Dear members, supporters and friends of the Workers’ Party. Thank you for joining us on this special occasion to mark the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party.
The Workers’ Party aspires to be a rational and responsible party loyal to Singapore and Singaporeans. This is our philosophy. Politics is a serious undertaking that affects the well-being of the nation and the life of the people.
At its core, politics is about the process of selecting leaders and delegating to them the power to manage public affairs. This has serious consequences for a country and its people. We see this in history, for example, in the history of China, where the rise and decline of each period was linked to the selection of leaders.
I believe that character makes for good and bad leaders. However, it is also human nature that power will make even the best of us prone to complacency, egoism and greed. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Unlimited power given to our leaders, without proper checks and balances, poses a great risk to the people and the well-being of the nation. Hence, power cannot be left unchecked and without accountability to the public. The ultimate guarantee is accountability through the ballot box and the checking of our leaders in Parliament, so as to force those with power to account for their decisions and actions.
Policy changes before and after GE2011 are the clear examples of how complacency set in and the PAP forgot the mission it was entrusted with by the people. The ruling party had taken the support for granted because of a weak opposition and a system of democracy that was malfunctioning with a very unlevel playing field.
The PAP had accumulated absolute power in the last 50 years of being government, with deep control of key institutions such as the media and the grassroots. The PAP had also fine-tuned our political system of GRCs and shifting electoral boundaries to make serious challenges from other political parties almost impossible.
Nevertheless, we managed to achieve a breakthrough in GE2011. Today, we have a more responsive government that is more sensitive to the needs of the people and a government that is rightly putting Singaporeans first in more and more policies. This is a positive change and Singaporeans should thank voters of Hougang, Aljunied and Punggol East for making this possible.
The Workers’ Party has played its role in these changes by being a vehicle for Singaporeans to express their will in concrete terms through the ballot box and by being your rational and responsible voice in Parliament.
In other words, the Workers’ Party is a political enabler. We seek to enable Singaporeans to check the government and make them accountable. This means we do not seek to disable the government by way of agitation, mass political action and other extra-Parliamentary means. This has been the tradition since David Marshall founded WP on this day in 1957.
I am glad I have been given the opportunity to lead in this tradition of being a political party loyal to Singapore and Singaporeans. I would not belabour this tradition by going into the details. If you are interested to understand what I mean. Do read the WP60 Book, Walking with Singapore.
I took over the post of Secretary-General in 2001. Since then, we have put in a lot of effort to transform the party towards two objectives: one, the renewal of the party, and two, making electoral progress. I am pleased to report tonight that I have achieved what I have set out to do for the Workers’ Party and am pleased that Singapore has made political progress towards democracy.
Today, the Workers’ Party has a new breed of younger politicians who are well positioned to take over the party leadership. These younger leaders have formed a cohesive team and they connect well with our growing party arms and grassroots networks, which are made up of diverse members and volunteers reflecting our diverse society.
It is time for these younger leaders to step up to the steering wheel. Remember that the Workers’ Party is just a vehicle for the voice of the people to be heard. This voice is getting more complex and diverse.
We now have a team of younger leaders who are ready to drive the party forward, to continue this walk with Singapore. I shall therefore not be contesting the post of Secretary-General at the next party election to enable the younger generation of party leaders to take over the party completely.
I would like to thank party members, volunteers, supporters and the voters for their support and trust. Without them, the trust and support, the Workers’ Party would not have been able to transform from a One-Man-Operated party with One MP to an organized political party of today with a band of 9 MPs in Parliament.
To the younger leaders, members and supporters, I urge you to draw your strength from the resilience of the 60 years of WP history. This resilience comes from ordinary Singaporeans who have to fight to get their bread and butter, rice and fish onto the family table.
Resilience is also inherent in our Singaporean DNA, enabling the Party to make progress despite the winding political journey of ups and down in the last 60 years. I am sure we would stay on course to walk with Singapore for generations to come!
Again, Thank you Very much!