SINGAPORE – Singapore is in a moment of danger and alarm but opposition parties are talking as though the Covid-19 pandemic does not exist and the country can keep to its old ways, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The opposition, in fact, has shown no recognition that the country is facing the “crisis of a generation”, he added.
In recent days, opposition parties have criticised the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 situation.
Speaking at the online Fullerton rally at noon on Monday (July 6), PM Lee, who is also the PAP’s secretary-general, said the opposition has said nothing about how to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “They have been completely silent on how to tackle Covid-19 during the last six months, and in this election campaign.
“What contribution will they make in Parliament, adding ‘contrast’ to the discussions, if they get elected as MPs? What will happen to Singapore, if they form the government?”
PM Lee then gave a detailed account of the Government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and said that without a team of capable ministers working closely together, Singapore would not have been able to implement all the measures it took to stop Covid-19 from spreading.
The Government, he added, would have lost the confidence of Singaporeans.
Said PM Lee: “You’ve seen this happen many times elsewhere. Political leaders fail to act competently; voters lose trust in them. They are confused and dismayed, their faith in the whole system is shaken.
“People suffer greatly, and many die unnecessarily.”
However, Singapore has avoided this and is now in a better position than before the circuit breaker, he added.
Warning against becoming complacent, PM Lee said the danger is still very much alive, and Singaporeans cannot afford to take chances.
Coronavirus cases have flared up in many countries after lockdowns were relaxed, and despite its best efforts, Singapore may be hit hard again if there is a second global wave of the pandemic.
“Keeping Covid-19 under control and our people safe, avoiding another lockdown, will take everything that we’ve got,” PM Lee said. “We will have to take many more difficult decisions, and find more creative, radical solutions to take care of our people.”
The PAP traditionally holds a rally in the Central Business District at about the halfway point of the general election campaign but this year, it is online because of Covid-19.
In his speech, PM Lee said Singapore has been preparing for a pandemic since 2003, when the country was hit by the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).
Since then, the Government has not taken its “eye off the ball”, he added.
To be sure, the post-Sars preparation was essential but there was still a scramble to deal with Covid-19 when the new pandemic hit Singapore this year, he said.
Still, the Government rose to the challenge, secured supplies of face masks, ramped up testing, and mobilised resources to deal with the infections in migrant dormitories.
Said PM Lee: “We had to decide and act urgently, based on incomplete information. The public service, including our healthcare workers, the Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team, responded magnificently.
“They took directions from the multi-ministry task force, led by (Health Minister) Gan Kim Yong and (Minister for National Development) Lawrence Wong,” he said.
The healthcare system has held up well, Singapore’s fatality rates are among the lowest in the world, and the situation in migrant worker dormitories is being cleaned up, he added.
PM Lee said: “We have managed to get to this stage not by chance, but by dint of immense effort. Crucial decisions had to be made. It was the ministers who made these decisions and are accountable for them.”
One major decision the Government had to make was implementing the eight-week circuit breaker in April and May.
PM Lee said it was not a straightforward decision either, because doing so would impact jobs and businesses greatly.
But it would also save lives, he said.
PM Lee said Mr Gan and Mr Wong had brought the matter to Cabinet, which decided to go ahead with the circuit breaker.
Looking back, the Government acted just in time, before infection numbers shot up, he added.
PM Lee said: “This was a political decision, not an administrative one. The ministers, and ultimately the PM and Cabinet, have responsibility.”
The purpose of the Fullerton rally is for voters to pause, take stock of what has happened, and refocus on what is at stake, PM Lee said.
“Hardly ever in our history have the stakes been higher than now. We are in the middle of a crisis, but as tough as the past months have been, our biggest challenges lie ahead of us.”
Everything that the country has gone through since the beginning of the year has made clear just how important a good government is to fighting the virus, supporting the economy, and getting out of this crisis intact, he added.
“This is what this election is about – whom do you trust to get you through the very difficult times ahead.”
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