SINGAPORE - Mr Ivan Lim did the responsible thing by withdrawing his PAP candidacy for the general election, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Sunday (June 28).
"He recognised the controversy around his candidacy was threatening to eclipse and distract us from the serious nature and the serious issues that we have to confront during this election and during this crisis," Mr Wong added.
"It is a very difficult and painful decision for him, but it is a responsible thing that he did."
Mr Lim's decision to withdraw, he said, will allow voters to focus on how candidates plan to help Singapore deal with the wide-ranging fallout caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Wong, who helms the People's Action Party team for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, was speaking to reporters during a walkabout in his constituency.
Mr Lim, 42, has drawn growing criticism online after he was introduced as a PAP candidate on Wednesday, with allegations about his past conduct and behaviour surfacing from various quarters. Party activists grew concerned that the issue would cast a cloud over the ruling party's campaign for the July 10 election.
The general manager (specialised vessels) at Keppel Offshore & Marine had issued a statement on Saturday afternoon in response to the criticisms levelled at him. Later that evening, the PAP announced that Mr Lim had written to party secretary-general, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to withdraw his candidacy.
Mr Wong acknowledged on Sunday that the character of candidates was a serious issue.
"The public will want to scrutinise all our candidates - that's fair - and they will scrutinise opposition party candidates as well," he said.
"We do not have any reason to believe that these allegations are true, but we do not have the time either, to mount a full investigation."
He urged the public to give Mr Lim and his family time, space and privacy to recover from this incident.
Mr Wong also said the PAP has a "rigorous and robust" selection process, in response to a question about comments made by Progress Singapore Party member Lee Hsien Yang on Saturday.
Mr Lee, who is the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, had said the controversy around Mr Lim raised questions about the selection of candidates.
Said Mr Wong: "No process is perfect, no candidate is perfect, but we stand by our selection process.
"It is a selection process that has thrown up many good candidates over many years and in this particular election."
He urged voters to focus on what is at stake for the election, saying: "It's about candidates who are standing up for election, but it's also about jobs or livelihoods is about how Singapore can overcome this crisis. And I think that should be top of our minds."
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had a similar message, when he spoke to reporters at a walkabout in Sengkang on Sunday.
Mr Heng called the episode involving Mr Lim "regrettable".
He added: "What is important for us is to focus on the key issues ahead as we set out in the PAP manifesto, which is about our jobs, our lives and our future."
Singapore is facing enormous challenges ahead, he said, and it is important to bring everyone together to deal with these decisively and effectively.
"Because as I said, the agenda is not just about the next few months, the agenda is about the years ahead. Which is our future, the future of our children," he added.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.