People’s Action Party (PAP)’s First Assistant Secretary-General Heng Swee Keat said on Friday (3 July) that the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) “erects a bogeyman” just to “declare success”, after SDP claimed that it had “successfully extracted an assurance from the PAP” not to increase the population to 10 million.
Earlier on Wednesday (1 July), SDP’s chief Chee Soon Juan raised the issue of 10 million population target in the General Election (GE) debate, claiming that Mr Heng was “toying with the idea” of increasing Singapore’s population to 10 million.
His point was then refuted by PAP’s candidate Vivian Balakrishnan, who also took part in the debate. The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) also issued a statement, stating that the 10 million population target is “untrue”.
Mr Heng came up to clarify on his position after the GE debate, denying that he ever targeted a 10 million population. In response, SDP took to Facebook saying that it has managed to get the PAP to say no to the 10 million population target.
The PAP issued a press statement hours later, accusing Dr Chee of twisting the facts to claim that SDP had “achieved victory” by extracting a promise from the PAP that it had no intention to increase the population to 10 million.
“The ‘1 No’ is a key plank in the SDP’s election campaign. Its falsehood renders the campaign pointless, and calls into question the integrity of the whole party,” the PAP stated.
Speaking to members of the media at a hawker centre in Bedok today, Mr Heng – who held the Deputy Prime Minister position before Parliament dissolved – said that the SDP “erects a bogeyman” to “declare success”, adding that political candidates ought to have honesty and integrity.
“[You] erect a bogeyman and then after that you declare success. I personally feel all along that integrity is very important,” he remarked.
Mr Heng continued, “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 he was asked on why the PAP chose to address the SDP’s claim 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.
“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,” he asserted.
Heng Swee Keat didn’t specify Govt aims 10 million population, but he cited Liu Thai Ker
Although it is true that Mr Heng did not specifically mention the Government had aimed to increase Singapore’s population to 10 million people, he did mention – in The Straits Times’ report on 29 March 2019 – that “Singapore’s population density is not excessive” and that “other cities are a lot more crowded” than Singapore.
The Straits Times’ report reads, “He cited former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term.”
In reference to that, SDP in its statement on Thursday said that “the average person reading the report would conclude that Mr Heng was is, indeed, toying with the idea of a 10 million population as indicated by Dr Chee”.
Former Director of Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD), Yoong Siew Wah also commented on the GE debate in his latest article to TOC, noting that Mr Balakrishnan could have shown “more civility” by clarifying the public misconception of the 10 million population target as it was “already a public knowledge” and “not a rumour”.
“He could have strongly emphasised that it was not the intention of the Government to target a 10 million population for Singapore and that certainly not from Heng Swee Keat.
“Otherwise this can easily spiral into something so titanic that it could be like a double-edged sword hanging over the PAP election campaign,” said Mr Yoong.
Singapore population increases by 1.74 million last 20 years
Based on the Government-owned website Singstat, Singapore’s population has largely increased by 87,242 on average per year in the past 20 years. From 1999 to 2019, the country’s population has increased by 1,744,846.
This means that Singapore would certainly exceed the 6.9 million population if the Government decides to continue to increase the population at the same rate as in the last 20 years.
In fact, at this rate, the country would attain 6.7 million by 2030, which is not that significantly below the 6.9 million figure.