SINGAPORE: The new political office holders will bring with them fresh ideas and perspectives, and Singaporeans can be confident in the team, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Jul 27) at their swearing-in ceremony.
Thirty-three office holders were sworn in at two locations – the Istana and Parliament House. President Halimah Yacob presided over the ceremony which was broadcast live on national television.
Several office holders, including Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, took their oaths at Parliament House, which was linked by live video to the Istana where Mdm Halimah was.
Mr Lee also highlighted that the Cabinet is a multi-racial one, with seven non-Chinese ministers among the 20 full ministers. The team also has a mix of ministers and office holders from “successive generations”, he added.
“The more senior ones have seen Singapore through past crises, and can offer valuable guidance and views to help overcome the challenges we face. The younger ministers are increasingly taking the lead, setting the agenda and engaging Singaporeans,” Mr Lee said.
“The new office holders will bring with them fresh ideas and perspectives, and work hard to master the issues. It is a team that Singaporeans can be confident in, and one that will walk with you every step of the way.”
New office holders include Dr Tan See Leng, 55, who was appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, and new Ministers of State Mr Desmond Tan, 50, Ms Gan Siow Huang, 45, Mr Tan Kiat How, 43, and Mr Alvin Tan, 40.
The five are also first-term Members of Parliament.
In his speech, Mr Lee said that good politics depends on both sound institutions and high quality political leadership.
“More than other countries, Singapore needs 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,” he said.
“In this election, you have voted for me and my PAP team. With your mandate, I have formed the strongest Cabinet I could, to take Singapore through this crisis and beyond.”
“UNITE AND FOCUS OUR ENERGIES”
The work of the new Cabinet has already begun, Mr Lee said, as he asked for Singaporeans’ support for the new Government.
“The elections are behind us. Whatever our political persuasions, never forget that we are first and foremost Singaporeans. Let us all unite and focus our energies on the major challenges ahead,” he said.
On the challenges ahead, Mr Lee said that Singapore needs to be vigilant amid the COVID-19 situation while it gets the economy going again, but the Government must also look further ahead.
“Beyond the ongoing crisis, the Government must also keep our eyes firmly on the future; one day, the pandemic will be over, and the economic crisis will pass. When that day comes, we have to be ready for the post-COVID-19 world,” he said.
“Our aim is not just to survive this storm, but also to set the long-term direction for our country. We must keep on improving Singapore, year after year, generation after generation.”
Beyond economic prosperity, the Government must also fulfil the broader ambitions Singaporeans have for the country, Mr Lee said.
“We aspire to be a fair and just society, with opportunities for all. We wish to fashion 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,” he said.
“We want to make this a home where Singaporeans always believe that their children will have better lives than themselves, and the human spirit can flourish. This is the nation we are building together.”
POLITICAL SYSTEM MUST WORK WELL
Mr Lee added that to achieve these hopes and dreams, Singapore’s political system must continue to work well for the nation.
“The election has shown a strong desire among Singaporeans for greater diversity of views in politics. Voters want the PAP to form the government, but they also want more robust debate of policies and plans,” he said.
“We have to give expression to it, and evolve our political system to accommodate it, while maintaining our cohesion and sense of national purpose.”
Singapore’s 14th Parliament will have 10 elected MPs from the Workers’ Party and two Non-Constituency MPs from the Progress Singapore Party. Mr Lee has also said that there will be a formal Leader of the Opposition who will be given staff support and resources to perform this role.
“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,” Mr Lee said.
The opposition should put forward serious policy alternatives to be scrutinised and debated, he added.
“This way, we can help voters better understand the issues, choices and trade-offs, and in the process, improve policies and plans, and deliver better outcomes for Singapore,” he said.
Mr Lee, 68, reiterated his intention see through the COVID-19 crisis. He had previously said he wanted to retire before 70.
“My aim is to see through this crisis and hand over Singapore, intact and in working order, into good hands who can take the country further forward,” he said on Monday. “I ask Singaporeans to extend to the younger ministers the same support that you have given me all these years.”