Tuesday, 22 September 2015

GE2015: Taking victory in Humility

PAP must now live up to people’s trust, says Inderjit

The swing in favour of the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the latest General Election may never happen again, and the PAP must realise there remains fundamental issues they cannot ignore, if they wish to consolidate their position and gain greater trust from the people, said former Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh.

In a lengthy Facebook post today (Sept 17), Mr Singh, who did not stand for election this year after 18 years in politics, dissected the strengths and weaknesses of the PAP, and the reasons contributing to the PAP’s 69.9 per cent landslide victory. Mr Singh noted that while the PAP has a good vision for Singapore, voters today are unwilling to blindly trust the party. “The worry among some Singaporeans is that with a stronger-than-expected mandate, the PAP may feel there is no need to change itself. But the general feeling among insiders and observers is that the PAP needs to continue to change to become more inclusive, listen more to people, (and) add more political judgement in policy making.”

He also urged party leaders to take victory “in humility”. “The Government’s past ‘We know best’ attitude will not work among Singaporeans in the future. Elitism is also something the PAP Government should be concerned about especially since the party continues to choose the elites to become key appointment holders.”

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Jenny Teo's Comment on TODAYonline Facebook
Update: Jenny Teo's comment on 17 Sep 2015 deleted

I would like to ask Mr Singh what he thinks of the PAP's integrity in the way it redraws electoral boundaries, selectively dispenses upgrading funds only to its constituencies through MND's CIPC and the CCCs, the funding of politicised grassroots machinery PA/CCC/RC/CC using taxpayers money, the real motive of AIM, the control of all mainstream media in SINGAPORE, the town council system and the giving away of money in the run up to elections.

In my view, all of the above policies and tactics violate our National Pledge, the part that says "to build a DEMOCRATIC society based on JUSTICE and EQUALITY". No PAP MP or Minister, past or present, has ever suggested that these policies may need to be reviewed, much less pointed out that they are fundamentally unethical.

Clearly this is ok with 70% of voters, but I can never vote against my own conscience.

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An open letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Mr Prime Minister, I congratulate you on the PAP’s victory in the general election. As the leader of the PAP much credit must go to you for leading your party to such an overwhelming victory. I ask you to understand that the 30% who voted against your party did so because many felt that in a democracy there should be a plurality of voices in Parliament.

You said that you are humbled by the result. I hope that you can match your humility with an equal measure of magnanimity.

There will be 6 WP MPs and 3 WP NCMP’s in Parliament. These are honourable men and women who got there despite difficult odds and impediments. They are not your enemies, they are not interlopers. They are your fellow Singaporeans and co-lawmakers. They have an important part to play in our political discourse. I hope you will listen to them when they speak in Parliament with civility and respect and give due consideration to their ideas. It is distressing to watch old videos of WP MPs speak in Parliament in the past against a backdrop of the PAP front bench sneering, sniggering, dozing off or looking at their shoes. I hope I will not see similar videos again in the new term.

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GE2015 has ended and all elected MPs started to hold their Meet-the-People session to help Singaporeans. I cannot help but notice the difference in treatment between PAP and WP MPs. All are elected by the people but have different benefits.

PAP MPs have the benefit of using RC or PAP kindergarten to hold their MPS but you see what the people elected Opposition MP from Aljunied GRC has to grapple with? They have to hold MPS in hazy conditions under voiddecks? There is no air con, no computer and there is no army of grassroots helping them.

Is this fair? Where is the one people, one nation, one Singapore spirit? Why the PAP Ministers talk about uniting Singaporeans and serving all Singaporeans be it those who voted PAP or against the PAP but their actions say otherwise?

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Dr Chee: Singaporeans Must Put a Stop to “Political Imbalances” or the PAP will Always Win

He said that the PAP’s tight control over the mainstream media, and use of the People’s Association for party purposes have led to a climate where Singaporeans believe only the PAP can take the nation into the future.

He added that this also made Singaporeans fear that Singapore will collapse without the PAP at the helm.

Calling for depoliticisation of the media, Dr Chee, who fought and lost in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, said that Singaporeans will have to fight to deny the government the leeway to make key appointments in print and broadcast media.

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There is no need to use your vote to play ‘checks and balances’

Titled “Pray for a Strong Government”, pastor of FCBC church Lawrence Khong told his churchgoers there is no need for a check and balance in Parliament.

Starting off the article with a christian verse, the pastor claimed “the word of God” holds Chrisitans responsible to pray for the government. Pastor Lawrence Khong also claimed that it is his duty as a “spiritual leader” to give “spiritual guidance” on how Christians should “fulfill their duties as loyal citizens of Singapore and the Kingdom of God”.

The pastor then told everyone there is no need to vote for checks and balances, a campaign message by the Workers’ Party. You may view his original statement here.

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Keeping Religion out of Politics

Let there be no doubt, while a majority of Singaporeans believe in religion and are happy to seek spiritual advice from their religious leaders on matters pertaining to their faith, they are not keen for these religious leaders to stray into areas where they have no authority. Even if our political system is not entirely democratic - there's still a process - people still have to vote. Political leaders are chosen not appointed unelected. There's no place for an unelected leader of any faith to offer advice on the voting process other than prayer . I don't even like it where other leaders tell their congregations to vote people with integrity and moral values.

We are adults and can choose and decide for ourselves who we want to represent us. We are not electing church or temple leaders. We do not want people from faiths determining what or where the moral standard should be because each faith has a different standard. There are issues which only the people, the Parliament or Courts should determine. 'Apostle' Khong has his own bias against homosexuality and fair enough believers of certain faiths can consider it wrong. But whether that should be legalised or not rests entirely with Parliament and by extension the voting public. Even the High Court has ruled at such, the decision to lift the ban rests entirely with Parliament as the maker of laws. Who the 'f**k is Lawrence Khong to make a judgment when the High Court doesn't want to?

And crucially while a majority of Singaporeans follow religion, there's a substantial minority who don't and certainly don't like it when religious leaders try to force their warped views on everyone else. And as I mentioned, those that follow religion, a vast majority of them too have no need or desire to be lectured on the democratic process by their religious leaders

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WP did not do as well in GE2015 as they would hope to. They were looking to increase the number of WP MPs to 20. Before polling day, judging by the comments online and the massive turn out at their rallies, one would be forgiven for thinking that WP did have a decent chance of achieving their goal. Instead, on polling day, they lost one MP and the number of WP MPs was reduced to six. They saw their vote share drop from GE2011.

While the reasons for WP losing ground was probably due to a nationwide swing toward PAP, this loss of ground does have very real practical implications about the future for WP. It cannot keep depending on Hougang to send its members into parliament. What can WP do to keep it a viable opposition party? I suggest the following seven ways:
  1. Be good town councillors
  2. Be master social workers
  3. Do a great job in Parliament
  4. Focus on one more GRC and a few SMCs
  5. Walk the ground early
  6. Retain and continue to attract good members to put up as candidates
  7. Be humble and gracious
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PM Lee: Opposition's narrative in GE2015 'went against human nature'

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong  said the Government intends to honour its promise to work with Singaporeans and form a closer bond with the people, as he took a look back at the results of the GE2015.

When asked about his reaction to the outcome of the polls, which saw the People's Action Party returned to power with 69.9 per cent of the vote, PM Lee said he was "surprised and relieved".

But he would never use the word "vindicated" to describe his response, he added on Saturday at the Singapore Summit 2015.

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Strong mandate must be used wisely

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the secretary-general of the People's Action Party (PAP), gave a closed-door speech to newly-elected PAP MPs on Monday in the Parliament building. He spoke on the significance of the party's landslide victory in last Friday's General Election, and urged his team to make wise use of the support won. This is an excerpt of his speech.
  • The General Election results were better than we had dared to hope; indeed better than anyone expected. People's Action Party (PAP) MPs on the ground and government ministries and agencies put in much hard work over the last four years, and longer.
  • But election outcomes are never fully predictable, and we must never take anything for granted.
  • Politics always requires a stout heart, wherever the contest may be. But the stoutest-hearted were our candidates who stood in the opposition wards and did very well - Charles Chong in Punggol East, Lee Hong Chuang in Hougang, as well as the Aljunied team, guided by Lim Boon Heng.
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GE 2015: Opposition can continue to contribute to Singapore, says DPM Tharman
Mr Tharman greeting the crowd at the launch of the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations in Chinatown yesterday. He said Singapore must remain a society with diverse voices, not just during the elections.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

As Singaporeans reflect on the general election and move forward, the opposition can adopt a more reflective attitude and see how it can keep playing a constructive role in Singapore politics, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has said.

He told reporters that the opposition plays a critical role in advancing the country. "It is important for the opposition to reflect on what happened - not just in terms of whether the electorate didn't know better or the electorate made a mistake - but how they could have done better in their strategies," he said.

"We need a more reflective attitude after each election, and on how the opposition can continue to play a constructive and positive role in Singapore politics, as they must."

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George Yeo 'didn't expect landslide' election win for PAP

Former Cabinet Minister George Yeo today (Sept 18) said he was surprised by the results of the 2015 General Election, where the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) took almost 70 per cent of the votes.

"I didn't expect a landslide (win)," said Mr Yeo, who spoke to media after the launch of an art installation at Bedok Reservoir Park today, which he donated an undisclosed sum to.
“I think on Cooling-Off Day, after all that the people saw and heard, people got a little worried that the day after may result in a very different Singapore.”
"So everyone took two steps back and reflected: There are problems, but this is a wonderful country, and we all like coming back here when we travel. This is home," added the former Member of Parliament, who served Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) from 1988 to 2011.
"And collectively, when everyone came to that conclusion, I think it contributed to this outcome."
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Tommy Koh: Response to voter concerns, election strategy among the factors that helped PAP win big

On Cooling-off Day, a good friend invited me to lunch with a group of eminent Singaporeans. I decided to use them as a focus group and asked them to predict whether the PAP's popular vote would go up or down.

The majority said it would go down. I asked them whether the PAP would lose any more seats to the opposition. The majority predicted that the PAP would lose one group representation constituency (GRC) and one single-member constituency (SMC).

Like the pundits and the bookies, my friends at lunch were wrong in their prognosis. The following are 10 of my reflections on the People's Action Party's surprising and extraordinary victory.

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The strategic voter in the 'new normal'
In the 'new normal' of Singapore politics, expect voters to be strategic, using their vote to push for the outcome they want. Voters' support is conditional and can change from election to election

First, as everyone acknowledges, the PAP Government took the loss of the vote in 2011 to heart and began a national conversation to learn more about what the people wanted. Most importantly, the PAP changed and adjusted existing policies. This led to a heightened focus on redistributive policies, leading commentators to talk of the leftward socialist drift of the PAP.

Second, there is no doubt the death of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had a major impact, bringing the country together and subduing divisive, negative narratives that had dominated our daily conversation and the social media. His death activated the innate good sense in Singaporeans and gave us perspective to look at what the tiny Republic had achieved over the past 50 years, and what he and his extraordinary team had done against all odds. The Lee Kuan Yew factor was present, even if subconscious, in the minds of many who went to the polls , which helped the PAP.

Third, and most importantly, in the course of the election campaign the WP changed tack, departing from its position that voters should vote for the WP for a check on the ruling party in Parliament. The message then turned into "entrench the opposition" and the WP spoke of taking over a couple of other GRCs and seats.

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Is it hard to be humble?

THE Prime Minister’s note to parliamentarians says this:
“Be humble in victory. As MPs, always remember we are servants of the people, not masters. Do not mistake the strong election result to mean that our efforts have succeeded, and that we can afford to slacken. Much work remains to be done tackling issues which concern Singaporeans, and finding new ways to improve people’s lives. Listen hard to voter concerns, help them to tackle pressing needs, and convey their worries and aspirations to the Government. Persuade them to support policies which are in their own long term benefit, while helping the Government to formulate good policies and stay in close touch with the people.”
Humility is a trait that emerged during the general election. In fact, candidates of the People’s Action Party are so “nice” that you wonder if they had any personality at all! I almost wished someone had said something outrageous or revolutionary instead of blending into the white background. The rhetoric, even that aimed at Singapore Democratic Party’s Chee Soon Juan, is quite muted compared to the combative days of the past. In fact, there was even a sort of olive branch extended to the opposition after the GE: that there was a possibility that the opposition can work together with the ruling party in the interest of Singapore.

Beyond nice-sounding phrases in measured tones, what does “humility” actually translate into in this post-GE phase? I suppose we have to analyse its opposite: arrogance.

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Ex-Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh just wrote a 3,700-word analysis on GE2015

Former Ang Mo Kio GRC PAP MP Inderjit Singh has just written a Facebook note containing more than 3,700 words analysing the General Election 2015 vote result and explaining in some detail the 10 percent swing to the PAP.

Known as one of the rare PAP MPs who doesn’t mince his words — and who no longer suffers from the trappings of political office having just retired from politics — his analysis can be seen as a refreshing take on events from an insider who is privy to the incumbent’s inner mechanisms.

From revealing his personal mood and predictions in the lead up to GE2015 polling day, to his own view that some PAP politicians should have stood out more and taken a moral high ground during the hustings period, Inderjit’s frankness is appreciated, especially by those wondering what on earth goes on in the PAP camp sometimes.

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Inderjit Singh Facebook on GE 2015 Analysis

The GE2015 results are finally out. Were the results expected? Should we be surprised with the outcome? Given that GE2015 was called at a time when the ground could not have been any “sweeter”, are the results a good reflection of the PAP’s real support from voters? Ordinarily, given the timing and the fact that the previous government did many things to ensure the ground was as “sweet” as it can get, we should have expected that the PAP should have done significantly better than GE2011 with GE2015 perhaps delivering a score of around 64% to 65% of overall national vote, with the same number of 6 seats lost as in 2011. But the PAP did much better than what was expected by the party leaders and any of us, swinging the votes by 10% compared to GE2011.

I have been involved in politics since 1984, starting off by helping the new candidate at Siglap at that time, and thereafter contesting in 4 elections as a candidate myself. Through these years, I have managed to gather, to a certain extent, a good feel of the ground. For instance, at GE2011, I predicted accurately that the PAP will not gain more than 60% of the vote share and may lose up to 6 seats, which was the exact outcome.

This time round though, the ground had become a lot more difficult to read. I was surprised to see that Singaporeans are divided on their support for the PAP, at every strata of society. Be they Singaporeans living in the 1-room rental flat, middle-aged and middle-income residents living in the heartlands or the private estates, or professionals and the intellectuals.

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Inderjit Singh's analysis on GE2015

Here are 6 things he wrote that will catch your eye:
  1. Two individuals, Lee Hsien Loong and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, increased the PAP’s vote share by 4 per cent — on their ow
  2. Elitism and arrogance cost the PAP and Workers’ Party votes
  3. Four factors that can never be replicated in the next GE: SG50, Lee Kuan Yew’s passing, the Pioneer Generation Package & instability worldwide
  4. Middle-income and middle-aged Singaporeans are major swing voters in GE2020 as they bear the brunt of policies
  5. PAP’s new candidates slated for ministerial positions failed to stand out
  6. The PAP should have taken the moral high ground
related: Veteran MP Inderjit Singh rubbishes talk he has fallen out with PAP, pledges allegiance to prime minister

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Ten reflections on GE 2015
  1. SG50
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Ownself check Ownself?

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has released a note to PAP MPs on how he expects them to behave post-GE2015. One important plan was to stay humble in victory. I had expected to see him release a fresh list of Rules of Prudence as well, but maybe they are still being worked on.

I had a look at the post-GE2011 rules. This was a seven-page letter released to the media by the PM after the GE2011 elections and they cover everything from MPs’ attendance in Parliament, keeping politics and business separate, to accepting gifts and other invitations. There is plenty of reporting that has to be done from the MPs to the PM – the PAP secretary-general – and to the party Whip, such as the positions they hold in other companies and especially for directorships.

The rules are to keep the PAP politicians clean, an important trait in Singapore’s politics. Keeping them clean and honest is quite different from ensuring that they do not break the law. As PAP MPs, they have to conform to a higher standard of morality. It is as much about perception as practice.

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The PAP, especially Goh Chok Tong, claims during the GE 2015 campaigning that Singapore doesn’t need Opposition as the PAP can check itself - ”ownself check ownself”

How many Singaporeans who are not familiar with Corporate Governance are taking in by such PAP claim and decided to trust the pap and so voted for the pap in GE 2015. Can we truly believe that the pap can “ownself-check-ownself? Just look at the following cases:
  • Charles Chong was reported in the Chinese Press that Punggol East TC had a surplus of >$1m when it was handed to Workers’ Party.
  • Ng Eng Heng promised to come out with a “definitive clarification” to prove that LTK was wrong.
  • GCT attended only one Parliamentary session from 2011 to 2015.
  • PAP’s code requires PAP MPs not to take too many Directorships so that they do not neglect their constituents.
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WP’s Chen Show Mao Demonstrates “Ownself Check Ownself” By (Possibly) Voting For Himself

Chen Show Mao shows the public that there is no shame to voting for yourself on elections day

Workers’ Party (WP) candidate Chen Show Mao posted a picture on Facebook today (8 Sept) proudly announcing that it’s a possibility for him to vote for himself in the upcoming GE2015.

He’s obviously not serious - Or is he..?

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What the GE2015 results mean

First, the leftward shift in policies. The PAP acknowledged the concerns that were raised by voters and opposition politicians after GE2011.  Policy reforms were introduced to improve accessibility and affordability to the essentials in life, to put flesh to the ideas that Singapore is a land of opportunities for the young, and a compassionate society for seniors. Among the young specifically, the idea of a career built on academic credentials was downplayed with the emphasis on skills mastery and with the announcement that graduate and non-graduate teachers would be placed on the same career track. For seniors, there were policies that helped them monetise their housing assets, improvements to the CPF scheme that promised help with retirement income, and the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) and Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) that improved their retirement outlook.

Second, the setting. 2015 is the special SG50 year and coupled with the passing of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in March, the PAP called on those chips, although this alone would not have been enough to cause the swing, without the policy changes since 2011.

Third, the track record of the opposition. The PAP’s focus on highlighting the lapses in the management of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) put some doubt in people’s minds about the ability of opposition politicians to manage local governance, and the seeming threat that the opposition could indeed make big headway in this election, with the Workers’ Party saying that the opposition should take 20 seats.

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Why the PAP landslide is NOT a clear-cut vote for authoritarianism

First, most Singaporeans are primarily concerned with economic and political security. With the current environment so uncertain, they are largely willing to let a trusted government manage the situation. This is rational voter choice and not an endorsement of authoritarianism.

Second, forming a good opposition in Singapore is what economists call a positive externality and a coordination problem. Given that opposition members also have to be proven estate managers and that most of Singaporeans’ net worth lies in the value of their flats, they would always prefer their neighbours’ GRC to be the opposition stronghold, instead of their own. Net result, a smaller opposition in parliament than all would prefer.

If, in addition, all are worried too many opposition candidates may inadvertently unseat the government (as was probably the case in GE 2015), then even precious fewer will actually win. This is called a prisoner’s dilemma in game theory.

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3 post-GE2015 analyses from the MARUAH forum that were quite on point

Apathy is back - Post-GE2011 Singapore saw a change from the conventional view of the Singaporean voter as an apathetic person, Sudhir said in his speech.

Political horse-trading was wrong - Both Au and da Cunha opined that opposition unity is a self-defeating concept, as parties were to make themselves distinct. This means parties should not sit at the table to horse trade.

It would not be in the ruling PAP’s favour to turn down Daniel Goh’s NCMP candidacy - One interpretation of the Act could mean that if Parliament declares Lee’s seat to be vacant it must then go on to fill the seat with the next available candidate, Lee said. “I don’t think that the PAP would (declare the seat vacant) — there’s no benefit whatsoever to them to be difficult about this issue,” Lee added.

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RP’s Gilbert Goh goes all the way to the UN to complain

The Reform Party’s Gilbert Goh is not quite done with the elections, it seems.

Despite his team being soundly defeated in Ang Mo Kio GRC, winning just 21.37% of the vote, Gilbert Goh is adamant that the ruling party won “unfairly”.

On his website, Transitioning.org, a site set up to “cater to the emotional needs of the unemployed”,  Gilbert reproduces a letter he sent to the United Nations’ Bangkok office. In it, he lists five unethical ways in which the (PAP) won the last election:

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Official complaint to United Nations – unfair general election ethics in Singapore 2015

Singapore is a internationally-renowned economic powerhouse with a huge multi-national presence but it is seriously lacking in democratic rights and freedom of speech.

Those who spoke out against the authorities were frequently questioned by the police with some facing lawsuits and jail sentence.

I have listed down the following unfair unethical ways in which our government has won the recent election:
  1. Injection of new citizen voters
  2. Boundary changes
  3. Demarcation of PA from PAP
  4. Election Department falls under the Prime Minister Office (PMO)
  5. Control of mainsteam media during election
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GE2015: A Humbling Mandate
People's Action Party's Lee Hsien Loong celebrates on polling day. (Photo: Shushan Lam)

Among the winning PAP candidates, clear common themes arose in their victory speeches and interviews: Gratitude to voters, the humbling mandate, and the work to be done.

For example, Cabinet Minister Grace Fu - one of the first winners to be announced on Friday night - said that while she was happy to see her share of the vote in Yuhua SMC improve from 66.9 per cent in 2011 to 73.54 per cent, she was “very humbled” by the mandate and would work hard to prove herself worthy of voters’ trust.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his victory speech for Ang Mo Kio GRC, told voters: “We are very grateful and happy but at the same time humbled by the result, by the trust you have put on us, by the responsibility we have taken on to serve you.”

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Lee Hsien Loong: PAP is doing good, Opposition is going against human nature

At the Global Asia Conference held yesterday (Sep 19), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched a post-election political attack against the Opposition parties calling their approach “dangerous and going against human nature” because his government is “doing good”.
“The opposition’s storyline was (that) the Government is doing good; you vote for us, the Government will work even harder. That’s a very dangerous approach and it goes against human nature”
The PM went on to add that the strong mandate in the recent election shows that Singaporeans agree with the PAP government policies and has nothing to do with more or less social policies for Singaporeans. He however acknowledged that there are some “anxieties” over specific policies but his government will try to address them:

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Fourth generation of political leadership
Singapore PM unveils new cabinet
GE2015: Went Against Human Nature
GE2015: Taking victory in Humility
GE2015: Going Forward
GE2015: Foreign Media
GE2015: 2011 Vs 2015
GE2015: A Humbling Mandate
GE2015: Poll Results
GE2015: Pollling Day
GE2015: Cooling-Off Day
GE 2015: Rallies Round-up & Trolls
GE2015: Hungry Ghost & Optimus Prime
GE2015: One Stone Kill Two Birds, Heng Ah!
GE2015: Nomads, Roosters & "Bits Of Meat"
GE2015: Snapshots
GE2015: Mouse In The House
GE2015: In Parliament, Numbers Count
GE2015: The Game Is On
GE2015: Who's Where
GE2015: Nomination Day