In Pictures – Celebrating 69 years of the PAP 

PAP history

Borne out of a desire to represent the underserved masses, the People’s Action Party (PAP) began life as a small opposition party in colonial Singapore. As we celebrate our 69th  anniversary this month, here are some milestones of our journey with Singapore over the past six decades. 

1954: The day it all began  

The formal launch of the PAP at the Victoria Memorial Hall on Nov 21, 1954, was attended by nearly 1,500 supporters. Led by Chairman Dr Toh Chin Chye and Secretary-General Mr Lee Kuan Yew, PAP fought hard to achieve independence from British rule.  

1959: Towards a self-governing Singapore

One of our founding members, Mr S Rajaratnam, is seen here speaking at a rally. It was a watershed year that saw the PAP win 43 out of 51 seats in the first elections under a new constitution, which marked our island from a colony to a self-governing state.  

1963: Housing a nation 

Addressing the housing crisis was a priority for the PAP, who set up the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to build flats for the many Singaporeans who were living in overcrowded and unhygienic slums. Here is then-Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew with Housing and HDB Chairman Mr Lim Kim San viewing a model of an upcoming housing estate at Cantonment Road.  

1966: Asserting our independence  

A PAP contingent marched towards the Padang during Singapore’s first National Day Parade to celebrate the birth of a new nation. However, unity remains fraught when opposition parties boycotted the event and condemned it as a celebration of ‘phoney independence’. It was to be one of several domestic challenges our founding fathers faced during the early years.  

1968: A landslide victory 

A landmark election saw the PAP winning seven contested constituencies to take all 58 seats in Parliament. The triumph ushered in an era of political stability, enabling the PAP Government to draw out long-term policies and pave the way for Singapore’s development.  

1974: Birth of an icon  

Then-Minister for Law and the Environment Mr E W Barker at the opening of the new Adam Road Food Centre, part of an ambitious effort to resettle all street hawkers. While building a clean and green city might have been the aim, hawker centres have since become part of our heritage, feeding the nation with delicious and hearty meals.   

1986: Educating our future

PAP MPs Mr Peter Sung and Dr Arthur Beng pictured with children from a PAP Community Foundation (PCF) kindergarten. Established in 1986 as a charity, the PCF is now Singapore’s largest preschool operator. And over the last 30 years, it has provided an entire generation of Singaporeans with affordable and quality education.   

1989: Making room for diverse voices  

The opening of the seventh Parliament also opened the floor for more diverse views. Besides the introduction of the Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs) scheme and Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) to safeguard minority representation, the PAP has also established a Youth Wing and a Women’s Wing to ensure that the perspectives of these groups are heard and reflected in policymaking. 

1990: Leadership transition

Residents gathered at the Padang to congratulate Mr Goh Chok Tong upon his appointment as the second Prime Minister of Singapore. With long-term planning being the hallmark of the PAP Government, it explains why the leadership transition in Singapore was no game of thrones.

1997: Winning back hearts and minds  

Campaigning under the slogan “Singapore 21 – Make It Our Best Home”, the PAP secured its tenth term in office during the 1997 general elections. It was a strong mandate for PM Goh, whose more consultative style of Government and vision for bringing Singapore into the 21st century helped the PAP win back two opposition wards. 

2004: Second leadership transition  

Mr Lee Hsien Loong was sworn in as the third Prime Minister at the Istana. In his inaugural address, he pledged to widen our common ground and build an open and dynamic society where every citizen has a place. 

2008: Making of a world-class airport 

Mr Lee Kuan Yew on a visit to Changi Airport’s Terminal 3, which opened in 2008. Such investments in Singapore’s future might not have happened if the PAP had not made long term planning and difficult decisions which would only yield outcomes later. Fast forward to the present – Singapore is now home to a vibrant aviation hub and one of the best airports in the world

2012: Building a City in a Garden  

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and former Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan at the official opening of Gardens by the Bay. The iconic green space is part of a long-term plan to create a City in Nature. And, it has put Singapore on the world map as a vibrant and highly Instagrammable city.  

2015: A sombre SG50 

Founding Secretary General and Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, passed away on 23 March 2015. It left a nation in mourning, with thousands of Singaporeans lining the streets in the rain to pay their final respect to a leader like no other.  

2020: Overcoming a pandemic 

Nothing could have prepared the 4G leaders for the fight of their lives as Singapore battled a global pandemic for nearly three years. The Covid-19 Multi-Ministry Taskforce, led by PAP Ministers delivered the comfort and hard truths needed to keep Singapore safe

2023: Leading Singapore Forward  

Helmed by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and 4G leaders, the Forward Singapore exercise sought the ideas of Singaporeans from all walks of life, laying out a roadmap to refresh the social compact. Because together, we can define the kind of society we want to live in and work towards building that future.  

As we approach our 70th birthday next year, Singaporeans can rest assured that the PAP will continue to find ways to refresh the Party without compromising our mission to build a fair and just society for all.  

Picture Source: National Archives Singapore/ Desmond Wee via Straits Times/ Jack Board via CNA/ Business Times/ ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images / Forward SG via Facebook