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LESS than three months after the People's Action Party (PAP) secured a dominant victory in the general election (GE), the ruling party is already on the hunt for those with the potential to be fielded as future candidates.
The party's organising secretary, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, is in charge of the process of identifying suitable people, having taken over the task from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who oversaw the PAP's recruitment for the last GE.
Disclosing this on Tuesday, the party's secretary-general, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said that the PAP was already preparing for the next polls, which he called "GE2021".
Speaking at an appreciation dinner to honour 15 PAP Members of Parliament who retired from politics at the recent GE, he noted that the party had, after the May 2011 GE, identified and deployed potential new candidates on the ground early, well before this year's elections were called.
"This gave them time to learn and settle in, and to give the public time to size them up and warm to them. It made for fewer parachuters and surprises in our line-up on Nomination Day," said Mr Lee at the event held at Parliament House.
"It also enabled us, not coincidentally, to have everything ready when we pressed the button before the full five-year term was up. Certainly, it's something we want to do again next time," he added.
Speaking to the media later, Mr Gan said that the first tea session would take place before the end of this year as the party looks to put together a diverse slate of candidates for the next GE.
Beyond the usual tea sessions, the PAP will also assess potential candidates based on their work on the ground. Mr Gan said that the party was looking for people with three key attributes: a good character, a sense of commitment, and strong capabilities.
"We need to look at the varied capabilities so that they can contribute in different ways through different avenues, to help bring Singapore forward and to represent Singaporeans' interest as well. This will include people who are from the professionals from the private sector, from the administration from the government, as well as from the ground."
In his speech earlier, Mr Lee thanked the 15 veteran MPs for their years of contribution and dedicated service. He also presented appreciation letters and mementos to them.
The longest-serving of the group was former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng, who entered politics together with Mr Lee back in 1984. Among the others who stepped down were former office-holders Mah Bow Tan, Lui Tuck Yew, Raymond Lim and Hawazi Daipi.
The prime minister praised them for their hard work and leaving behind good memories for their residents, the community groups, voluntary welfare organisations and clans. This, he added, would reflect well on them and help their successors to consolidate the PAP's support on the ground.
Mr Lee expressed hope that the retired politicians would maintain their links and friendships nurtured over the years, and continue to support their successors and the PAP in their own ways.