The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) reaffirmed its commitment to its core values, but is also charting a new way forward with planned amendments to the party Constitution expected next month.
The principles of a clean and effective government, meritocracy and fairness have been the building blocks of success for both the party and country, said PAP chairman Khaw Boon Wan at a dinner and awards ceremony last nightto mark the party's 60th anniversary.
"These principles and values are the vital building blocks of the PAP and Singapore's success. I think we can all agree that they are still relevant today, and they will still be at the core of what we want to do in the future," he said.
"But because the environment has changed, we need to review and consider what these ideas mean in this day and age."
Speaking to some 3,000 activists, including ministers, former and current MPs and founding members of party branches, he said the party had looked at areas that needed new emphasis.
"Meritocracy is still something we value and uphold. But as our society becomes more settled, with widening income distributions, extreme meritocracy may favour those with means," said Mr Khaw, who is National Development Minister. "This can undermine social mobility and lead to stratification in society. So we must change our approach."
Mr Khaw said there was a need to develop what he called an "open and compassionate meritocracy".
He described this as being a system "with opportunities for Singaporeans to develop skills in diverse fields, active support for those who start off with less, and ladders to success at every stage of life, and not just focused narrowly on success in school".
The party remains committed to ensuring community and government support for the vulnerable and less fortunate, and wants to develop a "democracy of deeds", built on a strong sense of collective responsibility and community action.
The party Constitution will be amended to reflect the refreshed emphasis and values.
These were first outlined at its party convention last year and will affirm its goals to build a fair and just society, create opportunities for all Singaporeans, strengthen the Singaporean identity, uphold an open and compassionate meritocracy, develop a democracy of deeds, and ensure a responsive and responsible Government.
Paying tribute to the contributions of activists ahead of an awards ceremony that recognised 390 members, Mr Khaw said these individuals "do not flinch from the unglamorous work of tilling the ground" and "make significant and selfless personal sacrifice to serve the people".
One such member was the late Mr Aw Leng Hwee of Tampines West, who died in February. He was given a posthumous commendation medal to honour his 38 years of service to the party.
And to recognise the work of pioneers, the party will accord long-serving members a lifetime party membership.
A proposal to do so was made by the PAP Seniors Group led by Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob. To qualify, a member must be at least 65 years old and have served for at least 25 years.
This article was first published on Nov 23, 2014.
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