The mandate given by voters of the People’s Action Party (PAP) candidates in the recent general election has enabled the formation of “the strongest Cabinet” possible to weather the storm of the COVID-19 crisis “and beyond”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony of office holders at the Istana on Monday (27 July), Mr Lee stressed the importance of having “leaders who are capable and committed, men and women who have the courage of their convictions, who command the respect of Singaporeans and who can mobilise the population to achieve great things together”.
Thus, the Government’s goal, he said, is to “not only survive this storm, but also to set the long-term direction for our country”. This will include reskilling workers and creating new jobs.
“The better, long-term solution is to invest our resources to develop new capabilities, grow new industries and create new jobs. Then we can help firms in the declining industries to reinvent themselves or pivot to other fields of business,” he said.
“We must keep on improving Singapore, year after year, generation after generation,” said Mr Lee, adding that the Government aims to do so by creating “an inclusive community, where we look out for one another, reach out to those who need help, and show every Singaporean that they have a stake in our future”.
While the majority of Singaporeans has still given the PAP the mandate to govern Singapore, the recent election has also demonstrated “a strong desire among Singaporeans for greater diversity of views in politics” and “more robust debate of policies and plans”, Mr Lee observed.
Thus, the ruling party must acknowledge it and “evolve our political system to accommodate it, while maintaining our cohesion and sense of national purpose”, he said.
“I look forward to more vigorous but constructive debates in Parliament. I hope our colleagues across the aisle will step up to play their role of a responsible and loyal opposition,” said Mr Lee.
Mr Lee also called on opposition MPs to propose concrete policy alternatives to “help voters better understand the issues, choices and trade-offs, and in the process, improve policies and plans, and deliver better outcomes for Singapore”.
The number of elected Members of Parliament from alternative parties has increased from six in the previous term to 10 this term, following the Workers’ Party (WP) team’s victory in the new Sengkang group representation constituency.
The Sengkang team is led by lawyer He Ting Ru, and is made of economics professor Jamus Lim, equity analyst Louis Chua and social activist Raeesah Khan.
The decision of WP elders Low Thia Khiang and Chen Show Mao to step down saw former Non-Constituency MPs Gerald Giam and Leon Perera contesting under the ticket of Aljunied GRC.
WP’s Aljunied GRC team — which also comprises party chief Pritam Singh, party chair Sylvia Lim and central executive committee member Faisal Manap — succeeded in securing its position in the constituency with 59.93 per cent of the vote.
Another former NCMP, Dennis Tan, won WP stronghold Hougang SMC by a large margin, garnering 61.19 per cent of votes over PAP’s Lee Hong Chuang. He was preceded by two-term Hougang MP Png Eng Huat.
Two NCMP seats were taken up by members from the Progress Singapore Party, namely Hazel Poa and Leong Mun Wai.
The swearing-in on Monday saw six new office-holders, including first-term MPs such as Marymount SMC’s Gan Siow Huang as one of the Ministers of State and Marine Parade GRC’s Tan See Leng as a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Several of the thirty-three office holders undertook their oaths in the Parliament House yesterday, including Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat — linked by video to the Istana, where President Halimah Yacob presided over the ceremony.