Parties should focus on issues like jobs at hustings: Shanmugam

This article is more than 12 months old

Law and Home Affairs Minister says politicians should address plans to prevent new wave of Covid-19, how to ensure economy flourishes

Concerns about their rice bowl and Covid-19 are foremost on the minds of Singaporeans going into the general election, and politicians should focus on addressing these issues at the hustings, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

People also want to know what are the plans to prevent a new wave of Covid-19 infections and how to ensure the economy pulls through and can take-off once the pandemic is over, he told The Straits Times in an interview.

"My own sense is what is important for the electorate now is how are we going to keep this Covid-19 situation under control and... make sure the economy pulls through?" he said.

"For the Government, another question is not just pulling through but when the world pulls through, how are we placed to really soar ahead of everyone else?"

Mr Shanmugam said the pandemic has put countries around the world under tremendous strain, and has "the power and ability to break apart society".

"Every time there are these kinds of stressors, crazy politicians come to the fore and they will appeal in a very populist way, and they will try and seduce the population that the solution is very simple, and that they have the solution," he noted.

"And it's always got to do with identifying a different grouping - whether it's foreigners or whether it's a different race within the community, or a specific religion, or people of religious persuasion."

While this is already happening in some parts of the world, Singapore should remain determined not to take this path, he said.

"We handle race relations in a very different way, we integrate our societies, we don't allow ghettos to develop," he said.

"We provide opportunities across all races, even though it doesn't mean there is no racism."

Covid-19 has created a sober environment in which Singaporeans are thinking very seriously about the economy, "not as a conceptual entity but impacting on them directly - on their jobs, and their children's jobs", he said.

Singaporeans also want to know how the Government will balance reopening the economy without creating a second wave of infections and overwhelming the country's healthcare capacity, he added.

While the Government has put in place four budgets to support people, Singaporeans know that alone will not help companies to survive, said Mr Shanmugam.

"Who can take them through this period? Who can make sure that companies survive? Who can make sure their jobs continue?

"These are critical questions for them and this is where our focus has been ever since Covid started," he said.

Mr Shanmugam said the task at hand is to tell people honestly what are the issues facing Singapore, and to propose the best solutions.


GE2020: At a glance

Nomination day: June 30, Tuesday

Cooling-off Day: July 9, Thursday

Polling day: July 10, Friday

Nomination centres: 9

Total elected Member of Parliament seats: 93

Group representation constituencies (GRC): 17

Single-member constituencies (SMC): 14

New GRC: 1 (Sengkang)

New SMC: 4 (Punggol West, Kebun Baru, Marymount and Yio Chu Kang)

Total voters: 2,653,942

Election deposit for each candidate: $13,500


  • Goes online. No physical rallies and no gatherings of supporters allowed
  • Walkabouts limited to no more than five people in each group
  • No mixing is allowed among groups
  • Each candidate gets airtime on national television, as part of the new, one-off constituency political broadcasts

Polling stations: 1,100

Stay-home notice (SHN) voters: Special polling stations set up at designated facilities like hotels. For other affected voters, such as those serving SHN at home, the Elections Department will consult the Health Ministry to assess the public health risks of allowing them to vote

Precautionary measures at polling stations:

  • Voters given recommended two-hour time slots to visit polling stations
  • Morning slots reserved for seniors
  • Temperature screening at the stations to sieve out those with fever or respiratory symptoms

Safer and smoother process:

  • New self-inking pens, which allow voters to easily stamp an "X" for the party of their choice, will be used
  • Cleaners will be deployed at all polling stations to clean items and areas described as "common touch-points", such as the self-inking pens and polling booths, at least once every half hour

Returning Officer: Veteran civil servant Tan Meng Dui, chief executive officer of the National Environment Agency