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Culture of 'trial by Internet' should not be encouraged: PM Lee

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Expressing continued confidence in the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate-selection process, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that seeking "perfect" candidates would instead result in the loss of many good candidates, at the introduction of the PAP's team for Ang Mo Kio group representation constituency (GRC) on Monday.

EXPRESSING continued confidence in the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate-selection process, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that seeking "perfect" candidates would instead result in the loss of many good candidates, at the introduction of the PAP's team for Ang Mo Kio group representation constituency (GRC) on Monday.

Asked also about the possibility that his brother Lee Hsien Yang, now a member of the Progress Singapore Party, could run as an opposition candidate in this General Election (GE), Mr Lee replied: "I don't have any specific comment."

"This GE is not about me or any family disputes," he added. "It's about Singapore's future at a very grave moment." He appealed for the focus to remain on the issues of the election, such as the Covid-19 crisis and jobs.

In response to a question about would-be candidate Ivan Lim, who withdrew his candidacy after coming under fire online for supposed elitist behaviour, Mr Lee said that the PAP has a thorough process to choose and assess candidates, but added: "No process is perfect. No candidate is perfect."

Candidates will have "made mistakes along the way and hopefully have learnt from them", he said. "If we encourage a culture of trial by Internet, we will not find anybody willing to stand and put themselves and their families through this ordeal."

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In the age of social media, it is "very easy now for issues to be picked up, for people to make criticisms", and these "can gain currency whether or not they are founded", he said.

Mr Lim's decision to withdraw was the right one, so that his candidature would not overshadow the bigger issues in this election, said Mr Lee. But he added that the party cannot simply "let such serious things be said about somebody", which would "set a very damaging precedent".

"We can't simply write off and destroy people like this," he said, adding that after the election, the PAP will investigate the veracity of the allegations against Mr Lim.

As for the fear that this GE could see a "wipe-out", with the PAP making a clean sweep, Mr Lee dismissed the possibility. This GE will not be an easy fight for the PAP, despite the serious crisis. "Many people are hurting badly, having lost their jobs, suffering pay cuts, or worrying about finding their first job," he said.

The idea of a wipe-out is an opposition tactic, he said, adding that in previous elections, the opposition was "overconfident" and expressed the wish to form the government one day, which backfired on them. This time, the opposition is trying to do the opposite by spreading the fear of a wipe-out, he noted.

But Singapore politics does have a certain balance, and "I don't think that balance will be completely upset at this election", said Mr Lee.

In response to another question, Mr Lee said that several of the new PAP candidates have office-holder potential, but it is "too early to say exactly how many", as it depends on their performance in the election and afterwards, as Members of Parliament.

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