SINGAPORE — Taking jibes at the Opposition whom he described as nomads who “don’t have interest in people’s welfare”, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said today (Aug 26) that voters should give the People’s Action Party (PAP) government a strong mandate if they have been happy with its work.
“I look at this election as the mandate for the Lee Hsien Loong government … It’s an endorsement of what they have done for the last four years. So if people have been happy with what they have been doing, give them a strong mandate to continue with what they’re trying to do,” said Mr Goh, who was speaking at a press conference to formally unveil PAP candidates for Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency (GRC). “If you have a good government, don’t ever cause disruption to what we have been trying to do, which is national leadership transition and the continuity of good government.”
The PAP slate for Marine Parade GRC will be anchored by Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, the rest of the line-up comprises Mr Goh, Mr Edwin Tong, Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef and Mr Seah Kian Peng.
Mr Tan cited keeping Singapore safe, building a thriving economy and providing homes, healthcare and education, as examples of the progress that the PAP government has brought about for the country. “Do we need a government that is honest, a government that is accountable and will do right by our people? Do we need a government that is reliable, a government that translates ideas into realities? Do we need a government that is strong to make the brave decisions, the difficult decisions when they’re needed? This, in many ways, is who we are as a government,” said Mr Tan.
Mr Goh said that contrary to the Opposition’s argument of needing more check and balances in Government, the check comes from the “integrity of the leadership in PAP”. “For many years, the PAP was the only party in Parliament. Had the PAP gone corrupt in those years? Until the 2011 election, there were very few opposition MPs in Parliament. Had the PAP let the people down? We are our own checks, the integrity of our leaders and our MPs … not this seductive lie of check and balance. They are seducing the people. And if the people are not careful, they will be seduced … (and) they will pay a price,” he said.
Likening Opposition figures to nomads who move from one place to another, Mr Goh said: “They’re looking for plunder … So now a new tribe is coming, do they really have an interest in Marine Parade people’s welfare?” he said. “I will leave it to (the residents) to decide whether I’ve done a good job over the past 40 years or not.”
The Workers’ Party has indicated its interest to contest Marine Parade GRC. On the WP’s challenge, Mr Goh said: “Strength is relative. They are stronger than the NSP (National Solidarity Party), there’s no doubt about that. But there’s a certain arrogance in them. They came, the NSP out you go. Will that same arrogance be able to replace me and my team in Marine Parade? Let them try.”
Mr Goh also used the fable of a rooster who boasted that “its crowing caused the sun to rise” to dismiss claims by the Opposition that its showing in the 2011 GE contributed to policy shifts such as increased social spending and tightening the inflow of foreigners.
Mr Goh, who was Singapore’s second Prime Minister, traced the Government’s evolving focus from survival and building up of the reserves under founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s watch, to his time as Prime Minister where dividends were shared with Singaporeans through Edusave and Medifund. Policies and programmes adapt to new environments and situations over time, he said.
“By the time Mr Lee Hsien Loong took over, our reserves had become bigger and, of course, the needs of our society have changed. So it was quite right for PM to start, not from after 2011, but from the day he took over, to have more schemes to benefit the people,” Mr Goh said. “After 2011, he did more — this is correct. But is it because of more people from the Opposition in Parliament or is it because the needs of the people have changed?”
Mr Goh added: “Don’t be seduced by these kind of arguments. What (has the Opposition) offered? If they offered alternative, which we adopted (or) copied, we then can say ‘we did what they told us to do’. We have not done so.”