Party Convention 2013: Speech by Benjamin Joshua

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Good morning Party leaders and dear Comrades.

Today is an important and a historic day for the party and so it is timely for us to go back a little in history, as it will be a good reminder for us of where we are and how far we have come.

The PAP has led Singapore from Third World to First. Singaporeans are now among the highest per capita income earners across the world. The PAP helped to build this nation together with the support and hard work of all Singaporeans.

This did not happen by chance. It was due to a host of factors, including good governance and far-sighted policies that focused on economic development as well as social justice.

These priorities of the government can be traced back to one underlying philosophy - that the PAP has always been a party for the people. In fact, the party started in 1954 with a pledge to build a fair and just society for Singaporeans.

This focus on putting Singaporeans' interests at the core of the party has ensured that the PAP government has acted to make Singaporeans' lives better, be it housing, education, healthcare, or transport infrastructure. Through these thrusts, our society transformed into a developed nation, and our standards of living escalated to one of the most admirable in the world.

For many of us, and even those activists who were with the party before me, it was not as straight forward and definitely not easy. The early years, were the formative years for the both the country and the party, and there was a lot to be done.

While the government delivered on its policies, which were planned with great foresight and in keeping with the betterment of Singaporeans in mind, all of us still as activists on the ground had an important role to play.

The party had to prove itself and earn the confidence and trust that the people had placed in us by voting for the PAP.

It wasn't just the party leaders, but as activists and party members, all of us also felt that we had a moral responsibility towards Singaporeans.

As a result, all of us worked hard to complement the government's policies with concrete community action.

Many activists committed themselves fully and made sacrifices for the party to serve the people of Singapore.

When one of our founding fathers, Mr S Rajaratnam, called for Singapore to be a democracy of deeds, we in the party answered this call and responded with our actions.

But I have to say, even after decades, this commitment of our members has not changed.

Today, I still see activists, young or old, committed to the party, putting the party ahead of themselves, and putting the people of Singapore ahead of the party.

When visitors sometimes come to our branches to see what we do at MPS and how we do it, they are left stunned when they find out that all of are actually volunteers and not paid staff.

I remember one such visitor remark that he had never ever seen, in any of the countries he had visited, a ruling party that had no armies of paid technocrats to support it, but was in fact dependent on the commitment of a volunteer-base, made up of activists serving for selfless reasons.

I take great heart as I hear and see this because it tells me that the spirit of the party remains alive and it gives me great optimism that it is entrenched in the ethos of the PAP, which will continue to remain even after our time.

This commitment to act for the people - to be an action party - has been passed on to successive generations of PAP activists, and to me, that is the greatest gift and lesson we can pass on to our younger comrades.

While we, the older members of the party, pass on the baton though, it is important that we are not forgotten.

After all, the Singapore that we have today has been built on the blood and sweat of our older generations. Besides our own efforts towards Singapore's development, some of us also sacrificed a lot to ensure that our children got a good education so that they too can contribute positively to society and bring our nation forward.

So It is only right that we do more to recognise and appreciate the efforts of our senior members, especially the pioneer generation among us, who helped to build the party and to build the Singapore that we have today.

Even though we may be physically older and our bodies may lack that ability to fight for the party in the ways that we used to, do not write us off!

Many of us still continue to be active today and we can continue to contribute to the party and to Singapore in new and different ways. The institutional intelligence and memory that our senior members have is invaluable and we should value that.

We should continue to engage our seniors and tap on their experiences and wisdom as this in itself is an important role for them to play in society. Be they former Ministers, MPs, branch secretaries or activists, we must reach out to them as we remind ourselves that they are all still a part of our family.

I am glad that this point has been highlighted and included in the resolution statement as it is a sentiment that many of us have and it accurately reflects the aspirations of many of the seniors - that we still want to contribute, we still want to stand with you and fight alongside you, shoulder to shoulder!

We all need to continue to work hard for the party and for the people and to keep that spirit alive, that our pioneers had instilled in the PAP.

We must continue to support the government through our own efforts, in whichever way possible, both within the party and in within the wider community as that is truly the hallmark of a democracy of deeds.

Then we can continue to live up to our pledge as an action party - a party by the people, for the people, and with the people!

Thank you.

This speech was delivered by Mr Benjamin Joshua at Party Convention 2013 on December 8, 2013, at Kallang Theatre.

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