PAP wants to be a pan-national movement which unites all S’poreans: Desmond Lee


The People’s Action Party aims to become a pan-national movement that unites Singaporeans while embracing the diverse aspirations, goals and needs within its broad tent. It also hopes to attract activists and even potential candidates who come from a broader cross-section of Singapore. 

PAP Assistant Secretary-General and Minister for National Development Desmond Lee outlined these plans when he responded to questions from journalists on what the Party is doing to engage young Singaporeans and if this wider outreach is a strategy to identify new talent for the upcoming General Election which must be held before November 2025.  

The interview followed an appreciation event held at Sands Expo and Convention Centre on June 8 for 400 activists and partners who contributed to the #refreshPAP exercise. Over 2,300 activists and partners provided recommendations through the exercise on how the party could renew itself. 

Mr Lee shared that one common consensus during the PAP refresher exercise is that PAP “wants to be a pan-national movement which unites Singaporeans” while acknowledging the differences in opinions, needs and aspirations held by different groups.   

“We don’t cater to specific demographic groups. We don’t cater to specific ethnic groups. We want to cater to all Singaporeans, and we want to continue to be seen by Singaporeans and be felt by Singaporeans as a pan-national movement where all Singaporeans get represented and their interests are addressed,” he said.   

Mr Lee said the refresh exercise is part of the party’s efforts to better communicate with Singaporeans, and also to better organise itself internally to “be able to embrace and encompass a greater diversity of aspirations, goals and needs within this broader tent of the PAP”. 

He cautioned that greater diversity means not only opportunity for progress but also the potential for new fault lines as well as old ones to surface, for which the Party must hone its skills to converse and help the people to converge on a decision with give and take. 

This would mean bringing in “more diverse voices into the Party as activists and certainly…to look out for people who can serve Singaporeans in different capacities, including, if appropriate, as candidates (for General Elections)”, Mr Lee said. 

Externally, the Party is looking to better meet the concerns of Singaporeans, and a major move to this end is the formation of two new groups within the Party focused on mental health and climate action.  

Mr Lee was asked if the refresh exercise was undertaken to prepare for the upcoming General Election.  

“The preparation to win the hearts and minds of Singaporeans, to persuade them of the many things that we need to do under Forward Singapore, persuading them about the trade-offs that we need to address in order to put Singapore in a sustainable, forward-looking posture are things that are done the very day after the last GE.” 

Dr Janil Puthucheary: It starts with ‘action on the ground’  

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health Janil Puthucheary who chairs the Mental Health Group said the group is looking to bring together stakeholders from a variety of domains and disciplines and coordinate their efforts. 

He said they could come from health, social or community space.   

“Mental health issues cut across several domains. You need many people to come together to make a real impact in the lived experience of the patients, caregivers, and the families.” 

He added that the Group needs to engage professionals with technical experience and expertise in mental health. They also want to involve community groups that have close, trusting relationships with families and patients and caregivers experiencing mental health issues.  

“It starts with action on the ground. And that’s why we have to engage with all the stakeholders, as well as our party activists.” 

Co-Chair of the Mental Health Group and MP for West Coast GRC Rachel Ong said that the Group plans to explore the option of lowering the age of consent for mental health services to 18 and ensuring equitable insurance coverage for patients with mental illness. The Group has spoken to different stakeholders, including not-for-profit groups, and the young to “hear the realities on the ground”. 

Co-Chair of the Mental Health Group and MP for Jalan Besar GRC Wan Rizal said that the Mental Health and Climate Action groups are important because these are pertinent issues facing Singaporeans. 

“We hope these two new groups will allow us to hear more from Singaporeans and serve as an outlet for them to share. At the same time, the groups will be a platform for us to address mental health realities in Singapore and sustainability issues, which are both very important topics.” 

Chair of PAP Sengkang Central Branch Associate Professor Elmie Nekmat said that the #refreshPAP exercise is a concerted effort by the Party to engage a wide segment of population from different backgrounds and get their opinions and suggestions on how the Party could do better for Singaporeans.  

“The Party conducted a thorough and systematic process to gather input and distill feedback. The aim is to produce actionable outcomes that will enable the Party to better communicate and listen to Singaporeans’ needs and aspirations.”