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SINGAPORE GENERAL ELECTION

PAP ready to engage more deeply with citizens

Ruling party will not take support for granted, will continue to listen to the ground
Monday, September 14, 2015 - 05:50
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The PAP's Tampines GRC team (above) of Cheng Li Hui, Desmond Choo, Masagos Zulkifli, Heng Swee Keat and Baey Yam Keng and Marine Parade GRC team of Goh Chok Tong, Edwin Tong, Tan Chuan-Jin, Fatimah Lateef and Seah Kian Peng touring their constituencies yesterday, thanking residents for their support.
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The PAP's Tampines GRC team of Cheng Li Hui, Desmond Choo, Masagos Zulkifli, Heng Swee Keat and Baey Yam Keng and Marine Parade GRC team (above) of Goh Chok Tong, Edwin Tong, Tan Chuan-Jin, Fatimah Lateef and Seah Kian Peng touring their constituencies yesterday, thanking residents for their support.

Singapore

FRESH from its strong victory at the general election on Friday, the People's Action Party has pledged to engage even more deeply with Singaporeans.

Given the 69.9 per cent mandate it received, it is all the more important that the PAP continues its efforts to listen to the voices of the people "even more extensively and even more deeply", said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

Mr Heng, leader of PAP's Tampines GRC team, was speaking to reporters before going around the constituency with his GRC team-mates, thanking residents and merchants. He had also led the Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) exercise in 2013 that engaged Singaporeans widely in dialogue sessions on the country's future directions.

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday also said the ruling party would not be lulled into complacency by its superb showing at the polls - an almost-10 percentage point upswing in the popular vote from the 2011 election.

"We certainly don't take this strong support for granted... that would be disastrous," he said on the sidelines of a Marine Parade GRC victory parade.

While the election has brought out differences among voters, he called on Singaporeans to unite and find common ground to take the country forward.

"We need to figure out how to rally around, figure out how to converse as best as we can; I'm sure differences won't go away," he said.

"Some things we will be able to find common ground, some things we will just have to agree to disagree."

And "there are obviously calls for areas to improve", Mr Tan noted, citing the need to engage the public for inputs. "We need to learn to embrace that. It will be messier, it will take a bit longer. But on many fronts, we really should begin to engage our people and get their views on board."

During the GE campaigning, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had also talked about how the government will have to be more collaborative going forward, and its policies be more flexible and accommodating.

And at a rally last week, Dr Ng, who is also the PAP organising secretary, said he would, after the election, continue engaging Singaporeans from all walks and take in ideas broadly "from everywhere", including from the opposition.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mr Heng said that while public engagement has always been part of how the PAP has worked through the years, the OSC exercise had "significantly intensified the process".

For one, many government ministries set up units to consult the public after the OSC exercise, he noted, adding that in turn, many major policies were borne out of "very intense" consultation with the public.

"This style of getting ideas from our people, listening to the ground and formulating the best possible approach forward is very important and we will continue with this," he said, adding that he hopes such efforts will drive more active citizenry among Singaporeans.

Mr Heng's Tampines GRC team won 72.06 per cent of the votes against the National Solidarity Party, an upward swing of 14.8 percentage points from the 2011 result.

This outpaced the overall 9.8-point swing in votes for the PAP nationwide to 69.9 per cent, from the low of 60.1 per cent in 2011.

Mr Heng attributed the marked improvement in the PAP's performance to a sense of pride over how far Singapore has come over the last 50 years, amid a time of growing uncertainty and anxiety in the region.

The death of founding father Lee Kuan Yew in March, too, served as a reminder of the challenges Singapore had to overcome to get to where it is today.

"Having come so far in 50 years, there is a sense of excitement that we are poised to take Singapore forward in the next 50 years," Mr Heng said.

"What we must do is to make sure we harness the ideas and the creativity of our people, so that we can work together for a better future."

Meanwhile, Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan has raised the possibility of his party working "closer together" with the Workers' Party at the next general election.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Dr Chee said many of his supporters have suggested that the SDP and WP "should work closer together to present a more coordinated opposition strategy and message".

Given the outcome of the polls, "I think so too", he wrote, adding that he will discuss the idea with his SDP central executive committee colleagues this week.

Dr Chee - whose party polled an average of only 31.23 per cent of the vote across the 11 seats it contested - had, during election campaigning, dismissed the WP as "ineffective opposition".

At a lunchtime rally in Raffles Place last week, he said that the PAP is "doing as it pleases" as there is no effective opposition like the SDP in Parliament to check on the ruling party.

"(Without effective opposition in Parliament) to check on the PAP, the PAP does as it pleases, making dangerous, wrong decisions without proper scrutiny and accountability," he said.

Dr Chee himself contested the four-member Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, where the SDP obtained just 33.4 per cent of the votes - down from the 39.9 per cent it obtained in 2011 - in a battle many had expected to be a close fight.