SINGAPORE - Though the first goal of the PAP is meritocracy, representing each race in Parliament according to the make-up of the country is also important, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam on Saturday (July 4).
Speaking in Tamil on the sidelines of a walkabout in Nee Soon GRC, where he will helm the PAP team at the July 10 polls, Mr Shanmugam said although some of the candidates the party had considered were Indian, others were eventually deemed more appropriate for the final slate.
He said: "The first goal of the PAP is meritocracy. Race, colour or religion aside, it's meritocracy. But at the same time, Parliament has to proportionally represent the people. Chinese, Indians and Malays are represented, but if the percentage changes too much, people will look at that."
Mr Shanmugam was responding to a question on why the People's Action Party is fielding no new Indian candidates this election.
He pointed out that there were nine Indian MPs from the PAP in the last Parliament, which is about 10 per cent of the House.
"Indians make up 8.5 per cent of the population," he said, adding that many of the Indian MPs are ministers, including Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah.
"I welcome the interest of capable Indian candidates in the PAP," added Mr Shanmugam.
"In the past four years, we have been assessing candidates. At the final stage, when compared to the other candidates, others were deemed more appropriate for the roles."
He added that Singapore's founding premier Lee Kuan Yew had created legislation to ensure Indians would always be represented in Parliament and introduced the group representation constituency system out of concern that minority race representation would otherwise fall.
He said: "The people don't need to worry that PAP will not protect the interests of Indians. If any of the nine of us retires, new candidates can come in."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.