GIVE young candidates like Ms Tin Pei Ling, 27, a chance, said Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.
"We want to reach out to young people. So, don't just look at a young person (with) no experience and try to squash the young person. That's negative," he said.
Otherwise, the young would not want to stand for election and "you're always going to end up with new candidates in their mid-30s and above", Mr Goh said.
He was replying reporters on negative netizens' reactions to Ms Tin after she was introduced as a People's Action Party (PAP) candidate in the upcoming General Election.
Speaking on the sidelines of a dialogue session with 300 grassroots leaders at Kampong Ubi Community Centre, he said that people have "missed the point" on why the PAP has fielded a young candidate.
"It's to signal to the young, those in their late 20s and early 30s, that there's a place for them in Parliament," he said.
Mr Goh said that a 27-year-old cannot be expected to have the experience and maturity of someone aged 40, or the wisdom of a 70-year-old.
But he noted that the young "can play a very important part".
While there were risks with fielding a young person, Mr Goh said that, if it was done successfully, "the potential of getting more young people interested in politics will be very positive".
On why Ms Tin was not fielded in a single-member constituency (SMC) if she was as good as she claimed, he said that candidates had to be placed in either group representation constituencies (GRCs) or SMCs.
He said that the election was not about a single person and Ms Tin "has to learn", like other candidates, that as a public figure her past could visit her.
As for the possibility that some voters might not vote for the PAP because of Ms Tin, Mr Goh said "we will suffer some but she's got time to prove herself". He added that he was "not too worried".
Last Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that "there are some segments of the online community which are habitually negative and sceptical".
He said: "That's quite normal in online communities everywhere in the world. But I think we should try to keep a sense of balance. Viciousness and untruthfulness are not helpful."
At yesterday's dialogue, Mr Goh also introduced Brigadier- General Tan Chuan Jin, 42, as his understudy.
Dr Ong Seh Hong, a Marine Parade GRC Member of Parliament who will not contest in the election, told reporters that BG Tan was his "successor".
On concerns among grassroots leaders and residents that Dr Ong was retiring from politics after serving the Kampong Ubi constituency for only one term, Mr Goh said at the dialogue session that the PAP renews about a quarter of its MPs for each election.
Ideally, MPs should serve at least three terms, he said, but with MPs who are ministers serving four to six terms, it was difficult to meet the party's renewal target. As a result, some MPs who served two terms or fewer would have to retire to make way for new candidates.
And in time to come, Mr Goh said, ministers might not even serve more than two terms.
"This is in the interest of Singapore. We want to have a team with older people with experience plus people with new ideas and energy," he said.
Mr Goh also spoke about making Marine Parade GRC a great home for residents in terms of its physical and social environment, which he reiterated at a Marine Parade Community Club event yesterday to welcome new residents.
Go to www.razortv.com.sg to watch SM Goh's and DPM Teo's interviews
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