PAP resolution lays out its goals at 'a crucial moment'

Profile of Joshua Benjamin at the PAP Party Convention 2013 held at the Kallang Theatre on 8 Dec 2013.

SINGAPORE- The People's Action Party's (PAP's) new resolution updates its founding goals at a critical time in its history, as it faces questions internally and externally about what it stands for, several of its Members of Parliament and activists said yesterday.

Ms Ellen Lee, an MP for Sembawang GRC, said some PAP members had feared that the ruling party had turned populist after a watershed general election in 2011, even as outsiders had continued to accuse it of being elitist.

But the new resolution, which the party adopted at its convention on Sunday, answers both groups of critics, she said, by affirming its goals to build a fair and just society, and to create opportunities for all Singaporeans.

The other four goals set out in the resolution are to strengthen the Singaporean identity, uphold an open and compassionate meritocracy, develop a democracy of deeds, and ensure a responsive and responsible Government.

Ms Lee said: "We're prepared to listen and make changes, but fundamentals have to be upheld."

Last revised 24 years ago, the goals are being updated as the PAP forges a new way forward in a society more diverse than before, with a mature economy and greater political contestation.

The resolution is also a response to the challenges of a growing income gap and slowing social mobility.

Mr Seah Kian Peng, an MP for Marine Parade GRC, said the resolution "tells all Singaporeans what the PAP is about, what it intends to do and create for the country".

Eunos branch activist Fong Yoong Kheong, 27, felt the resolution struck a chord with "an emotional element... not going for just pure meritocracy, but a compassionate one".

But Mr Victor Lye, an Aljunied GRC party activist, said the resolution has to go beyond words, to activists going out to the ground to "get people to appreciate us for what we do".

For him, it means being with residents, by attending funerals and addressing concerns that can range from weeds growing out of a ceiling to a brick falling from a housing block.

MPs and activists were also not short on ideas for how a newly formed PAP seniors' group could champion causes for the elderly, and contribute to the party.

Ms Tin Pei Ling, an MP for Marine Parade GRC, suggested that it drill down into specific concerns regarding health care and costs of living, to see if they were the result of older folk not being aware of help schemes or that the schemes were inadequate.

The group's chairman is Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob. and it will also tap the party's charity arm, the PAP Community Foundation, to pilot new solutions for eldercare needs.

Mr Lye suggested working with private firms to tap cloud technology to monitor the elderly who live alone, or raise the productivity of medical concierges at call centres to attend to them.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, MP for Bukit Panjang, said the senior activists, who have served 30 to 40 years, could share with younger activists their understanding of issues on the ground and experience in preparing for general elections.

They had told MPs, like Mr Liang Eng Hwa of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, that they want a group of their own. Marsiling branch activist Tan Peck Hoon, 55, said: "The focus has been very much on the youth. But it's also important for us to know that older members like us matter."

Many, like Punggol East branch activist Benjamin Joshua, 60, are keen to do more. One of five activists who addressed Sunday's party convention, he said in his speech: "Even though we may be physically older and our bodies may lack that ability to fight for the party in the ways that we used to, do not write us off!"

In response, PM Lee gave this assurance: "We won't write you off. We'll sign you up."


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