S'poreans urged to heed issues beyond country

PHOTO: Reuters

While welcoming the fact that Singaporeans are increasingly interested in political issues here, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said they also need to pay attention to developments in the region and beyond.

Responding to a question about Singapore society and the heightened political climate here since the 2011 General Election (GE), he noted there had been a presidential election and two by-elections, among other developments.

"It's not possible to say, 'Well, I've nothing to do with politics and I leave that to sort itself out', because it may sort itself out wrongly if you do not make yourself, make your own stand be known and be felt," he said.

But on the flip side, this could lead to Singaporeans not paying as much attention to happenings beyond the country's shores.

"We're always a little red dot, and the world around us always has a very big impact on Singapore, and many things are happening in the world around us," said Mr Lee.

"If you look at our neighbouring countries - Malaysia or Indonesia or Thailand - there are many developments... If things go well in their country, it's good for us.

"If things go wrong in their country, we get no joy. In fact, there are many downsides.

"I think that we have not paid quite as much attention on these matters as we should, as a result of being so focused on our politics."

He was speaking at the People's Action Party (PAP) Punggol South branch, where he announced the new six-member slate for Ang Mo Kio GRC and candidates for single-seat wards Sengkang West and Hougang. There are three new additions to the Prime Minister's team: former television personality Darryl David, 44; Dr Koh Poh Koon, 43, who ran in the Punggol East by-election in 2013; and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh, whose Punggol South ward became part of Ang Mo Kio GRC after the last electoral boundaries review. They join two incumbents: Mr Ang Hin Kee and Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar. Veteran MPs Seng Han Thong and Inderjit Singh are retiring from politics.

Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min will defend Sengkang West, while new face Lee Hong Chuang will do battle with the Workers' Party in Hougang.

In a surprise move, PM Lee said four-term Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Yeo Guat Kwang, who some predicted might step down, will be redeployed elsewhere.

But even as the PAP continued to introduce candidates, PM Lee did not want to be drawn on the timing of the elections and whether the PAP was capitalising on the afterglow of the Golden Jubilee celebrations, and on the death of former PM Lee Kuan Yew.

"I have not said that the elections are about to come. We are introducing candidates. When the election comes, it will come.

"It's been more than four years since the last GE. It's not - if you say early - it's not early. If you say late, it's not late," he said.

"I have to make a judgment about when is a good time to call the elections. And when I do so, I'll explain why I'm doing that."

Noting that all the constituencies look set to be contested, he emphasised that the upcoming elections are about Singapore's future.

"You're voting to choose the next Government, you're voting to choose the party and the team which you can trust to safeguard your future.

"And you're also choosing the team of MPs in the constituencies to take care of the town council and look after the funds. In Parliament, your vote will decide the MPs and ministers who will look after Singapore and take it forward...

"I ask voters, please vote for the PAP team, vote for me and my team so that you and your children can have a brighter future."

The Reform Party (RP) aims to contest Ang Mo Kio GRC, having fielded a team there in 2011. RP chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam visited the constituency yesterday but the party has yet to reveal its slate.


This article was first published on August 16, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.