SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party (PAP) has amended its Constitution for the first time in 32 years to reflect its updated goals for a Singapore that has changed significantly in the past few decades.
It has enshrined in its Constitution, its vision for Singapore first spelt out last year: To ensure opportunities for all Singaporeans, build a fair and just society and develop a "democracy of deeds", which relies on a strong sense of collective responsibility and community action.
Party chairman Khaw Boon Wan said the changes, approved at the party conference yesterday, reflect these circumstances.
"As our society becomes more diverse, our economy more mature and our political landscape more contested, it is timely to fundamentally review our overall approach," he said.
Members had earlier agreed to adopt the updated vision and directions of the party at the PAP convention in December last year.
Yesterday, six new clauses replaced three old ones in the first update of the PAP's objectives in 32 years. It was only the second time since the PAP's formation in 1954 that a section of its Constitution - which sets out its objectives - was updated. The last change was in 1982.
Speaking yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is PAP secretary-general, noted that Singapore has undergone enormous changes since 1982. "We have progressed and prospered. Our society has changed. Many problems have been solved, but new challenges have arisen. And the PAP has adapted to the times."
Mr Lee outlined three directions in particular that the PAP wants to take Singapore in.
First, it must be a nation of opportunity, where everyone has a chance to prove himself, and those who do less well will not be left with nothing. To give everyone a good start, the Government has ramped up early childhood education and is adding more pathways for success, said Mr Lee.
Second, Singapore must be a fair and just society. He said the Government is doing more to help the lower income and build better safety nets. Recent initiatives include the new universal health coverage programme MediShield Life and the Silver Support scheme to support low-income elderly workers.
The third goal is to nurture a "democracy of deeds". This is where hard work and self-reliance remain core values and people come together as a community to solve problems.
Mr Lee said: "You can't leave everything to the Government; individuals have to take initiative, organise themselves, pass the hat around, get things done."
In a closed-door speech to PAP cadre members before the rally yesterday, Mr Khaw, who is National Development Minister, warned members of tensions even as the party seeks to take the country forward.
Possible fault lines can come from issues such as citizenship, sexual orientation and social values. "On some of these issues, we may well have to respectfully agree to disagree, without pushing to the point of polarisation," he said.
Besides updating the objectives, the PAP also raised its annual subscription fees from $4 to $9. It also made minor changes to other parts of its Constitution covering areas such as the frequency of its party conferences.
Updated party objectives
- To preserve, protect and defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Singapore.
- To safeguard the freedom, and advance the well-being, of Singaporeans through representative and democratic government.
- To uphold a multiracial and multi-religious society, where people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs live harmoniously together as fellow citizens, and deepen our national identity and commitment to Singapore.
- To sustain a vibrant economy which creates good jobs and better lives for all, and enables every Singaporean to achieve their full potential.
- To build a fair and just society, which encourages individual effort and family responsibility, while ensuring community and government support for the vulnerable and less fortunate.
- To strengthen an open and compassionate meritocracy, 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.
- To develop a democracy of deeds, where citizenship embodies both rights and duties, and nurtures a sense of collective responsibility and community action.
- To represent and serve all Singaporeans responsively and responsibly, attentive to immediate concerns, focused on long-term challenges and opportunities, and governing with integrity and honesty.
This article was first published on December 8, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.