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Hot News // Weekend, April 29, 2006 Print Article Email To Friend(s) Feedback Text Larger Text Smaller One Column Three Columns  
Win a GRC, if you can
MM Lee explains his tough stance against Opposition, throws a challenge
 
Derrick A Paulo
derrick@newstoday.com.sg
 
HIS constituency may have been a walkover, but Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (picture) brought his toughest election demeanour to the Foreign Correspondents Association annual dinner, and accounted why politics in Singapore was such a "rough game".
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Notwithstanding the encouragement he has given Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang, Mr Lee said on Friday the Opposition leader has not proven his mettle.
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After over 15 years in Parliament, Mr Low has "not been able to take on a minister" at the polls and prove himself, said Mr Lee, who fired back at questions, including those on the GRC system, from journalists with the foreign media.
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Drawing on his battles with the communists in the early days of independence, Mr Lee expects nothing less from the Opposition leader than to lead a team good enough to win a GRC.
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"You deliver, and next time, you take on two GRCs. You prove you can do it, get better men to join you � next time, you take on all the GRCs. Win more than half, form the Government. When you do that, you'll have already proved by clearing these hurdles that you're fit to run Singapore," he said.
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"I do not accept this is a bad system. Having won a GRC, you've got to run a whole new town ... In other countries, the hurdle is money and the incumbent always has money."
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"We're doing this so that any Opposition who comes and knocks us out is equal to the task."
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On how the GRC system ensured minority representation, he pointed out a simple observation. "You watch the nine single seats. We fielded nine male Chinese, the Opposition also fielded nine male Chinese. What does that tell you?
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"Without group representation, no minority candidate would be elected nor any woman candidate."
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When one local journalist with Reuters remarked that in other First World countries, voters would be offended by the "pork-barrel politics" of the upgrading carrot, Mr Lee said that sounded like "an ignorant voter, an ignorant WP candidate".
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Still, Mr Lee said that Singapore is almost at a point where it has gotten rid of "gutter politics", as he believes that Dr Chee will be "disposed of" after this GE and "I don't think he'll ever come back".
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Which is why he wants Mr Low to continue "moving in the right track" and debate the issues.
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Elections in Singapore are always about jobs, about cost of living, cost of transportation � the daily grind of living � and not freedom of the press or freedom of expression, he said.
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"Fine, you (the Opposition) tell us how to create jobs, but they don't want to," he said.
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However, when asked if he would go live on Channel NewsAsia to debate the issues with the Opposition, Mr Lee declined.
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"'Why should I debate on CNA? I'm giving them publicity and attention that they can't get by themselves," he replied. "After the vote has been cast, we are happy to meet anybody."
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The growing income gap is one problem that Mr Lee acknowledged the Government must "tweak" after a Financial Times reporter pointed out that Singapore ranks 77th for this coefficient in the United Nations Human Development Index, between Senegal and Kenya.
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He described the problem as "wholly because of globalisation", and Singapore must find a way to accommodate between employer and worker "without punishing the high-income people � that they will move off".
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In his assessment, the Opposition will not win more than two seats, and probably only one. However, if the PAP is not satisfied with the results, "there must be a change in policies".
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"We study the results after the elections everytime, why a block of votes go against us. We'll tweak the system but I don't see why we should share our analysis with the opposition or the media, but we do know what went wrong."

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