What does Lawrence Wong’s speech tell us about the PAP? 

05/11/2023

As leader of the PAP fourth generation (4G) team, Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) Lawrence Wong’s speech at the Party Awards and Convention epitomises change. It is also one where he set out our vision for Singapore and what we must do to confront the challenges ahead. And with a leadership transition on the horizon, here is what DSG Wong’s speech tells us about the PAP.  

Forward SG is crucial in building a Singapore for the ages 

It is under a backdrop of hope and optimism dominating the Party Convention that DSG Wong reflected on the dangers Singapore face in an increasingly hostile and inward-looking world, one dominated by armed conflict, economic protectionism and culture wars. 

All of these powerful forces can pull us apart, sharpen divisions across our diverse communities and turn our differences into intractable fissures, said DSG Wong. 

The question is, can the PAP make use of policies alone to fix these societal divisions? Even though the PAP seeks a strong mandate, it has never been a Party that preys on the insecurities of the masses with populism. In fact, one could say that making difficult decisions, even when they are politically costly in the short term, is a Party characteristic. 

Therefore, in what should be seen as a shift away from the paternalistic approach of yesteryear, the 4G leaders have boldly embarked on something different – a directional shift and a roadmap for a shared future through the Forward Singapore exercise.  

I firmly believe that for Singapore to weather the challenges ahead, we must hold fast to a common set of values and a common mission…(and) that come what may, we will hold together as one people, one nation. 

DSG Lawrence Wong

Since coming into power, the PAP has had a track record of steering Singapore towards progress and navigating geopolitical tensions through astute policies. With that in mind, Forward SG is more than a policy document, as noted by DSG Wong. Instead, it is both a pledge and an assurance that Singapore will be in good hands for its next chapter, with a better and brighter future for all Singaporeans.

A refreshed and progressive Party for all Singaporeans

Detractors have often protested that the PAP has changed, seemingly into one that no longer understands the needs of ordinary Singaporeans. Indeed, the PAP of today is different from the one 15 or even 30 years ago, but only because it would be unreasonable (or rather, impossible) for any political party to remain static in an ever-changing world. Therefore, it is safe to say that the PAP of today has evolved with the times, keeping up with the changing aspirations of Singaporeans while remaining steadfast to its core values and mission.  

No longer are we on a myopic pursuit of economic growth and productivity, essential during the Cold War and nation-building years. Instead, now that Singapore has prospered, the PAP seeks to build a society centred around inclusivity, equality and finding common ground. But what is striking here is that the PAP recognises that Singaporeans want more checks and balances in the government.  

We must understand the desire for more Opposition is, at its heart, a desire for those with different perspectives to be heard. A desire for those who may have felt excluded to be seen, to have their life experiences validated

DSG Lawrence Wong

Here, we see a shift away from the narrative that ridicules or even vilifies Opposition supporters for their views. It is also a testament to how much the PAP has progressed into a Party that shows empathy and respect for the diverse views of any maturing society and forge consensus.  

“They too, are Singaporeans, like you and me. They, too, deserve to have their stories recognised (and) respected,” added DSG Wong.  

By building a culture of respecting differences, not only on the political spectrum but life choices and aspirations too, the future of Singapore looks rosy as the PAP continues in its quest to build a fair and progressive society for all Singaporeans. 

Photo Source: PAP