Singapore GE2020: Why settle for PAP-lite? Real thing is much better, says PM Lee Hsien Loong

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday called on Sengkang voters to support the People’s Action Party (PAP) team over the rival Workers’ Party (WP) team, criticising the opposition party’s manifesto and calling it “PAP-lite”.

“As Vivian said in the TV debate a few days ago, this is PAP-lite. But I tell you – why do you want to settle for PAP-lite? The real thing is much better,” he said, referring to remarks by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on the WP.

PM Lee was speaking in a webinar on the PAP’s plans for Sengkang. He made a guest appearance in a show of support for labour chief Ng Chee Meng and his team.

Opposition parties might say they want to help workers, “but they have no plan to deal with the crisis”, said PM Lee, who is secretary-general of the ruling PAP.

On the WP’s manifesto, he said it was like the PAP’s plans, but with more money added.

“They take the PAP’s plan, they say very good, here are a few holes, please patch the holes, here are a few places where you can add more money, make it cheaper, do more, work harder. I also can!” he added.

During the televised debate last week, Dr Balakrishnan suggested that the WP manifesto held positions so similar to the PAP’s that the ruling party could have written it.

WP chief Pritam Singh, who later described the claim as an electoral ploy, said that if that were the case, he hoped the PAP would take all of his party’s manifesto points and introduce them in its agenda.

Yesterday, analysts pointed to PM Lee’s appearance in the webinar as yet another indication that the new Sengkang GRC, formed after electoral boundaries were redrawn, is shaping up to be a hot battleground in the July 10 election.

“Typically, the PM weighs in more for the key battleground constituencies,” said Dr Walid Jumblatt Abdullah, assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University’s School of Social Sciences.

“The fact that he has chosen to do so for Sengkang shows the PAP’s calculations on where the key test may be. The PM is lending some of his own credibility to the team.”

Sengkang GRC, which has more than 120,000 voters, includes Punggol East and part of Sengkang West – two single seats that were WP stomping grounds.

Punggol East was helmed by the WP’s Ms Lee Li Lian after she won a by-election in 2013. In the 2015 General Election, the PAP wrested it back by a slim margin.

This year, Mr Ng is leading the PAP’s charge in Sengkang. He is joined by Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin, and new face Raymond Lye, a lawyer with over 20 years of town council experience.

They are up against a WP team comprising lawyer He Tingru, economics associate professor Jamus Lim, social enterprise founder Raeesah Khan and equity research analyst Louis Chua. Dr Lim, who represented the WP in the televised debate last week, is quickly becoming the party’s star candidate.

Mr Ng, when asked what he thought of Dr Lim and his appeal, told The Sunday Times: “I am happy that Singapore has a talented son, but in terms of running a GRC, in terms of politics, I think experience does matter.”

He added: “What would I say to the voters here in Sengkang? Evaluate us on our ability to do planning for the whole town, whether it’s in the areas of jobs, town redevelopment or maintenance… Look at our track record. I think it speaks for itself.”

PM Lee said in Mandarin that the PAP team for Sengkang has experience, determination and the integrity to manage a new town council well, describing its members as “not just four individuals, but the PAP’s four candidates. They have the full backing and support of the party to ensure they carry out their duties”.

At yesterday’s webinar, the PAP candidates also talked about job support such as career fairs and national schemes, as well as their plans for the constituency if elected. These include a new Sengkang Town Council, as well as more amenities such as playgrounds and senior activity centres. They promised to listen to residents’ feedback as they craft these plans.

The candidates also responded to questions posed by Sengkang residents in the webinar – on issues ranging from improving transport links to noisy aircraft from Paya Lebar Air Base, which is expected to relocate to Changi and Tengah from 2030.

On noise pollution, Mr Ng said Singapore has limited air space and asked for people’s understanding.

He added: “In this Covid-19 period, because many of the overseas training areas are closed to the air force, they could not (be deployed) to Thailand, Australia and other places for training, so maybe the flying frequency has gone up a bit.

“We’ll see what we can feed back to the air force as well.”

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