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1991: Solid endorsement eludes PM Goh

General elections, hijack of SQ117, new vision for S'pore mark new decade.


SINGAPORE'S arrival as a developed economy in the 1990s marked a sea change in the issues that dominated society, or at least in the way that those issues were perceived.

The difference was apparent in 1991 when new Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong called for his first general election after taking over from Lee Kuan Yew. Hoping to win a clear mandate from the people, Mr Goh instead saw the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) lose four seats to the opposition. Although the PAP easily retained control of Parliament, it was the biggest loss for the party since the nation's independence, and the PAP's 61 per cent share of the popular vote was a decline from the 63.1 per cent support it had received in the 1988 election.

The election results were seen as a signal that Singaporeans desired a greater variety of voices in Parliament and a more responsive government.

Indeed, quality of life issues began to take on greater importance in the government's long-term plans alongside the ever-paramount economic issues.

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The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore in September unveiled its new Concept Plan, a long-term vision for Singapore that focused on decentralisation, green spaces, the development of the downtown Marina Bay area and building up of transportation infrastructure. For instance, included in the plan was a target that by the time Singapore's population hit 4 million, there would be more than 130 MRT stations throughout the country.

The year 1991 was also when the threat of terrorism landed on our shores, via Singapore Airlines Flight 117. The Singapore Armed Forces' commandos earned honours for efficiently and surgically taking out the hijackers who held the plane and its passengers and crew hostage on the tarmac at Changi Airport, but the incident was a stark reminder that a new era was upon us.

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