SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Jul 6) urged Singaporeans to give him and his People's Action Party (PAP) team their full support in order to get through the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic challenges.
"To get through this crisis, I need your help," Mr Lee said during the lunchtime online Fullerton rally.
"I cannot do it alone. I need the strongest team we can find, to work with me, and with you," he added.
Mr Lee, who is the PAP’s secretary-general, stressed that “at this critical moment", Singapore needs a capable government, with the “full support of a united people, more than ever".
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“Have no fear. Instead, be confident. Singapore will endure this searching trial. We will be tested but we will not be found wanting,” he said.
The PAP has held a rally near the Fullerton building in almost every General Election since independence. It is usually held after the mid-point of the campaign, Mr Lee noted, saying it it an occasion to “pause, take stock of what has happened in the hustings so far, and refocus everyone’s minds on what is at stake".
This election’s Fullerton rally was held online due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Mr Lee said that its purpose remains the same.
“I WILL SEE THIS THROUGH”
Mr Lee said he did not expect to meet this “overwhelming crisis” in the last stretch of his premiership.
He added, however, that he is fortunate to have been elected by Singaporeans, and chosen by fellow ministers and MPs to lead the country through this difficult period.
Describing the COVID-19 pandemic as “the crisis of a generation" which is “more complex and more dangerous than any previous crisis", Mr Lee said Singapore's response to the crisis will determine the future of the country.
"There can be no certainty that things will turn out well. But we must have the same unshakeable will to marshal all our energies and resources, to fight it together, prevail and emerge stronger," he said.
“You have my word. Together with my older colleagues like Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, as well as the 4G ministers, I will see this through," he added.
“I am determined to hand over Singapore, intact and in good working order, to the next team."
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Mr Lee said Singapore has gone through many difficult times - from the Asian financial crisis to 9/11 and the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak.
"But each time the Government led from the front, Singaporeans rallied, and we pulled through," he added.
THE WORLD IS WATCHING CLOSELY
The PAP seeks a strong mandate from voters to lead Singapore through the COVID-19 crisis, Mr Lee said, adding that the world is watching this election closely.
"Investors would scrutinise the election results and act on their conclusions. So will others, both friends and adversaries of Singapore," he added.
“Will we show the world that Singaporeans are still one united people, strongly supporting the leaders they have chosen, and working together to overcome the crisis?” he asked. “Or will we reveal ourselves to be fractious and divided, withholding our support from the Government we have elected, in a crisis where swift, decisive action is vital to save jobs and lives?”
He added that the opposition has had “nothing to say” about getting Singapore out of the downturn, growing the economy or creating new jobs.
“They prattle on about the minimum wage or universal basic income,” he said. “These are fashionable peacetime slogans, not serious wartime plans.”
“Do you really want to vote for parties who, in a crisis, come up with nothing better than old recycled manifestos?” he asked.
Pointing to the series of national broadcasts made by various Government ministers last month, Mr Lee pointed out that the PAP Government has sketched out the challenges Singapore is facing, and their plans to overcome them.
The PAP election manifesto, he added, has also set out its programme for residents.
PAP HAS FIELDED "STRONGEST POSSIBLE TEAM" FOR ELECTION
Mr Lee stressed that he has worked hard to field the “strongest possible” PAP team for the election, describing it as an “experienced team” including capable ministers, “seasoned, energetic MPs”, and “refreshed and reinforced” with a younger generation of promising leaders from all walks of life.
“My duty as PM is not just to take good care of Singapore during my time in office,” he said. “It is also to prepare new generations of leaders who can take over from me and my older colleagues, and lead Singapore into a different future.”
This is why the PAP has fielded a record number of 27 new candidates for this election, he said.
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“But to serve you, we first need to get elected,” he said, adding that Singaporeans have seen their track record.
“If you think we have delivered and made your life better, please vote for us,” he said. “If you think we have not, then by all means vote us out.”
Mr Lee also urged Singaporeans not to "confuse signals" by voting for the opposition, if what voters really wanted was a PAP MP to look after their constituencies and town councils, and a PAP Government to look after Singapore.
“The opposition says they are offering Singaporeans insurance in case you need it,” he said. “Don’t buy insurance from someone on a promise, especially when you have reason to suspect this company cannot pay out on the insurance, and their cheques will bounce.”
“With the PAP, you know that when we promise anything, we will deliver,” the Prime Minister said.
“We first became the Government in 1959. The PAP won that crucial first election because we represented the national consensus and our people’s collective hopes for their future,” he added.
“After more than 60 years, this has not changed,” he said, adding that the PAP has “maintained trust with the people”, still “reaches out broadly to the population”, and how its policies have “improved people’s lives beyond measure”.
The party’s leadership, he said, has also been renewed, to keep the party “vigorous and in sync with (Singaporeans’) aspirations”.
“I cannot say that such a state of affairs will last forever,” he said. “But do not undermine a system that has served you well.”
"DON’T BE TAKEN FOR A RIDE"
Mr Lee called on Singaporeans not to be taken in by those who say it is important “just to have more choices”.
“Look carefully at the choices they offer you, ask yourself if they can deliver,” he said. “Don’t be taken for a ride. Your future is at stake.”
Mr Lee concluded his speech saying his team will work with Singaporeans.
"My team and I will walk this journey with you," he said. “Please vote for us."
The full lunchtime rally speech: