Why did the People's Action Party adopt a resolution to update its founding mission?
We get activists, even seasoned ones, asking: "The first generation of activists was fighting for independence. The next was about bringing Singapore from Third World to First. Today, we are mature, what is our cause? What does the PAP stand for?"
It's a valid question, which requires reflection on what are our values, objectives. Certainly, the external and domestic environment has changed, our political environment has become more contested. It's a good time to reflect and have a clearer resolution of what we stand for. Now when people ask, we can be very clear - we stand for our democratic socialist ideals, a Singaporean Singapore, an open and compassionate meritocracy, a fair and just society and a democracy of deeds.
Don't people usually find out what the party stands for before joining it? If activists ask this question, that seems to have things in reverse.
Not that it's reversed, but every now and then, you need some fundamental re-examination. We may have known what we stood for in the past, maybe it was "Third World to First". Or "Swiss standard of living". It was very clear. But now we have arrived at this stage, what is the next phase?
The last time the PAP adopted a resolution was in 1988, also after an electoral setback. Then, the national vote share dropped 13 percentage points. This history makes party resolutions seem like a reaction to losing votes.
When you do face challenges, it's always a good opportunity to get people to sit down and say, let's reflect, and see how these challenges can be turned into opportunities. When everything is hunky- dory, people are not always in the mood to do that. Part of it is just, at points of crises, in every organisation, political or otherwise, that's frequently a good opportunity to rally people and ask, are we on the right track? I don't see this as unique or reactive.
I wouldn't call the electoral setback a catalyst. The changing external environment is posing challenges regardless of politics and GE 2011. Therefore, at the national level we had the fundamental review of politics - the Our Singapore Conversation exercise. So at the party level it's the same thing.