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'Trial by Internet' culture should not be encouraged: PM Lee

Seeking 'perfect' candidates would mean the loss of many good ones, he says

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo leading the PAP's potential Jalan Besar GRC team of Heng Chee How, Denise Phua and Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah during a morning walkabout in Beo Crescent Market and Food Centre on June 29.


EXPRESSING continued confidence in the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate selection process, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that seeking "perfect" candidates would mean the loss of many good ones, 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: "health, jobs, and the future".

Regarding would-be PAP 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."

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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, then we will not find anybody willing to stand and put themselves and their families through this ordeal, even if at the end of it they are able to clear themselves."

With social media, it is "very easy now for issues to be picked up, for people to make criticisms", and these may "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 electoral issues, said Mr Lee. But he added: "We can't simply write off and destroy people like this." After the elections, the PAP will investigate the veracity of the allegations, he said.

As for the fear that this GE could see the PAP making a clean sweep, Mr Lee dismissed the possibility. This GE is a hard fight, he said: "Although we are in a crisis and people want a strong government, at the same time, many people are hurting badly."

Calling this fear an opposition tactic, he said that in previous elections, the opposition was "overconfident" in expressing a wish to form the government, which backfired. The opposition is now trying to do the opposite by spreading the fear of a wipe-out, he said. But Singapore politics does have a certain balance, and "I don't think that balance will be completely upset this election", he added.

Replying to another question, Mr Lee said that several of the new PAP candidates have officeholder 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.

The PAP's team for Ang Mo Kio GRC comprises incumbents Mr Lee, Gan Thiam Poh, Darryl David, and two new faces: lawyer Nadia Ahmad Samdin, and former public servant Ng Ling Ling. With the GRC now a five-member instead of six-member one, three incumbents will not be contesting there: Koh Poh Koon, Ang Hin Kee, and Intan Azura Mokhtar. The party's plans for them will be announced later, said Mr Lee.

Mr Lee gave a rundown of the Ang Mo Kio Town Council's achievements, but noted that it includes Sengkang West single member constituency (SMC), which has been dissolved and divided between Ang Mo Kio GRC and the new Sengkang GRC for this GE.

After the GE, the new town council will include Yio Chu Kang SMC and Kebun Baru SMC, assuming that all three constituencies are won by the PAP, said Mr Lee, who appealed to voters in the single seats to support the PAP.

Other PAP teams introduced on Monday included Jalan Besar GRC, with Manpower Minister Josephine Teo taking over the helm from retiring former minister Yaacob Ibrahim.

Previously an MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, Mrs Teo is replacing retiring incumbent Lily Neo in the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng ward, while new candidate Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah, a senior lecturer at Republic Polytechnic, will take over Dr Yaacob's ward of Kolam Ayer. The other incumbents are Heng Chee How and Denise Phua.

Also introduced was the Tanjong Pagar GRC slate, with incumbents Chan Chun Sing, Indranee Rajah and Joan Pereira, and two new faces: former public servant Eric Chua, and LinkedIn head of public policy and economics (Asia Pacific) Alvin Tan.

They replace Chia Shi-Lu, who is stepping down from politics, and Melvin Yong respectively. Mr Yong is going to Radin Mas SMC to replace retiring Minister of State Sam Tan.

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