PAP forms 2 new action groups on mental health, climate change as part of party refresh: PM Wong

Stage wefie of Prime Minister Lawrence Wong with attendees of the #refreshPAP event. Katelyn Phua who is the emcee for the event also volunteered as a facilitator at #refreshPAP engagement sessions.

The People’s Action Party has set up two new community groups focusing on mental health issues and climate action to tackle key challenges that cut across traditional demographic lines. 

Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, who is Deputy Secretary General of the PAP, unveiled the two major initiatives to the public for the first time when he spoke to 400 party activists and partners at the appreciation event for the #refreshPAP exercise on June 8 at Sands Expo and Convention Centre. It was his first address to party activists since becoming Singapore’s fourth Prime Minister last month.   

“Why are we doing this? Because these happened to be, among other things, two key national issues and also priorities for the PAP government,” he said. “As a party, we want to use these groups to better engage our activists and also all stakeholders, be it healthcare professionals, environmental groups, community organisations, or individuals.”  

The creation of the two new groups were part of a “Refresh PAP” exercise that took place over the last six months, led by PAP Assistant Secretary-General and Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and other 4G leaders.  

The exercise involved over 2,300 activists from PAP branches and five community groups and partners. They provided feedback and recommendations on how the party could renew itself.  

Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, PAP Mental Health Group Chair Dr Janil and co-Chair Dr Wan Rizal, with Apiary co-founder Travis Goh who is sharing about the #BetterTogether ice-cream. The ice-cream is an exclusive flavour launched with Apiary in 2022 for the PAP’s #BetterTogether movement to urge collective action for mental health.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health Janil Puthucheary leads the Mental Health Group while Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Koh Poh Koon heads the Climate Action Group, said Mr Wong.  

PM Wong urged people with views and ideas around these issues to join the two groups in their deliberations, so that the PAP government’s policies and plans in these areas are better informed. 

Those who join need not be party activists, he stressed. “You may not be an activist. You may be just a citizen with an interest in these issues. Join the groups too,” he said. “We will engage you, involve you in our deliberations and discussions.” 

“We want to hear your views. We want to hear your feedback and suggestions. Let us find common cause and work together to make Singapore better,” he added. 

The party regularly engages various groups to hear their views, and initiates discussions on how to address their concerns, said Mr Wong.  

One way is through the PAP Government Parliamentary Committees (GPCs), which are formed by PAP MPs who examine the policies, programmes and proposed legislation of government ministries. 

“Our MPs will step up their engagement through the GPCs” said Mr Wong.  

PAP will communicate better: PM Wong

Prime Minister Lawrence Wong addressing the crowd at the #refreshPAP event held on 8 June 2024, at the Marina Bay Sands Cassia Ballroom.

PM Wong said one area where the PAP gets a lot of feedback is on the need to communicate better with Singaporeans.  

He said that as a political party, the PAP needs to have effective communication channels, and “we must do better”.  

“We cannot just rely on the civil service or government to communicate policies. The party itself needs to have effective communications.”  

He said the PAP will learn and improve on this aspect. 
At the party level, the PAP will do more through digital channels to amplify its outreach, on top of relying on more traditional modes such as market walkabouts, house visits and dialogue sessions, he said. 

The party newsletter, Petir, has also been updated so it can be accessed through digital means, and not just hardcopy. 

“Through these efforts, I hope Singaporeans gain a better understanding of the PAP, as well as our ministers and MPs, what they stand for, what we stand for, and why we do what we do for Singaporeans,” he said.  

He added that he also wants to hear directly from Singaporeans on how the party can serve them better.  

“I too will strive to do more, and do it better,” he said. 

PM Wong said he will meet the media more regularly to address current issues and explain policies. He will continue to make use of social media to reach more Singaporeans. 

He pledged to conduct more ground visits to engage Singaporeans face-to-face and obtain their feedback. 

The PAP strives to be a national movement for Singapore: PM Wong 

Prime Minister Lawrence Wong engaging with local content creator Simon Khung to share about the Party’s initiatives

PM Wong said the PAP will keep its doors open to work with those who want to join them. 

“Because our party seeks to be a party that serves all Singaporeans. And the PAP strives to be a national movement, not just a political party, but a national movement for Singapore and Singaporeans,” he added. 

Beyond the core group of party activists, he said that the Party will grow the network of friends and partners called the Friends of PAP network.  

These friends and partners could be a corporate organisation, a social service organisation or an individual, as long as they see their purpose as working with the PAP to build a better Singapore, he said. 

“You may not be prepared to wear white (on) white and that’s fine. But as long as you are prepared to make common cause with the party and work with us to build a better Singapore, we welcome you and we thank you for your support.” 

Mr Wong said he does not assume that the PAP will automatically form the next government, but for now as the government of the day, “it is our responsibility as a party to chart out how we can take Singapore forward, how we can forge a strong partnership with Singaporeans, and convince them that PAP remains the right choice to lead this country.” 

This year marks PAP’s 70th anniversary, he noted, and the party had continually updated how it does things over the years, while keeping one thing constant.  
“We are always a party that serves the people, that puts the interests of Singaporeans first. We are also a party of action. It’s not just about words, but deeds, and we are a party that will always strive to make life better for all Singaporeans.” 

In a doorstop interview with media, Minister Desmond Lee, who led the “Refresh PAP” exercise, said that PM Wong’s call to refresh the Party is in line with the strategy to bring Singapore forward. This would include refreshing Singapore’s social compact.    

“We need to ensure that the Party itself is future-ready,” he said. “The party itself is refreshed, is energised, is able to engage wider, is able to communicate to Singaporeans and stakeholders better and to be able to organize ourselves stronger in order to give effect to the changes that are needed in refreshing our social compact.” 

Noor Muhammad Bin Noor Khalid and his sister Noor Mustikha each volunteered for 13 sessions of #refreshPAP initiative.

Noor Muhammad Bin Noor Khalid (30, engineer) and his sister Noor Mustikha (26, data analyst), both from PAP Limbang Branch, joined #refreshPAP as volunteer facilitators and have participated in 13 sessions each. Nor Muhammad said that he decided to be a volunteer because of the prospect of meeting different activists from all the different branches. 

“I was curious to learn participants’ views and opinions, and also their vision for the party. On a personal level, my facilitation skills improved over time. On the party level, it was an eye-opening experience as there were many ideas that came about.” 

Noor Mustikha said: “One takeaway I find from this exercise was the unity and diversity of our activists. Despite this diversity, the views we shared were quite similar across different sessions that we have facilitated.” 

Katelyn Phua (27, preschool teacher) from PAP Bedok Branch said: “It’s important for the PAP to keep the values and objectives relevant for the changing times. With this #refreshPAP, I’m confident that the party is moving in that direction.”