Politics

Singapore GE2020: Inclusivity and employment in focus on Day 3 of constituency broadcasts

JALAN BESAR GRC

Jalan Besar GRC is home to Singapore’s oldest areas, but is also an area with great potential for renewal and rejuvenation that they hope to be able to see through if elected, members of the People’s Action Party (PAP) team defending Jalan Besar GRC said last night.

Speaking on the third day of televised constituency political broadcasts, Central Singapore District Mayor and PAP candidate Denise Phua, 60, said: “Every master plan that we say we will deliver, that we have promised, we have delivered.”

She added: “But our job is not finished yet. We know as a team, there is more to do.”

Ms Phua said the PAP team wants to further support the area’s elderly residents, and do more for the working adults who have grown up there or who have moved into the estate, as well as those whose jobs are threatened because of Covid-19, or by global competition.

“And for the younger ones, we want to look after them better. We want to educate them even better for lifelong learning,” she added.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who is standing in the group representation constituency for the first time after moving from Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, said her first priority is to get to know residents. She also touched on the theme of rejuvenation, citing developments like new MRT lines and refurbished areas along the Kallang River.

Senior Minister of State Heng Chee How, 58, added that young families are also able to move into the new Build-To-Order Housing Board flats in the area.

PAP new face Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah, 42, reflected on his experiences growing up, as did Ms Phua, who noted how the Jalan Besar area has gained from constant change.

In the past five years, for example, six new MRT stations were constructed, nine markets were upgraded, and there were some 55 lift upgrading programmes and home improvement programmes in the area, along with numerous social service programmes, she said.

Ms Phua also said that the team’s experience in different areas will “help us listen better, so that we can do more for you, to put action behind our desire to serve you honestly and diligently”.

Meanwhile the Peoples Voice (PV) team, led by party chief Lim Tean, focused on immigration policies and the Covid-19 crisis.

Mr Lim, 55, was the only PV candidate who spoke, and said the Government has pursued “insane immigration policies” in the last two decades.

“This Government was hurtling towards a 10 million population, although it now denies it,” he said.

He added that this episode showed the importance of a strong opposition voice in Parliament.

Mr Lim also took aim at the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, and said Singapore has been described as “one of the greatest failures” as far as the crisis is concerned. He said the multi-ministry task force on the outbreak had dithered and U-turned about implementing needed measures.

“If Covid-19 had been a bioweapon, Singaporeans would not have stood a chance with this bunch of 4G leaders,” he said.

Mr Lim also criticised Mrs Teo, saying she was “singularly responsible for the great explosion of Covid-19 cases in foreign worker dormitories”. He called on Jalan Besar residents to treat this election as a referendum on the minister’s competence and leadership.

The other PV candidates, who shared the stage, are blogger and financial adviser Leong Sze Hian, 66, Mr Nor Azlan Sulaiman, 48, who runs a halal consultancy, and Mr Michael Fang Amin, 43, a medical administrator and entrepreneur.

Mr Lim said: “We ask for nothing… but only ask for the chance to serve.”

JURONG GRC

Inclusivity was on the minds of candidates for Jurong GRC last night, as both parties contesting in the five-member constituency spoke about their plans and proposals for residents.

The People’s Action Party (PAP) has been making progress to make sure no one is left behind, and the party’s candidates are committed to achieving this with Singaporeans, said Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

“But there is more to be done. And there’s more that we have to do in the coming year, and the years to come nationally, and in each of our neighbourhoods – to ensure that every Singaporean who loses a job is able to get a new job, to ensure that employers do not have easy excuses to turn down a middle-aged or mature Singaporean, and much more to be done to achieve a fairer and more inclusive society,” he said.

If elected, his team will continue to be on the ground as they have been for the past several years, added Mr Tharman, 63, who helms the PAP team and who led his slate in 2015 to win 79.3 per cent of the votes in Jurong GRC, the highest vote share nationwide.

The PAP team will continue to listen to residents in Jurong and engage them at the constituency level to make sure national policies and programmes help them, said one-term MP Rahayu Mahzam, 39 and a lawyer, who oversees the Bukit Batok East ward.

She also spoke in Malay about the PAP’s commitment to help Singaporeans who are facing challenges in their daily lives, highlighting programmes like the Kelas Matematika which is designed to help parents teach their children maths.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry and Foreign Affairs Tan Wu Meng, 45, who has been in charge of the Clementi ward since 2015, shared stories from residents, while new faces Shawn Huang, 37, and Xie Yao Quan, 35, both spoke in English and Mandarin.

Mr Huang touched on how Jurong residents can count on initiatives to lift them up from difficult circumstances, while Mr Xie spoke about the team’s commitment to helping the unemployed find jobs.

“We will provide you with all our support at the community level, to complement various schemes by the Government,” said Mr Xie.

CATCH MORE CONSTITUENCY POLITICAL BROADCASTS TODAY

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Their opponents from new opposition party Red Dot United (RDU) touched on similar themes.

Ms Michelle Lee, 43, said that if elected, their candidates will speak up for residents to make sure no one is excluded and that they are as best represented as possible.

“RDU champions more information, more choices, more equality of opportunity and help for the disadvantaged and the elderly,” said Ms Lee, the chairman of RDU.

She said the PAP does not have a winning formula for Singapore, and that the ruling party has been using policies that are unsustainable and harmful for Singaporeans to ensure its success, which is “not right”.

Ms Lee said Mr Tharman is just “one voice in the unchangeable machinery of the PAP” and that he would need to follow the “party line”.

Mr Nicholas Tang, 28, a newcomer to politics, said that RDU wants to help Singaporeans make their own decisions by giving them an option other than the Government.

During the broadcast, RDU secretary-general Ravi Philemon, 52, spoke about how RDU will push for better job-matching for Singaporeans and better upgrading programmes for public housing, among other issues, and said that Singapore needs better leaders.

“We need leaders who have the interests of the people at heart, not just to steer us through this storm, but to bring us to greater prosperity,” he said.

RDU’s Mr Alec Tok, 55, spoke in Mandarin about the party’s plans and Ms Liyana Dhamirah, 33, a new face that RDU is fielding, spoke in Malay about how Singaporeans need leaders who prioritise them.

KEBUN BARU SMC

While Kebun Baru has now been carved out from Nee Soon GRC as a single seat, it will join the Ang Mo Kio Town Council if the PAP is elected, said Mr Henry Kwek, 44, who is the incumbent MP for the area. This will ensure that residents are taken care of, he added.

Mr Kwek hopes to prioritise three things moving forward – expanding Kebun Baru’s job counselling centre, conducting more industry talks and networking sessions, and transforming Kebun Baru into the most dementia-friendly community in Singapore. Two out of five residents in Kebun Baru are Pioneer and Merdeka generation seniors.

Addressing residents, he said: “I am the man you can trust. I am here to serve you. I am here to listen to you… No problem is too big or small.”

His challenger, Mr Kumaran Pillai, 49, from the Progress Singapore Party, said that local issues are at the top of his agenda, including the need to upgrade infrastructure for the elderly population, and mosquito breeding in the landed estates due to the choked drainage system.

At the same time, he also hopes to speak up on policy issues, after hearing stories of hawkers who have been affected by the Covid-19 situation, or those who have been displaced from their jobs.

“The Government’s indecisiveness over the Covid-19 issue has cost us billions in economic loss, job losses and SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) owners losing their livelihoods completely,” said Mr Pillai.

“It is time for us to make a stand and change direction so that we can secure our future for our children and their children,” he added.

MACPHERSON SMC

Both candidates gunning for the single seat raised the issue of employment as an area they are seeking to help residents in.

The PAP candidate defending the seat, Ms Tin Pei Ling, 36, listed anecdotes of residents who have faced employment difficulties amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“What I saw during this pandemic has strengthened my resolve to help our Singaporeans and to be there for them,” she said.

Ms Tin, who is the chief executive of Business China, added that she also plans to build on environmental sustainability that will allow lower-income families to make use of clean energy.

Ms Tin was first elected as part of the Marine Parade GRC team in 2011, and when her ward was hived off as a single seat in 2015, she won a three-cornered fight for MacPherson with 65.6 per cent of the votes.

Meanwhile, her challenger, People’s Power Party (PPP) secretary-general Goh Meng Seng, 50, took issue with the Government’s policies on foreign talent.

“The liberal foreign talent policy has made companies unwilling to hire and groom our local workforce. They would rather employ foreign workers who are cheaper whenever possible,” he said.

“This will eventually create a vicious cycle of structural underemployment among Singaporeans,” said the principal consultant at market research and consultancy company Whiz Research and Consultancy.

Mr Goh also said the problems created by asset enhancement and lease decay on Housing Board flats have not been addressed.

These policy flaws exist because of a lack of opposition members in Parliament to provide more debate with the PAP, he added.

“The lack of such checks and balances has cost us dearly,” he said.

MARINE PARADE GRC

The focus of the PAP team in Marine Parade GRC has always been on people and how best to help them, said Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, 51.

While there are changes to the team, with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, 79, and Dr Fatimah Lateef, 54, replaced by Dr Tan See Leng, 55, and Mr Mohd Fahmi Aliman, 47, respectively, the team remains committed to serve the residents to the best of their ability, assured Mr Tan.

Incumbent Edwin Tong, 50, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, highlighted several upcoming projects including two new MRT stations, a polyclinic and Estate Upgrading Programmes for Siglap and Frankel private estates. He said he had spent several years lobbying the Government to rejuvenate and refresh Siglap and Frankel.

Mr Seah Kian Peng, 58, added that “while infrastructure is important, at the end of the day, it’s the people that matter”.

There are WeCare programmes to help the vulnerable and a new Caregiver Support Network will be rolled out in the coming weeks. The team will also be helping residents to upgrade themselves with new skills and securing better jobs.

Said Mr Tong: “I believe that building a better home is not just about the hardware… It’s about the people we live with. We should all not just live in a community, but as a community so that people of diverse races, cultures, backgrounds, can all come together as one.”

Meanwhile, the Workers’ Party team said they can build “a better Marine Parade, not just with infrastructure, but to invest in people so that initiatives can be ground-up, by Marine Parade residents, for Marine Parade residents”.

Lawyer Muhammad Fadli Mohammed Fawzi, 39, said the team wants to do more than just provide efficient municipal services. They want to build in Marine Parade a sense of community and belonging and for residents to feel that they matter.

Former Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, 55, who is contesting in his third election, said the PAP’s policies have led to an “overcrowded Singapore, depressed wages for many of us, and vast inequality” and he is concerned that people have not adapted fast enough to industry disruptions.

“Two out of three working Singaporeans do not have enough savings beyond six months. It is as if we are two different countries in one small island,” said Mr Yee.

Other WP candidates – Mr Ron Tan, 35, a senior assistant manager at the National University Health System Research Office, and businessman Muhammad Azhar Abdul Latip, 34 – also spoke about how the team has the experience and expertise to run a town council and are committed to serve.

Said Mr Yee: “Singapore needs MPs who can connect with the people, who care deeply for them. We have the right team to be your voice in Parliament and to manage this town well.”

Added their team member Nathaniel Koh, 36, an IT professional: “Like you, we are ordinary Singaporeans. We have been through hard times. We know what it’s like to fall and get back up.”

  • Additional reporting by Yuen Sin and Jean Iau

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