Singapore GE2020: Spreading falsehoods not the right kind of politics, says DPM Heng on SDP's 10 million population claim

SPH Brightcove Video
The 10 million population figure continued to be a talking point of the election campaign for the second day in a row with Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and opposition candidates weighing in on the matter.

SINGAPORE - Integrity is important for all political candidates, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Friday (July 3), adding that spreading falsehoods as the Singapore Democratic Party's Chee Soon Juan has done is "not the right kind of politics".

"Singaporeans can judge whether you are saying something serious or you are just spreading statements like this with no basis whatsoever," Mr Heng told reporters on the sidelines of a walkabout in East Coast GRC.

"This is not the right kind of politics. I think we must be sincere and honest in seeking to serve our people."

In a live debate on Wednesday, Dr Chee claimed that Mr Heng had "toyed with the idea" of raising Singapore's population to 10 million.

Mr Heng responded in a Facebook post the next day, saying he had not said the country should plan to raise its population to 10 million, or mentioned the number.

The National Population and Talent Division also made clear that the Government has not proposed, planned nor targeted for Singapore to increase its population to 10 million.

The population projection was suggested by Mr Liu Thai Ker, the former chief executive of the Housing Board and the Urban Redevelopment Authority, in a 2013 public forum, where he argued a 10 million population was necessary for Singapore to remain sustainable in the long term.

The figure was then referred to during a 2019 Nanyang Technological University student forum, when Mr Heng was asked about Singapore's Population White Paper.

Responding to the question, Mr Heng said he did not endorse the figure and added that "our population size was not just about physical space, but also about social space and how we can preserve a sense of togetherness".

Despite the clarification, the SDP, which is asking voters to reject a population of 10 million, has responded by claiming victory on that count.

The People's Action Party countered by saying the SDP's election campaign is now pointless as a key plank of its campaign has been proven false.

Mr Heng, who was accompanied on the walkabout on Friday by outgoing East Coast MP Lee Yi Shyan and new face Tan Kiat How, told reporters that the reason many businesses have been doing well overseas is that Singaporeans are known to have integrity.

"So we must keep honesty and integrity in our system, and we must expect that of all candidates," he said.

Mr Heng also pointed out that Singapore is facing major challenges with the Covid-19 pandemic and global economic downturn.

Remote video URL

"Let's not get distracted, let's focus on the key issues at hand," he said.

"And let's see how we can create a better life for all Singaporeans. This is the core issue of this election."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.