Translated by Huang Z’ming
On 3 April 2011, MediaCorp telecasted the first mandarin General Election debate in 20 years. Appended below is the English translation.
There are 3 segments to the debate. The first segment is on the long-term challenges faced by Singapore. The second segment focuses on the impact of foreign labour and the cost of living. The third segment is on policy solution proposed by each political party.
Summary and Solutions to Singapore’s challenges
Moderator: Welcome back to the discussion at our Political Forum.
With regards to the challenges that Singapore faces in the short term and the long run, we have already listened to the arguments of the four political parties present. Now I would like to invite each party to propose solutions to those issues, so that the electorate will understand your policies. Everybody shall have 2 minutes to summarise.
First, I invite Sam Tan of the PAP.
Sam Tan [PAP]: Thank you Ms Zeng, thank you everybody. Now everything can be examined from a macro as well as a micro perspective, and of course we may have different views based on these different angles.
It’s like the hand of a man, which has five fingers. If we look at them separately, we may criticise, why is the thumb so fat, why is the ring finger so small (pointing at right little finger), and the middle finger so long. But if we combine all fingers together, so that they can unleash their power as one, then we will be able to handle anything, take up anything or let anything go at ease.
Government policies are the same. When you look at things separately, you may wonder why there are such differences in length and thickness, but when the policies are combined together, they will function as a whole. In the last 30 years, Singapore has managed to emerge from being a third-world country and upgrade into the first world, all because its policies have functioned as an integral whole. So this is something that we all should treasure, it is a reality that we need to understand.
Now in this coming General Election, the significance of what we are voting for, is not merely about people electing their representatives, but more importantly, it’s an election of our fourth-generation leaders. Therefore this General Election is a very important one, and the casting of one’s vote is a very important responsibility. This responsibility is in the hand of every citizen of the electorate.
I am convinced that the Singapore electorate should be able to look at this election very rationally, and decide which political party will be able to contribute to the prosperity and progress of Singapore in the next 50 years most effectively. This vote that is sacred, that is in their hand, will then be the wisest decision for themselves and for their next generation.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr Tan. Now we will have the National Solidarity Party to summarise their arguments. Mr Teo, please.
Sebastian Teo [NSP]: The slogan of the National Solidarity Party’s campaign is “Your Voice! Your Choice!”. So here we shall express three different voices to the ruling party.
The first is the voice of the elderly. They wish that after sacrificing their lifetime to sow the seeds of many trees from which we now enjoy the good fruits, they should be given reasonable care by the government. Another thing they wish to voice out is that hospital beds need to be increased. From what I know, since 1999 till now, we only have over 11,000 hospital beds, which have never been increased, that’s the situation.
The second voice is that of the workers. All enterprises should consider hiring local citizens, and wages should be tied to profits, one should not insist on keeping their wages down. Finally, it is a wish that our party would like to present to the ruling party. I hope that in this coming General Election, PAP will not make empty promises like signing ‘black cheques’.
From what I know, the cheque that was issued in year 2000 has still not been honoured. Back then, our Prime Minister, who is now our Senior Minister, said that in 10 years’ time, we would be able to enjoy a standard of living on par with Switzerland. But we didn’t have that. This time he is issuing another cheque, saying that in 10 years’ time, workers’ actual income will be increased by 30 per cent. I hope this time it is really something that can be honoured. This is the voice that I mean to present to everybody.
Moderator: Time’s up, Mr Teo. Thank you. Next, we have Alec Tok of the Reform Party to sum up. Time limit is again 2 minutes.
Alec Tok [RP]: The conviction of the Reform Party is very simple: The nation is its people. Can a country without its people be considered a nation?
Our mission is very simple too. We want public housing to return to what a young couple, a hardworking couple is able to own, a nest that they are able to buy. That is our mission.
Secondly, we want to make living expenses something that will really be within the control of Singaporeans.
Thirdly is that the low-income families we need to help most will all get proper assistance.
Lastly, the Reform Party hopes that CPF savings will be returned back to the our own control.
To sum it up, it’s again very simple, it is to enable those who wish to work, to work; to enable those who wish to buy a house, to buy a house; and to enable those who wish to retire, to retire.
The objective of the Reform Party is as simple as that. The nation is its people.
Moderator: You still have 30 seconds. Would you like to use up? Fine, thank you. Mr Koh, would you please summarise the viewpoints of Workers’ Party? Time is again 2 minutes.
Koh Choong Yong [WP]: Just now we mentioned that to face up to challenges of the future, the parliament that promulgates its policies is a key point. Apart from what was mentioned, what the people should think about, is whether we still want a parliament that is completely dominated by PAP.
If, one day, the ruling party has declined, what should Singapore do? Will there be another group of people to take up the task of leading the country? Someone has asked Workers’ Party in another forum whether it is capable of substituting the government. Our reply was very honest, we said at the moment not. For setting up a substitute government is not something that can be done overnight, and WP would not make such a boast.
Our approach is to take things step by step, to first establish a rational, responsible and respected political party, to introduce candidates of high calibre at each election. However, the efforts on our part alone would not be enough. A candidate of high calibre would still need the help of the electorate to be sent into the parliament.
So one issue that the electorate should think about in this General Election is, for the sake of the future of the country and its people, should we not correct this situation of an overwhelming dominance? We need to have more candidates voted into the parliament, in order to form a counterweight to the ruling party. At the same time, we would also then be able to nurture leaders who will be to take up the formidable task of leading the country when the ruling party declines.
So in this coming General Election, what we have to do is to convince the people to send more WP candidates into the parliament, as a first major step for a more ideal political system, to ensure the future of Singapore. We hope more Singaporeans will understand how crucial this long-term challenge is. Support Workers’ Party, create a better Singapore with us.
Moderator: Time’s up. Thank you. Finally, we invite Minister Lim Swee Say to give a 2-minute summary.
Lim Swee Say [PAP]: A healthy person does not mean that he would never ever fall ill. Similarly, someone who is ill does not mean he is unhealthy person. For whether one is healthy or not does not depend on the fact of whether he is ill or not; the question is whether it is a major or minor illness, whether he falls ill frequently or infrequently. If one’s illness is minor and infrequent, he is considered healthy; if the illness is major and frequent, then it’s unhealthy.
We feel that a country is the same. Of course, we have our imperfections, but on a whole, Singapore, Singapore as it is today, is indeed a healthy and strong Singapore. On this point, I believe even the opposition parties would not deny. Of course, looking into the future, the Singapore that we want to strive for is a more perfect Singapore. I can say confidently that we have not neglected in all these years the concerns of the elderly or of the common workers. That is why Singapore has full employment today. In the years to come, we will continue to improve.
WP asks what if PAP declines one day, there should be preparation for an opposition party to substitute. Actually, we have a different point of view, for what our country needs now, if we want to ensure our future, is not to wait for PAP to decline, to wait for opposition parties to replace it. Instead, we need to elect the best people into the parliament as soon as possible, for it is with good candidates elected into the parliament that we will have the best MPs possible, and with the best MPs, we will have the best cabinet, and with the best cabinet, we will have the best government to develop Singapore to its best.
Moderator: Minister Lim, time’s up. Thank you Minister and everyone who has participated in the discussion. Tonight, we have conducted a very meaningful debate of political views. We have heard voices of the ruling party and the opposition parties, their views on policies, and their approaches. The video of this discussion will be uploaded on the MediaCorp website. Thank you for watching this programme tonight. Goodbye.