SINGAPORE: To be in politics, one’s heart has to be in the right place and character is crucial, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Sep 2) night.
Speaking at the People’s Action Party’s first rally of the 2015 General Election, Mr Lee said that while this election was about the future of Singapore and that it was important to discuss the issues, voters should also scrutinise the candidates.
“Take a look at the people they have, the people we have, and ask: ‘What sort of people are you? What do you represent? Is your heart really with me?’” he said.
“Sometimes we have candidates with flawed characters – people who should never be in politics. But they just sweep this aside, they hope that after some years, slowly it will disappear into the distance, forgotten. Then they say, ‘we look forward! Please don’t look behind, you’ll find my black tail’.
“I think that’s very dangerous. We have to look behind. Whose tail is that one? Why is it there? How do you explain? Have you really changed?”
“The other thing which can happen is, when people do something wrong and they don’t fix it, they don’t admit it, they pretend it doesn’t exist, they explain why it’s not a problem. Then sometimes they say, ‘well I haven’t been sent to jail … so everything is okay’,” Mr Lee said.
If this was the standard we set for politicians, he said, “then I think Singapore is in very serious trouble. We must have high standards for politics. Do you care? Are you doing the right thing? Are you doing your best? Are you serving Singapore well?”
Added the Prime Minister: “If your heart is wrong, it cannot be trained. In politics, a heart has to be right. Your character is crucial. You must be honest, you must have integrity, you must want to serve, you must care for people. You cannot be selfish, you cannot afford to just cover up … and taichi – ‘okay, tomorrow I’ll solve tomorrow’s problem’.”
But the party also needed the people’s support to do so, he said. “If we have good men but they can’t get elected, or they are elected but can’t get your support for the good things they want to do, then we have a problem.”
ON COSTS: HELP WITH THE ‘BIG THINGS’
Wednesday night’s rally for the electoral division of Radin Mas was held at the Delta Hockey Pitch in Tiong Bahru.
Mr Lee, who spoke in Malay, Mandarin and English, also talked at length about Singaporeans’ concerns about the cost of living.
The Government can help with the “big things”, such as medical care and housing, he said. For instance, the new income ceilings recently announced means that more people will be able to qualify to buy HDB flats and executive condominiums.
For the lower income families, there are increased subsidies. The price of a two-room flat is about S$110,000, he said, but a family earning less than S$1,000 a month would pay just S$30,000.
“In the past four years, there are 1,800 low-income families who bought flats at such prices. We have fulfilled what we promised,” he said.
He also recognised the worries about healthcare costs among those growing old and their children. Mr Lee pointed to what had been rolled out: The Pioneer Generation card for the elderly giving subsidised outpatient, specialist and dental treatment; the Community Health Assist Scheme card; the new MediShield Life, and more community hospitals.
Mr Lee also cited what was being done to upgrade older hospitals like the Singapore General Hospital, and to build new facilities such as a new national heart centre, cancer centre and Outram community hospital.
MAKING SINGAPORE DIFFERENT
On the theme of infrastructure, the Prime Minister talked about the vast changes seen in Tanjong Pagar in the last 50 years – and those to come.
For instance, there are the plans to develop a Waterfront city when the port at Tanjong Pagar moves to Tuas from 2027. “So we’ll have a big area, three times the size of Marina Bay, and we’ll build something three times as beautiful.”
“So, we are going to make Singapore different, but to do it, we need to do it together. That’s why I ask you for your support, to vote for us and for our ideas,” he said. The country was “changing direction”, and the Government was seeking a strong mandate in this election to keep the country special.
But some people have suggested a strange argument, Mr Lee noted in his Mandarin speech – that the Government has done well because voters have pushed it, “so if we don’t vote for the Government, they’ll listen to us”.
To this, Mr Lee pointed out that Singapore’s success formula came down to trust between the Government and the people. “There’s only one Singapore in the world. If we ruin Singapore, we will not see another Singapore,” he said.