Shortly before the general election in May 2011, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told ministers and cadre members of the People's Action Party: "Never forget we are servants of the people, not their masters. Always maintain a sense of humility and service. Never lord it over the people we are looking after and serving." That was a dramatic reiteration of the fact that the party should not let its defining purpose, to serve the people, be overshadowed by its longevity in office. The gap between the speech and the election was too short for the speech to make a forceful electoral impact.
Two-and-a-half years later, and halfway through its current term, the party's new resolution continues the message of that speech. It reinterprets the PAP's abiding goals - the building of a fair and just society, and an open and compassionate meritocracy - in the light of Singapore's current circumstances. These are characterised by an ageing population, a wider income gap, slowing social mobility, and an altered political landscape in which social media has amplified the airing of discontent. Mr Lee, the party's secretary-general, has set it on a decisive course forward in a more diverse society, mature economy and contested political scene.
Demographic change looms large as the PAP surveys the horizon. Its decision to set up a new interest and advocacy wing for seniors, on a par with its women's and youth wings, reflects the reality that those above age 65 will make up one in five of the population by 2030. Understanding the needs of older party members is an important way for the PAP to keep its finger on the pulse of the pioneer generation of Singaporeans in general, for whom medical needs figure high on their list of priorities and worries.
But even as it focuses on the legitimate demands of this group, the party will have to stay connected with younger voters, whose vocal presence on the Internet has an influence on setting the electoral agenda from below. The party is committed to preserving a common space for people to articulate their views. This is essential because informed discussion and debate are at the heart of a thriving polity. Using the resources of the Net convincingly is not only a tactical but also a strategic necessity in the battle for hearts and minds in which information is the chief weapon. Another area - the sensitivity and decorum with which race and religion are handled in the public sphere - touches deeply on Singapore's future as a multiracial country. A determination to guard the common multiracial space signals the party's commitment to one of the non-negotiable foundations of a Singaporean Singapore.
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