To: The Secretary-General of the People's Action Party
We are concerned about the linking of public housing upgrading and estate renewal programmes to electoral support for the PAP in a constituency.
The prioritisation of upgrading programmes should be based on sound criteria and be kept a separate issue from the general election.
These are the reasons:
1) In selecting a precinct for upgrading, the age and condition of the estate and the flats should be foremost considerations. As national agencies, the HDB and the MND have the responsibility to improve the living environment of all Singaporeans.
2) Residents in the opposition wards are fellow citizens and they contribute to this country just like you and me. It is against national cohesion and irresponsible for the government to alienate them by denying them of upgrading programmes and public amenities in their constituencies. The people of Singapore certainly have not entrusted the PAP government to misuse public funds to advance its self-interests.
3) It is important not to turn our parliamentary elections into local council contests. The government should be elected based on their policies and plans for Singapore - not municipal issues. To intimidate voters with withholding upgrading programmes seems to suggest that the ruling party is trying to avoid serious debates on national policies.
The elected government of the day should work for and together with all Singaporeans transcending political factions. The provision of upgrading programmes and public amenities must not be dominated by narrow party self-interests.
We, the undersigned, request that the vote in a general election not be linked to upgrading programmes.
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Lee Defends Policy, Calling Singapore Politics `A Rough Game'
April 29 (Bloomberg) -- Lee Kuan Yew, modern Singapore's founder, defended a government policy that prioritizes housing renovations for its own supporters, saying that reversing the practice may loosen the ruling party's four-decade hold on power.
``Where it is upgrading and it is by constituency, surely it is the principle of government to do the upgrading first in the constituencies that supported them,'' Lee, who holds the post of minister mentor, said late yesterday. If districts held by the opposition were renovated first, ``why should our constituents vote for us the next time around?''
Singapore's People's Action Party has changed the island from a trading backwater to the region's second-richest nation per capita after Japan. The party, which has been in power since before the country won independence in 1965, is seeking to extend its rule in an election May 6. Still, opposition groups this week mustered enough candidates to challenge the government in the polls for the first time since 1988.
Lee, answering questions after dinner at the Foreign Correspondents Association in Singapore, said improving democracy and fostering a free press weren't priorities for the city-state's 4.3 million voters.
``If you watch what happens in the election, nobody talks about freedom of the press, more democracy etc.,'' Lee said. ``They are talking about the cost of living, cost of transport, cost of electricity, power, and wages not catching up. That's what the daily grind of life is about. We're going to win this election because we've got the answers.''
The government currently holds 82 of the 84 directly elected parliamentary seats. The People's Action Party, led by Lee's son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, was uncontested in 37 of the seats on nomination day on April 27.
The housing-renovation policy has been questioned at least twice in public this week. At a debate at the National University of Singapore on April 26, Arhshath Kaleni, a 17-year- old student, told lawmaker Indranee Rajah that any work should be completed based on the need of the buildings, not on how the constituents voted.
The policy penalizes people for exercising their choice, Kaleni said. The government ``should represent the collective population without this bias,'' he said. About 80 percent of Singapore's population lives in such housing.
Critics of Singapore's political system include Human Rights Watch and billionaire George Soros, who have argued that the government places unnecessary curbs on civil rights and lawsuits against political opponents have harmed freedom of speech.
Lee said yesterday that Singapore's society will develop ``at our own pace and in our way.''
Asked whether an unrestricted media would help, Lee said ``if I believed that a free press would create a more self- reliant and creative opposition, I would seriously consider that.''
He said the challenges for Singapore include narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, and remaining competitive in the shadow of India and China, the world's two largest populations. Lee said he, not foreign countries or their media, knows best how to meet those challenges.
``There are very few things that I do not know about Singapore politics,'' said Lee. ``I know what would work here.''
Lee said he was unwilling to participate in a televised debate with Singapore's opposition parties, which include the Workers' Party and the Singapore Democratic Party. To do so would give them pre-election publicity that they're unable to generate on their own, he said.
``We are happy to meet anybody, after the votes have been cast,'' he said.
Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan said April 26 that ``fear'' of repercussions was hampering the development of a political opposition. Lee yesterday said the opposition is able to win seats in parliament, though will need to field higher quality candidates.
``I want a world-class opposition, not this riff-raff,'' he said. ``You've got to be rough. This is a rough game.''
Chee is being sued for defamation by Prime Minister Lee and Lee Kuan Yew for statements made in his party's newspaper earlier this month.
Yesterday the elder Lee said Chee, who can't stand for this year's election because he is bankrupt, has been ``discredited'' and was unlikely to return to the political arena. Chee lost a defamation suit filed during a 2001 election and was ordered to pay S$500,000 ($315,000) in damages to the elder Lee and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.
``Having got rid of what I would call gutter politics,'' Singapore has the opportunity ``to start off on a new basis,'' Lee said.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Angus Whitley in Singapore at email@example.com