Singapore—On Wednesday (Sept 2), in his first speech in Parliament since the General Election in July, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong touched on a number of different topics, including what the Government got wrong in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic and comparing Singapore again to the Garden of Eden that cannot be returned to.
PM Lee mentioned not requiring masks and not acting on the foreign workers’ dormitory situation sooner to be among the mistakes in the Government’s response to the pandemic. He did say, however, that realizing this in hindsight is “wisdom after the fact”, telling Members of Parliament that “in the fog of war, it is not possible always to make the perfect decisions”.
He added, “Yet we have to decide and move. We cannot afford to wait. The key is to watch things closely, learn from experience, and adapt our responses promptly as new information emerges and the situation changes.”
One bright note he made amid the global economic fallout of the pandemic is that there are still many investors interested in Singapore.
According to the Prime Minister, “It may surprise you, but even in this depressed economic climate, where some companies are consolidating and laying off workers, many investment projects want to come to Singapore.”
He added that there are those who “see good prospects in the region and want a stable base to work from. All these projects will create good new jobs for Singaporeans. But for them to come here, they must feel welcome, and be allowed to bring in the talent they need. We will adjust our policies to safeguard Singaporean jobs, but let us show confidence that Singaporeans can hold our own in the world.”
PM Lee also talked at length about the direction of the People’s Action Party (PAP) after the opposition Workers’ Party (WP) saw unprecedented gains in the election.
And while he said everyone hopes “that diversity will make a hundred flowers bloom,” he also posed the following question: “But how do we prevent diversity from producing polarisation? How do we make sure disagreement does not result in paralysis?”
He likened Singapore’s condition to the Garden of Eden, which many take for granted. “Every one of us thinks that it is just normal. But even in Singapore it is not normal at all … it’s like being in the Garden of Eden. Things are going right, they stay right. You leave the Garden of Eden, you cannot go back.”
This was said by the Prime Minister in the context of some Singaporeans voting for the opposition even as they still want the PAP to remain in power. He added that a vote for a strong opposition is equal to a vote for a “different government”.
“How long can Singaporeans vote for the opposition in some constituencies, in the expectation that somehow, somewhere else, their fellow Singaporeans will ensure the PAP is returned to power?,” asked PM Lee.
This is not the first time the Prime Minister has used this biblical reference. In his National Day Rally speech in 2009, when Singapore was recovering from the global financial crisis of 2008 and the H1N1 outbreak, the Prime Minister also made a reference to the Garden of Eden.
After telling a story about religious harmony in Singapore, the Prime Minister said, “This story reminds us that while we must not neglect to strengthen our harmonious society, we are in a good position. It is a Garden of Eden state. It is one where we are happy, where things are working and where if you leave the Garden of Eden, you cannot get back in again. So please stay there.” —/TISG