“In Singapore, people expect MPs and political leaders to be clean, to be above reproach in their personal conduct, and to be scrupulously truthful in what they say, inside or outside Parliament,” PM Lee said at the PAP Convention 2021 held on 28 November.
If politicians are venal or dishonest, if they tell lies or are corrupt, they cannot be trusted. Voters will not trust their motives. People will become disillusioned and cynical, and lose faith not just in individual leaders or political parties. They will despair of the system as a whole, and give up hope on their country, PM Lee said. The country will be in a bad state.
“The PAP has upheld stringent standards, ever since it came into power more than 60 years ago in 1959. All our Ministers, MPs and activists know. If someone misbehaves, we will discipline him. If someone misspeaks he will put it right, because he knows that is the right thing to do, and the party will insist on it,” said Mr Lee.
“The PAP’s rigour sets the tone for Singapore politics. Voters have to apply these same high standards of integrity and honesty to every group and every person who participates in politics, whichever side they may be on. Otherwise, we will be signalling we are prepared to lower standards, and this will eventually drag our system down.”
Mr Lee said a new generation of voters want to see more debate, more contestation, more questioning of established ideas. The PAP must encourage healthy discourse, and show that they are not afraid of opposing views or being challenged.
“At the same time, political discourse is not just a matter of accepting or marketing good ideas. We also have to rebut wrong views, if possible gently, but when necessary firmly. And we have to expose those who, for their own reasons and political purposes, try to exploit issues to confuse people and make them unhappy,” Mr Lee added.
“That was the spirit of the recent debates in Parliament on the CECA and on workpass holders,” he said. “We explained our proposals to make things clear, to get people to make the connection and understand how this policies benefit Singapore, actually benefit Singaporean workers. At the same time, to demolish the arguments of people who are trying to exploit these issues for political advantage, so that Singaporeans are not misled or made use of, not led in the wrong direction.”