SINGAPORE - The mood on the ground is good and Singaporeans appreciate measures such as the Pioneer Generation Package, Medishield Life and improvements to housing, but People's Action Party (PAP) organising secretary Ng Eng Hen said last night that the party has reminded MPs and prospective candidates not to take this support for granted.
Dr Ng, who is Defence Minister, said the 2011 general election was "tough" and he does not expect the next one to be any easier:
"I say to all our candidates: have a care that you have to fight for every vote. Don't take support for granted, work very hard to win the support of your residents and voters and I take every opposition party contesting against us very seriously."
Responding to questions from reporters at a SG50 celebration event at Toa Payoh Industrial Park, he said the Government has managed to address many challenges and that in this Jubilee year, Singapore has much to be proud about - its racial harmony, strong Reserves, fiscal position and currency.
But he acknowledged there were issues that require time to be fully resolved. These include transport, - a hot button issue in the 2011 election - social mobility, and ensuring that children from poorer households get an opportunity to rise.
Dr Ng, who is Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC's anchor minister, welcomes competition from opposition parties
as it gives the PAP an opportunity tell residents about its plans and for the opposition to do the same so voters can choose.
As for the possible candidacy of Second Permanent Secretary for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat, whose last day of work in the civil service is Aug 11 - and who has been seen with Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar Nair - Dr Ng said he understood that Mr Chee is a resident of the GRC and that he has "been helping out in his official capacity as well as personally in some events . I wish him well for his future endeavours".
Mr Chee, 41, who graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, and in economics, was not at last night's event. But economist Saktiandi Supaat, a potential candidate, attend with Dr Ng's fellow GRC MP Zainudin Nordin, who is expected to step down.
Dr Ng reiterated last night that the PAP will unveil election candidates only after National Day and said there will be very few surprises. This is because potential candidates have already been on the ground, some for over two years, and will be familiar to residents.
This change in approach by the PAP was intentional as the party wanted residents to be comfortable with candidates, and for potential candidates to also know residents so as to serve them well.
The decision on revealing candidates was taken also because Jubilee celebrations are for Singapore to celebrate and reflect on the last 50 years, and to look forward "so we are trying to ... create a more conducive atmosphere for them".
"So it is not as if we are not ready to tell everybody who our candidates are ... but once we do that we just increase the tempo and temperature. So I ask for some patience," he said.