SINGAPORE – The People’s Action Party (PAP) started a new sociopolitical website on Sunday (Nov 28) to better explain its decisions and policy positions.
Petir.sg seeks to be the digital counterpart of party newsletter Petir, and was launched at the party’s annual convention.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the party has to update its communications and outreach for the digital age.
“We need to improve our outreach and use digital platforms more effectively,” he said. “We need to meet the electorate wherever they are, whether on social media or on other platforms. This is especially critical during a general election campaign.”
Mr Lee, who is PAP secretary-general, identified strengthening how it communicates as one of three things the ruling party had to do to strengthen its machinery, besides beefing up what its branches can do, and renewing its membership.
Mr Lee said the party had to strengthen the capabilities of each of its 93 branches so that activists are “fully equipped to do their best as ambassadors of the party”, making the PAP more effective on the ground.
The party will therefore scale up political training and the sharing of best practices across branches, and get its veterans to guide younger members.
“Our activists need to be visible, and be seen wearing party whites from time to time, not just during elections,” said Mr Lee.
“You must be active in engaging residemts, and win the trust and support of residents, who will see you as the face of the PAP and of the government.”
The PAP also needs to renew and reinforce its membership – including recruiting people of diverse backgrounds to better serve an increasingly-diverse electorate, Mr Lee said.
He stressed the importance of fresh ideas and youthful vigour, and also recognised the work of activists in opposition-held constituencies, who “work the ground, make their presence felt and keep the opposition MPs on their toes”.
Mr Lee acknowledged the tough job activists in areas like Sengkang GRC have, saying: “Patiently, they will win the confidence of the voters, and win the constituency back. It will take time, but we will do it, and we will give them our full support.”
“We need to recruit a new generation of party members with the staying power, commitment and conviction of our old stalwarts,” Mr Lee added, highlighting the contributions of former MP Koo Tsai Kee and Hougang activist Lionel de Souza, who died last month. Mr Koo, who still serves as an activist in Tanjong Pagar GRC, was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
This year’s convention, held at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, was split over two days because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sengkang GRC activist Ling Wei Hong, who spoke at the event, described the sense of loss felt by party activists when the constituency was won by the Workers’ Party in last year’s general election.
“Where did we go wrong? What could we have done better, or differently? Would that have given us a different result?” he said. “But one question was never asked. And that is whether we will continue fighting for Sengkang. That was never in doubt.”
Although the party holds to its fundamental values of service, people must also want the party to serve them, said Mr Ling.
“We will not give up fighting for the right to serve the people. But therein lies the problem – our service is our prerogative only if we are the incumbent. What happens when we are not?” he added.
“Inasmuch as we want to serve the people, the people must want us to serve them. Inasmuch as we do not take the trust of the people for granted, they should not take our service for granted.”
Another speaker was Mr Sanjeev Kumar Tiwari, general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees.
He spoke of the importance of strengthening the relationship between the PAP and unions, exploring new initiatives and delivering on them in partnership with unions and the labour movement.
While efforts are already ongoing, more can be done, he said.
“This can be strengthened further as the outreach is still within the circles of the leaders and the key representatives on the both sides. We must try to move it to all members of both organizations.”
More importantly, these efforts and outreach must transcend beyond vulnerable groups, to reach professionals, managers and executives in the sandwiched class, those in the gig economy and other sectors where issues may be different from the past, Mr Sanjeev said.