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SINGAPORE GENERAL ELECTION

Candidates must have heart in right place: PM

He says at PAP's first rally that being able to care about people is more important than IQ or CV

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Mr Lee at PAP's first rally in Tiong Bahru on Wednesday evening. With him were the PAP candidates for Tanjong Pagar GRC and Radin Mas single-member constituency. Mr Chan Chun Sing (seated, third from right), who helms the Tanjong Pagar team, urged voters to pick a team that would work with the people to keep Singapore thriving for 50 years and even more.

Singapore

WHEN it comes to finding suitable candidates to enter politics, the People's Action Party (PAP) looks beyond just a person's intellect or credentials.

More importantly, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at his party's first election rally on Wednesday evening, is whether the person's heart is firmly in the right place.

"The IQ we can find out, the CV we can read. But the heart, we have to find out. How? We ask other people - superiors, subordinates, friends, the public," he told the crowd at the Delta Hockey Field in Tiong Bahru.

"When we put you on the ground, we take a look and get feedback. If he's not very caring about people or not interested, then we have to think again."

Mr Lee, the PAP's secretary-general for the last 11 years, was the last of nine speakers at the two-hour event attended by more than 3,000 people. He spoke for about 40 minutes in Malay, Mandarin and English.

Also present were the party's five candidates for Tanjong Pagar group representation constituency (GRC) - Chan Chun Sing, Indranee Rajah, Chia Shi-Lu, Joan Pereira and Melvin Yong - along with Sam Tan, who is contesting the Radin Mas single seat.

In politics, Mr Lee said, a person cannot afford to be selfish or cover up issues, or delay coming up with solutions to problems and push the responsibility to others instead.

Without naming anyone specifically, he said there were candidates elsewhere with "flawed characters" who should never be in politics.

"But they just sweep it aside. They hope that after some years, slowly it will disappear into the distance (and be) forgotten.

"Then they say, 'We look forward! Please don't look behind me or you might find my black tail'," he said to a mix of cheers and laughter.

He stressed the importance of having high standards of politics in Singapore, with candidates of strong calibre in place and doing their best to serve the country well.

In order for the government to continue its work in key areas such as housing and health care to improve the lives of the people, the PAP needed the support of voters at the Sept 11 general election, he said.

"Without that, you have good men but they cannot get elected or get the support for the policies that they need to do. Then, we have a problem."

In Tanjong Pagar, where the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew served as a Member of Parliament for 60 years until his death in March, the PAP made sure there was a strong team supporting him at all times and ready to take over after his passing.

Next week's general election (GE) will be the first time Tanjong Pagar will experience an electoral contest since the GRC was formed back in 1991.

The PAP's opponents there are the new Singaporeans First party, led by secretary-general and former presidential candidate Tan Jee Say.

Mr Chan, the anchor minister in Tanjong Pagar, hailed Mr Lee Kuan Yew's legacy of sustaining the trust between the government and the people, and called on Singaporeans to build on that.

"We are not happy and contented to be normal. We are determined that, even with our finite resources, we will continue to be special," said Mr Chan, a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and the current labour chief.

"Never believe people who tell you that they want to make Singapore ordinary. If Singapore is ordinary and run-of-the-mill, who will come here to invest? Who will come to create jobs?"

He urged voters to choose a team of leaders that will put Singapore in good standing on the international stage and send a message that Singapore has a cohesive team in place between the PAP and the people.

"When the PAP and the people are together as one, that's the biggest confidence boost that we can give to anyone looking at us, to tell them that, fear not, Singapore will thrive for 50 years and even more," he said.

Six rallies are scheduled for Thursday evening, with the PAP holding one each in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC and East Coast GRC.

The Workers' Party, Singaporeans First and the Singapore Democratic Party will also have their own rallies, as will independent candidate Han Hui Hui in Radin Mas.

All political parties taking part in the GE - with the exception of the new People's Power Party (PPP) - will get air-time on free-to-air radio and TV on Thursday for the first of two planned party political broadcasts.

Since the 1980 GE, parties which field at least six candidates under a recognised party symbol have been eligible for air-time. The PPP does not qualify as it is fielding just four candidates.

The two independent candidates, Ms Han and Samir Salim Neji, are also not eligible.