SINGAPORE — As Singapore heads towards the next General Election (GE), activists from the People’s Action Party (PAP) should highlight the differences between the ruling party’s government policies and those proposed by the Opposition, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong told party members on Sunday (Nov 5).
He was speaking at the PAP’s annual convention, saying that this was one of three broad areas the fourth generation of Singapore’s political leaders, or the 4G, plans to focus on as they gear up to receive the baton from their predecessors.
“We need to highlight the differences between the policies of the PAP and the policies of the Opposition. In most areas, the Opposition’s proposed policies are shades of the PAP’s policies. Whatever we do, they vary it by a little bit,” he said.
“But in some areas, the positions are fundamentally different, and we must explain why our approach is better for Singapore and Singaporeans.”
Mr Wong, who is also the PAP’s deputy secretary-general, added that many have been asking him when the leadership transition will take place.
To this, he said, the answer is: “Akan datang”, or Malay for “Coming soon” and added that it is a “matter of time”.
“In fact, as Secretary-General (Lee Hsien Loong) repeatedly reminds me, the runway is short, and it’s getting shorter with each passing day. So I’ve been working hard to get ready to receive the baton from him,” he said.
To prepare for this transition, Mr Wong said he and his team would focus on three main areas: Broadening their outreach, sharpening their messages, and reviewing and strengthening the party organisation.
He added that the 4G leaders will engage PAP activists in the coming months to collectively “renew, refresh and strengthen” the party.
Mr Wong said they should go beyond engaging residents through their respective branches or only reaching specific segments through their functional groups.
Instead, they should engage a wider range of groups, “and grow the diversity of people we bring into our PAP fold”.
The 4G will also focus their efforts on improving how the PAP communicates its messages, ensuring to not only rely on government communications.
“As a party, we have always been practical and action-oriented. We believe actions speak louder than words. That’s why we are the People’s Action Party,” Mr Wong said.
“But if we only focus on actions, and fail to get our messages across effectively, I think we will have a big problem. So we must improve how the party communicates. We cannot just rely on government communications. The party machinery must be able to communicate well.”
Members must make clear what the party stands for, what its long-term plans are and what it is doing across the board, he added.
This would also mean strengthening the PAP’s capabilities to engage Singaporeans on different platforms, including through social media, to get its messages to the right audience, said Mr Wong.
The leadership team must also review and strengthen the party organisation, he added.
“This is perhaps the most critical step, if we are to be able to do all that I have just described.”
To this end, Mr Wong said his team would like to empower party members to do more.
Providing the party with more resources to drive causes they believe in and turn ideas into action;Supporting them to engage Singaporeans widely and mobilise them to the PAP’s cause; andEquipping the party to be leaders in their respective communities, to “draw in new members and volunteers, regardless of their background”
“Together, we will demonstrate our resolve and dedication as a party, fully committed to the mission of uniting Singaporeans and building our shared future together,” Mr Wong said.
This is especially important as the country will be faced with immense challenges ahead due to “dark shadows everywhere”, including geopolitical conflicts around the world and rising protectionism around the world, which is causing free trade to take a back seat, he added.
“What worries me most is the impact of these challenges on our social cohesion and solidarity. If we become divided, if our society fractures, we are finished. Our tiny island will fall by the wayside – no one will care, no one will come to our rescue.”
The PAP would thus need the people’s continued mandate over more than one term, Mr Wong said.
“The people’s support is not a given. The PAP may have won every election since 1959, but we can easily lose the next one.”
As such, the stakes at the next general elections are high, he said.
“Other countries will be watching too. They will want to know: Does the next prime minister and his government have the support of the people? Does Singapore still have a strong government, able to do big things?”
He added that the party’s 70th anniversary next year will see “a stronger PAP, unshakeable in its commitment to Singapore and Singaporeans”, and a “refreshed PAP ready to fight the next election, and to win the confidence and trust of all Singaporeans”.
“Comrades, standing before all of you in this convention today, I say: I am ready for my next assignment,” Mr Wong said.
“I will not be in this alone. I will have a team of 4G leaders whom I have worked closely with over the years. We are ready to lead.”