Explaining the reason for this move, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the PAP's secretary-general, said that while the fundamental goals of the PAP remain the same, and have been set out in its constitution and pledge, it is time to interpret and update them for a new generation.
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Here is the full speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong from the People's Action Party's website:
Party Convention 2013: Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong
Comrades and friends, the theme of today's Convention is "Our New Way Forward: A Call to Action". Singapore is at an important juncture, and so is the PAP, and we must forge a new way forward together, towards a brighter future.
OUR NEW WAY FORWARD
We are at an inflection point. Our society is more diverse, our economy is more mature, our political landscape is more contested. So in this year's National Day Rally, I set out our new overall approach. The State and the community playing bigger roles than before. Government doing more too. Sharing the fruits of progress with all citizens, strengthening safety nets to give people peace of mind and keeping paths upwards open to all. We are transforming Singapore to create better opportunities for our children and our grandchildren, whether it is housing, whether it is new train lines, new Changi Airport. These are bold ideas, but they are only possible with the PAP!
The PAP plays a very special role in Singapore - providing good leadership; creating new possibilities; being a responsive and responsible government, solving peoples' needs; tackling our challenges; implementing policies which are sustainable and which will succeed in the long term. And giving people hope and confidence. Move forward with us; we will get there together. And that's why Singaporeans have entrusted PAP with the responsibility to lead the country, time after time, since 1959. And by working together with the people, we have transformed Singapore from Third World to First. I don't say and I would not claim that we are in paradise. But I think compared to other countries, we are not doing badly, even compared to the Scandinavian countries. We know we can do better. Let's go for it and show the world what we can do.
The PAP has got to continue offering Singaporeans the leadership to implement plans and take Singapore forward. Because all these good things will not happen on their own. It needs a good government, capable leaders, and the support of our people. Only the PAP can provide this leadership - even the opposition says, 'don't worry the PAP will take care of everything, quite safe!'. Therefore the PAP has to be quite clear in our direction and our agenda. What is it which we stand for, what is it which we seek to achieve.
Our Constitution sets it out in Article II. If you look up the website you will find the Constitution there and I will just quote a few phrases to you.
"To safeguard the freedom, and advance the well-being, of Singaporeans"
"To build a multiracial society, fair, just and tolerant to all"
"To build a dynamic society which is disciplined and self-reliant, … and which also has compassion for the aged, the sick and handicapped, and the less fortunate"
"To provide equal opportunities for all Singaporeans"
We also say what we want to do in the Party Pledge. You saw it on the screen just now: "To build a vibrant, just and equal society, through achieving excellence by all, so that every citizen, regardless of race, language or religion, can enjoy a full and happy life". I think we can all agree these are the right things to do. They have been for many years and are still the right things to do. And I think in 20 years' time when you hold a party convention, I think these ideas will still be at the core of what we want to do. But what do these ideas mean tangibly, concretely in this day and age. The Constitution and the Pledge go back to the 1980s. 30 years ago, almost, how do we realise these ideas in the 21st Century? What do they mean today? So we have to interpret these goals in this new phase and with a new generation.
So to prepare for this Convention, we conducted many engagement sessions with our Party members. We wanted to hear members' views on what they aspire to, what we all aspire to and how our Party can evolve. So the PAP Policy Forum, the Women's Wing, the Young PAP, they took the initiative. They organised many sessions and many of the CEC members participated. I like to thank all the members who participated. For sharing your thoughts and for contributing your ideas on how to make the Party stronger.