SINGAPORE: There are “clearly messages” in the vote swing towards the opposition in this year’s General Election that the People’s Action Party (PAP) must seek to understand, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Saturday (Jul 11).
Mr Shanmugam - who led a five-member People’s Action Party (PAP) team to victory in Nee Soon GRC - said the party would “carefully study” the results, as it usually does.
“The first thing you have to do is to get the facts, understand the reasons and that we need to do,” he said, speaking to the media at the PAP’s Chong Pang branch ahead of a walkabout with his Nee Soon teammates to thank residents for their support.
“But in all these things that are clearly messages that the voters are sending us, and it will be wrong if we don't understand the messages,” he added.
“I think it requires a lot of soul searching and reflection.”
The PAP took 61.24 per cent of the votes in this year’s General Election, down from 69.9 per cent in the 2015 polls.
Aside from the popular vote, the PAP also ceded ground in terms of seats, with four going to the opposition when the Workers’ Party (WP) claimed a second group representation constituency, winning the newly-formed Sengkang GRC with 52.13 per cent of the votes there.
On whether this represented an appetite for alternative voices, Mr Shanmugam noted there has always been a “very substantive desire in the population” for two things - a PAP government in power and an opposition presence in Parliament.
This is “not surprising in the context of Sengkang”, said Mr Shanmugam, though he noted the loss of labour chief Ng Chee Meng - who led the PAP team in Sengkang - would have a “substantial impact”.
Towards the end of the nine-day campaign period, the PAP released a statement on WP candidate Raeesah Khan, who was under investigation by the police for allegedly making comments on social media promoting “enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race”.
In the statement, the PAP asked why the WP considered Ms Khan - part of the four-member team that won Sengkang GRC - “worthy of consideration as an MP”.
When asked by a reporter if the PAP statement on Ms Khan backfired, Mr Shanmugam declined to comment. Instead, he offered his thoughts on the “broader question of race relations”.
“The older generation of Singaporeans take one approach to how issues of race and religion are discussed, and we have a framework within the law. But it's also clear that the younger generation takes a different approach,” he said.
There needs to be a way in which the viewpoints of younger Singaporeans can be addressed, said Mr Shanmugam, noting they are “going to be in charge of Singapore”.
“If people feel that there's a different way of discussing these things beyond the traditional, then we need to work out what the trade-offs are and then see what's the approach (we want to take),” he said.
READ: WP candidate Raeesah Khan apologises for ‘insensitive’ remarks, after police announce investigation into her social media comments
Over the course of the elections, police reports were made against various figures, including Ms Khan and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Mr Shanmugam was asked if the law or home affairs ministries would address the use of police reports as a political tool.
“I haven't seen the police reports, for obvious reasons,” he said.
“If there was anything to be done about it from a policy perspective, it will be brought up to my attention. So far it hasn’t come to my attention,” he added.
The PAP team led by Mr Shanmugam won 61.9 per cent of the votes in Nee Soon GRC in Friday's vote, clinching victory over a team fielded by the Progress Singapore Party.