project, after many years working in the UK and Europe.

But beyond ability and performance, the new candidates, just like the older ones, also have a strong commitment to serving people.

Several have founded social enterprises and non-profit organisations.

We also have former civil servants who led the Pioneer Generation Office, which has now become the Silver Generation Office, and the People's Association.

Several of the candidates have taken harder roads to success. Two grew up in rental flats, another two came up through the Normal (Academic) stream and went on to polytechnic. One later earned a PhD and is now back in the polytechnic, teaching, nurturing the next generation. The other one worked as a paralegal before saving enough to pursue a law degree overseas. And now she's a lawyer, and continues to give back, setting up legal clinics in the community.

In fact, altogether five of the new candidates are polytechnic diploma graduates.

Having succeeded, they are now helping others to succeed too.

The PAP has made it a fundamental goal to open up many paths to success in Singapore.

Regardless of your family background, if you work hard, you can progress and make a good life for yourselves.

Our candidates know this is true - they've made it happen in their own lives. They have lived the Singapore story.

I am proud of our candidates individually. But what I am most proud of is that collectively, the new candidates represent a wide range of life experiences and backgrounds.

This is what makes the PAP the mainstream party in Singapore - a broad tent that occupies the middle ground, and represents the vast majority of Singaporeans.

Our new candidates come from all walks of life, and they are representative of the complexion of our society. And if elected, they will become your representatives in Parliament.

Because they are like you, they understand you and your concerns, and they care for you.

You can trust them to speak up on your behalf, and to work closely with you to find good solutions for you and for Singapore.

Because of time, I am not able to speak in detail about all the new candidates one by one but we have made a short video so that you can put faces to the names, and know who all of them are.

Comrades, Brothers and Sisters, I present to you the new PAP candidates for GE2020.

The new candidates will soon face the cut and thrust of electoral politics. It will be a big step, probably a little out of their comfort zones. But they will get used to it, and some may even in time, relish it.

But in any election, the candidates with the most challenging task are the ones standing in opposition wards, in Hougang SMC and Aljunied GRC.

In 2015, our candidates fought extremely hard and performed very well. In Hougang, Lee Hong Chuang improved the PAP's vote share to 42 per cent.

In Aljunied, Victor Lye's GRC team did well enough to demand a recount of the votes.

Ever since then, the PAP teams have been hard at work on the ground in Hougang and in Aljunied. Now they are ready to contest again, this time wiser, more experienced, and having formed deeper bonds with the residents.

I hope Hougang and Aljunied voters will give them a chance to show what they can do.

To our Hougang and Aljunied team, and to all our candidates wherever you will be standing: we support you fully, and we wish you all the best!

In every election as we field new candidates, so we also have MPs who are retiring. This year, about 20 MPs are retiring.

One of them is the Deputy Speaker, Charles Chong. Of all the PAP MPs, Charles probably has experienced the narrowest winning margins in elections. In 2011 he won in Joo Chiat with 51 per cent of the vote. In 2015, he took back Punggol East with 52 per cent of the vote.

Always by the skin of his teeth, not because he is a weak MP, but because when there is a tough fight, and we need a strong candidate who will fight hard and fight smart, we send in Charles Chong. And every time, Charles has delivered.

Khaw Boon Wan is retiring too. I published my valedictory letter to him yesterday.

But what makes Boon Wan special is not something that can be easily put down in any letter. Boon Wan has been in all my Cabinets from day one when I became PM. We have fought and won many battles together.

The warmth and mutual regard we have for each other has grown over many years as we worked together, dealing with the spikiest of problems. Ours is an exceptional comradeship that one is sometimes privileged to experience when we commit ourselves to public service.

What I say of Boon Wan applies even more to ESM Goh Chok Tong. ESM Goh too is retiring at this election.

This marks a major transition point for Singapore politics. ESM has served Singapore with great distinction, 44 years as an MP for Marine Parade, and 14 years as Prime Minister.

He has touched the lives of so many Singaporeans, and given his all in service of our country and people.

Personally, I owe ESM Goh a huge debt of gratitude, because he was the one who brought me into politics, and has guided and mentored me all these years, even after I succeeded him as PM.

I do not have time to thank all the retiring MPs one by one today. Each one has served Singapore and the Party loyally. And I have no doubt that if they were to contest the coming GE, many of them would put up a strong showing.

But they have agreed to step down, because they understand the need for self-renewal, and have put the party and nation before themselves.

So after the general election, we will create the appropriate occasion to properly express our deep appreciation to them.

Comrades, today we launch our party manifesto. On Tuesday, the general election campaign starts.

We're going into battle, to win the mandate of the people in a crucial contest.

Make no mistake - this will be a tough election. Singaporeans have lost jobs, families have suffered, many are hurting from the pandemic. We cannot take any vote for granted.

The Singaporean voter is a tough judge. We must fight hard for every single vote, in every single constituency - PAP or opposition, SMC or GRC.

But after winning the people's mandate, we will have a much bigger fight: To protect our people's lives and livelihoods during this deep crisis.

And beyond that, to fight year after year, to keep Singapore successful and special for this and future generations.

These battles can only be won if the PAP has the full support of Singaporeans, and Singapore has the strongest and most committed leadership team to take our nation forward.

Let us give it our all. Convince Singaporeans to give the PAP their strong support, and to work with us to secure our lives, our jobs, and our future.

Thank you.

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