That ST report about Goh and Chiam

Singapore Democrats

(PAP sets five goals to win elections in 2002Straits Times. Jan 12, 1998)

PAP secretary-general Goh Chok Tong yesterday laid down five broad goals for the People’s Action Party to achieve for the next general election due in 2002.

Speaking at the ruling party’s fifth convention, the PAP secretary general who is also the prime minister spelt out his targets in five Rs:

  • Repeat the performance of the 1997 General Election,
  • Renew the party leadership,
  • Recruit more and younger members, at least 50 a year per party branch, or about four a month,
  • Recapture Potong Pasir, and
  • Restrain support for opposition in Hougang.

His keynote address was made at the 3-1/2-hour, closed-door event at the Singapore Labour Foundation Complex. PAP second organising secretary Matthias Yao briefed the media on the proceedings.

Mr Goh told the 1000 party activists that it would be “difficult, but not impossible” to repeat the PAP’s 65 per cent victory in the January 1997 polls.

He noted that by 2002, most voters would have been born after 1965 and so have no memories of Singapore’s fight for independence. More would also have studied or worked overseas, weakened ties with the country or considered emigration. “We have to find new and creative ways to maintain the people’s high support for the party.”

On leadership renewal, he set the target of finding at least 15 new candidates, some with ministerial potential.

He hoped to recruit four potential women MPs. Ministers had started inviting people for tea sessions.

The PAP should also recruit members for grassroots bodies and strengthen its symbiotic ties with the unions, he said.

On the opposition, he sounded a warning to veteran opposition figure Chiam See Tong that his days as an MP were numbered.

Noting that the PAP had been “ambivalent” about recapturing Potong Pasir in the past, he said: “By 2002, Mr Chiam would have less political value to Singapore. He would have no fresh ideas to offer, in Parliament or in Potong Pasir. By then, Andy Gan (PAP’s candidate) will be fighting his third battle against Chiam. This time, we fight to win.”

Mr Chiam, he added, was no threat but had, in fact, been “good” for the PAP as “without him, it would have been more difficult to destroy (Singapore Democratic Party chief) Chee Soon Juan”.

As for Hougang MP Low Thia Khiang of the Workers’ Party, Mr Goh predicted that he would take over from Mr Chiam and Non-Constituency MP J.B. Jeyaretnam as the opposition’s new leader, unless challenged by a newcomer.

“As Singaporeans still would like to see some opposition MPs, it will be difficult to dislodge him from Hougang. But he is no threat to the PAP and will fulfil the role of Chiam.”

Still, he added, the PAP should aim to keep Mr Low’s votes from rising beyond 60 per cent. The PAP would decide later if Mr Heng Chee How, its candidate in Hougang in the last GE, should stay there.

He told Hougang supporters: “Plan to win Hougang back 10 years from now. We are in no hurry, unless the people in Hougang signal they want a change.”


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