SINGAPORE: The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) had "erected a bogeyman" only to "declare success", said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Friday (Jul 4), after the SDP claimed it had succeeded in getting the Government to say no to the 10 million population target.
The issue was raised during a televised political debate on Wednesday by SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, who in turn was accused by the PAP representative, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, of making a false statement.
A day later in a media statement, the PAP reiterated the assertion, calling the claim a falsehood, adding that such a false statement thereby rendered SDP's campaign "pointless".
The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) also issued a statement on the issue, saying that the Government "has not proposed, planned nor targeted for Singapore to increase its population to 10 million."
SDP said in a statement on Thursday that it “achieved victory”, as a core part of its 4Y1N (4 Yes 1 No) campaign involved saying no to a population size of 10 million.
On Friday, Mr Heng countered that claim: "(You) erect a bogeyman and then after that you declare success ... I personally feel all along that integrity is very important.
"The reason why so many of our businesses have been doing well overseas is that Singaporeans are known to have integrity, so we must keep honesty and integrity in our system. And we must expect that of all candidates."
When asked why the Government chose to address SDP's claim only now, Mr Heng said he "(doesn't) know (why) people are choosing to spread falsehoods".
"What is very important is for Singaporeans to judge whether you are saying something serious, or you are just spreading statements like this with no basis whatsoever. I really don't understand. This is not the right kind of politics," he added.
"We must be sincere and honest in seeking to serve our people. The country is facing major challenges ahead. So let's not get distracted, let's focus on the key issues at hand. Let's see how we can create a better life for all Singaporeans."
Mr Heng spoke to reporters at a hawker centre in Bedok, where he spent two hours engaging residents and stall owners with former East Coast GRC MP Lee Yi Shyan and new PAP candidate for the GRC, Tan Kiat How.
Mr Heng's team is up against the Workers' Party in East Coast GRC, comprising popular new face Nicole Seah, as well as Mr Kenneth Foo, Mr Dylan Ng, Mr Terence Tan and Mr Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim.
While Mr Heng's move from Tampines GRC to helm the East Coast team has been seen as a surprise, the Deputy Prime Minister said the PAP also takes all the other contests seriously.
“No, the fact that I'm here doesn't mean that, you know, we are only taking East Coast seriously. We take every contest in every SMC and GRC seriously,” he said.
Mr Heng also commented on the ongoing debate over the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme, which some opposition parties have deemed a Government "ploy" to entice voters to vote for the ruling party.
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"Well, it is up to the opposition whether you like to take it up or not. Ms Sylvia Lim came in first as the NCMP, and it gave her a national platform for Singaporeans to judge her," he said.
"So the opposition candidates are free to decide whether they want to take it up or not. We respect their decision."