Singapore—The country’s Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), Heng Swee Keat, said in an interview over the weekend that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) is readying the party’s manifesto as well as narrowing down candidates for next general election (GE). For this, Mr Heng is in close collaboration with Trade and Industry Minister and second assistant secretary-general Chan Chun Sing.
Mr Heng, who assumed the position of DPM on May 1, was interviewed by Channel NewsAsia and the Straits Times.
At one point during the interview, Mr Heng was asked, “How prepared are you in terms of the elections?”
The DPM answered, “I’m working very closely with Chan Chun Sing on this. First, our manifesto. We are working on the manifesto, on how we hope to take Singapore forward in the next five years and beyond.
And then second we are in the midst of selecting the candidates. I think that the party has a policy of renewing our ranks at every election, and the work is intensifying. We’ve had some very good candidates already, but the work is continuing because we still have some time, and so we are looking at our selection of candidates.
And then, of course, we are looking at how do we reach out to different segments of our people, to make sure that we are able to understand their concerns and look at how we can work together with more Singaporeans for a brighter future.
we are looking at a wide range of candidates and we hope to be able to convince many of the good candidates that we have seen to join us, from a variety of backgrounds.
It is important for us to continue to represent that diversity to make sure that we are able to bring in the views of different segments of our society. At the same time, to be able to achieve a consensus that lets us turn diversity into a strength and not let diversity divide us.”
When the Straits Times’ news editor, Zakir Hussain, commented that younger Singaporeans also feel “a desire among them for greater opposition and they feel while the PAP… continues to have a party that seeks to draw on consensus, they feel that they would prefer to have alternative views and a greater role for others in civil society.”
The ST news editor asked, “How would the 4G address some of these challenges?”
The country’s newly-minted DPM acknowledged that he understood why some of the youth, who have been exposed to Western ideas, may have the perspective that a democracy should have two parties, and that a single party in power for a long time “is not a good thing.”
Mr Heng said he suggests that the ‘evidence’ be examined, and gave the ‘very contentious debates’ in the UK parliament as an example. He said that when he spoke to some British colleagues, “they were really very dismayed at how the political process has turned out.”
“The fragmentation is very serious. So the key question for us in our society is, how do we include the views of as many people as possible in our governance process, and mobilize the energies of the people in our society in our governance.
It is not a given that having an opposition party, having multiple parties will result in the best outcome for our society.”
He said that in certain instances, being elected is akin to an auction, where people promise better and easier lives in order to gain more votes, which he called irresponsible since in actuality this is hard to accomplish.
“It’s very important for us not to fall for that because, for Singapore, we have built our society to be so vibrant and successful and cohesive over these years because we are prepared to do difficult things. We are prepared to take hard decisions.
And many Singaporeans know that. At the end of the day, it is the outcomes that matter, and by coming together we can achieve that outcome. They are prepared for the short-term pains. This is a very important political ethos in our society which we must keep.”/ TISG
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