Singaporeans 'know importance of what Mr Lee stood for'

The crowds that have formed over the last two days to pay their final respects to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew are a reflection of the regard people have for the man and what he stood for, People's Action Party (PAP) chairman Khaw Boon Wan said last night.

He told more than 300 party activists at an event to pay tribute to Mr Lee that the outpouring of emotions exceeded the authorities' expectations.

This led to an extension of visiting times at Parliament House to 24 hours.

"And now even with 24 hours, we are afraid that we will not be able to fully fulfil the wishes of Singaporeans," he said at the event in the party's New Upper Changi Road headquarters, which began with a minute of silence in remembrance of Mr Lee.

"But we will do our best."

That so many would queue for up to eight hours to say their final goodbyes to Mr Lee showed that Singaporeans knew the importance of what he stood for.

Mr Khaw said this included good, honest government; and an ability to speak the hard truths when required.

"A key ingredient of sound politics is honest, able people," Mr Khaw said to the activists, who are from his PAP Sembawang branch.

"Please come forward because if you are not willing to come forward, then the vacuum will be filled by opportunists, or worse, by smart people for selfish reasons."

Another key ingredient is a society that supports candidates who demonstrate these values, and which is willing to swallow the bitter pill if necessary, he said.

"The people, the masses, must themselves also embrace sound politics and support it," said Mr Khaw.

"They must be able to discern what is a sweet tongue, empty promises, populist measures, against the honest truth - what Comrade Lee Kuan Yew always called the hard truth - and support that party, support those candidates."

While Mr Lee had successfully built up Singapore's reserves, an irresponsible Government can still "wipe them clean" in a term or two in office, he said.

And should Singapore have to start from scratch, like it did 50 years ago, it would be virtually impossible to succeed again.

Citing Myanmar as an example, Mr Khaw said they had realised the way forward: to start with labour-intensive industries, and work their way upwards.

"It is a huge country, with all sorts of natural resources: minerals, natural gas, oil. Whatever you say, they have it," he said. "And 60 million people: they can start afresh, they know."

But Singapore has neither natural resources nor a domestic market the size of Myanmar, he said.

He also gave an example of Mr Lee's far-sighted vision: he had dreamt about a modern Marina Bay when it was just a "dirty, smelly, Singapore river flowing into the sea".

"What do we see of Marina Bay today? A beautiful skyline, absolutely world class," he said.

"The marvellous thing is, it's not even finished yet - the plan that he has left us, in our Ministry (of National Development), was many times bigger than what you see today. As the Americans say, 'You ain't seen nothing yet'. It will be truly wonderful."

At the end of Mr Khaw's speech, Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Alex Yam led activists in a rallying cry of "Majulah PAP! Majulah Singapura!"

This article was first published on March 27, 2015.
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