Singapore— At the ruling People’s Action Party PAP65 Awards and Convention at the Singapore Expo on Sunday, November 10, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong admitted that the choice to amend the constitution to reserve the elected presidency for minority candidates at specific periods had been a “political minus” both for the government and for PAP, but it had been the right thing to do.
The Prime Minister had said that he was aware that not everyone in the country was in favour of the amendment, but he knew he needed to make the choice anyway, for the long-term good of Singapore, The Straits Times (ST) reports.
He said to the more than 2,500 PAP activists attending the conference, “Overall, from a short term perspective, this issue is probably a political minus for the government, for the PAP. But this is part of governing.”
Moreover, the Prime Minister emphasized that he knows the decision he made was right for Singapore, saying, “I am convinced that we did the right thing. We must never, ever be afraid to do what is right for Singapore.”
PM Lee mentioned the issue to give an example of when the country needed to firm up the institutions that uphold Singapore’s multicultural society bringing up the challenges non-Chinese candidates would face in winning the presidency via a national vote.
He said, “How would the minorities feel if year after year, the President of Singapore were almost always Chinese? In the long term, such a scenario would foment deep unhappiness, and erode the founding values of our nation.”
Therefore, this led him to take the “major step” in the form of a constitutional amendment, having throughly perused the issue with the other ministers.
His sentiments on Sunday echoed what he said two years ago, over the decision, which had been unpopular with some.
He said at a People’s Association Kopi Talk dialogue then, “Did I know that this subject would be a difficult one? That it would be unpopular and would cost us votes? Yes, I knew. If I do not know that these are sensitive matters, I cannot be in politics.
But I did it, because I strongly believe, and still do, that this is the right thing to do.’
He added that he could feel that there had been “some unhappiness” over the decision.
It took the government almost two years of preparation for the change, which he said even in 2017 had been meant to make the multiracial system in Singapore even stronger.
He said, “The current state of affairs, where Singaporeans of different races and religions live in harmony, is not a given
There is nothing natural about where we are – multiracial, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive. We made it happen, and we have got to protect it, nurture it, preserve it, and never break it.” -/TISG