Singapore GE2020: Jobs, big projects and MP's role in focus on Day 4 of constituency broadcasts

Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC

Jobs and municipal issues were at the forefront of the constituency political broadcasts last evening by both the People’s Action Party (PAP) and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) teams contesting in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on the fourth day of the televised broadcasts that the PAP plans to implement a series of upgrading works that will significantly change the area in the next five years.

Mr Wong, 47, who anchors the four-person PAP team, said projects in the works include the revamp of the Singapore Turf Club into a lifestyle destination and redevelopment of the Sungei Kadut industrial estate, as well as a new polyclinic within Yew Tee.

“In five years, I assure you that we will be able to see significant changes on the ground,” he said.

He added that his team will help those whose jobs and incomes have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic to find new jobs and training places. Families of affected residents will also get additional help, he promised.

Urging voters to give the PAP the mandate to overcome the Covid-19 crisis, Mr Wong said: “Our survival and our future is on the line, so please consider your vote carefully,” he said.

Speaking in Malay and English, Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad, 45, said the PAP team is focused on making job and training opportunities more accessible to residents.

Two-term MP Alex Yam, 39, who spoke in Mandarin and English, cited other examples of upgrading projects in the works.

These include transforming town centres in various areas in Marsiling-Yew Tee.

New candidate Hany Soh, 33, a lawyer, said she wants to help residents know better their legal rights and where to seek help.

If elected, she will also help divorced parents and unwed single parents. “I will do more to help all of you – providing more pre-school and childcare spaces, promoting greater inter-generational bonding, and supporting all of you in your aspirations for your children,” said Ms Soh.

The rival SDP slate took aim at municipal issues in the constituency.

Business development strategist Benjamin Pwee, 53, said they have heard many complaints from residents, especially on maintenance of public housing facilities.

These include cleanliness issues, rat infestations and “unresponsive” PAP MPs. Mr Pwee said his team would focus more on helping residents with livelihood problems, rather than channelling resources to upgrading public facilities.

“We offer greater financial accountability, and greater focus on everyday livelihood. Give us a chance to represent you in Parliament, and to run your town council, and speak up for your interest,” he said.

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Bryan Lim, 43, an assistant director at a local hospital, said he will pay attention to upgrading two blocks of Housing Board flats in Marsiling, to drive home the point that the SDP has the welfare of constituents as its top priority.

Education consultant Damanhuri Abas, 49, speaking in Malay, said that while the Malay community has made great strides in education and other areas in the past two decades, there is a lack of leadership.

Account manager Khung Wai Yeen, 38, wants the Government to do more to ensure that Singaporeans are given priority in jobs as professionals, managers, executives and technicians.

“We at the SDP are open to accepting foreigners into our fold, but it should not be done at the expense of Singaporeans,” said Mr Khung. “We propose to establish a national job bank where companies must hire from. Only if they are not able to find someone with the skill sets in the national job bank are they able to hire foreigners.”

MARYMOUNT SMC

The new Marymount single seat will be managed by a single town council with the four-member Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC to ensure cost-effectiveness and high maintenance standards if the PAP wins, said Ms Gan Siow Huang, 45, the People’s Action Party candidate contesting the seat.

The single seat with 23,444 voters was carved out of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC this year.

Ms Gan, a former brigadier-general in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and current deputy chief executive of the National Trades Union Congress’ Employment and Employability Institute, said she is joining politics so that she can “give back to the community”.

The career woman with elderly parents and three children believes she can also draw on her experience gained in the SAF – especially in leading and taking care of people – to serve Marymount residents well.

She noted that many businesses have fallen upon hard times and the number of jobless people will rise. “My first priority will be to help residents who are searching for job opportunities and protect their livelihoods and families,” she said.

Her opponent, Dr Ang Yong Guan, 65, from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), spoke on the well-being of voters and criticised the Government for “holding an election to get a fresh mandate during this Covid-19 pandemic”. “Post-Covid-19 Singapore requires a rethink,” he said, calling for “bolder and more divergent thinking” as it can no longer be a “one-size-fits-all or all yes-men approach”.

He reiterated his message that 32 opposition MPs are required in Parliament “to deny PAP its two-thirds majority”. He also pointed out that the recent move to trace Singaporeans “electronically… is causing so much unease”, and that the incumbent is “making use of the law such as Pofma to curtail the freedom of its people”. He was referring to the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act.

Drawing on his experience as a psychiatrist, the former army colonel added, he would be able to scrutinise existing and future policies that have direct psychological impact on people’s lives.

“Singaporeans should be happy and not just wealthy,” he said.

MOUNTBATTEN SMC

PAP incumbent Lim Biow Chuan, who is defending the single seat with 24,267 voters for a third term, said many of the residents have become “almost family”, after having served in the constituency for the past 14 years.

Before going solo in 2011 when Mountbatten was hived off as a single-member constituency, he had been part of the team in Marine Parade GRC.

He has been out and about meeting and interacting with residents at community events and food centres and during house visits, and walking around the estate on his own as he believes engagement and outreach is a big part of an MP’s role.

“The purpose of making myself available is to hear your views, to understand your concerns, and to hear your aspirations,” said the 57-year-old in his message to his electorate, noting that he has reflected residents’ feedback to the Government to make Mountbatten a better place. He cited how he got the Land Transport Authority to build two lifts for the pedestrian overhead bridge in Jalan Batu, so seniors can cross the road safely. He also asked the authority to improve the safety of the Marine Parade roundabout, among other things.

“An MP must be willing to listen to the residents,” he stressed.

Challenging Mr Lim for the seat is Mr Sivakumaran Chellappa, 57, of Peoples Voice, a private educator and first-time candidate.

He said that while an MP should represent the interests of the people to the Government, that is not the case in reality.

“Very often, it is the other way around – the Government’s interest is forced upon the people,” he said, citing “job-related and population-related matters”.

Having analysed the people’s plight with his fellow party members, he said they have found that there are areas that need to be “seriously addressed”.

“We are determined to point out the flaws and the misconceived notions, in the interest of the people, and have them corrected,” he said.

NEE SOON GRC

Nee Soon GRC has many projects in the pipeline, from a new polyclinic to a community farm, but still retains its kampung spirit, the PAP team defending it said.

At least 15 major projects will be completed in the next five years, and existing facilities upgraded, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, who helms the PAP’s five-member team. These, he said, include Yishun Stadium, a swimming pool and the new HomeTeamNS Khatib clubhouse.

Mr Shanmugam, 61, who spoke in English and Tamil, called Yishun the “healthcare hub” of the north of Singapore, with two major hospitals, a large polyclinic – with another on the way – and the Wellness Kampungs, a network of wellness centres and adjacent eldercare facilities in the area.

It is also Singapore’s first dementia-friendly town, he said. “We will continue to work on making healthcare easily available to all of you,” he added.

Also on the PAP slate are Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, 52, Mr Louis Ng, 41, and two new faces, charity founder Carrie Tan, 38, and banker Derrick Goh, 51.

Mr Ng, who was chairman of Nee Soon Town Council, said there are plans for an upcoming swings park, a fitness park and a heritage garden. He also intends to build the largest community farm in the heartland, which he hopes can grow food for Nee Soon East residents and “bring back the good old farming days where families can come together to bond and to farm.”

He added that he plans to continue speaking up in Parliament about tackling inequality and climate change, among other issues.

Their opponents, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), made a broader call to protect jobs for Singaporeans and keep the cost of living down. The PSP team also focused on the issue of housing.

Party treasurer Sri Nallakaruppan, 56, called for strict work pass quotas and a freeze on goods and services tax (GST) increases, as well as GST exemption for basic necessities. He added that housing for young couples should be made more affordable and that all Housing Board flat owners should be given en bloc redevelopment rights, so that they can upgrade to new homes. These are currently available only to residents in older estates under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme.

He also called for the Central Provident Fund withdrawal limit at age 55 to be raised from $5,000 to $50,000 for those who are unable to meet the minimum retirement sum, and that people be allowed to sell their en bloc redevelopment rights and use the funds to top-up their retirement accounts.

“Many Singaporeans have fallen through the cracks and are having great difficulties putting food on the table,” he noted, suggesting that ComCare benefits be doubled from $500 to $1,000.

The PSP team is led by customer service manager Damien Tay, 51, and also includes media consultant Bradley Bowyer, 53; adult educator Kala Manickam, 52; and IT project manager Taufik Supan, 40.

Ms Manickam said in Tamil: “We want to give people freedom from a one-party system. In this election we seek a mandate from our dear Singaporeans.”

PASIR RIS-PUNGGOL GRC

Job opportunities also figured high in the broadcasts of all three parties contesting the five-member Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, anchor minister for the PAP team, highlighted programmes both at the national and local levels to support Singaporean families, businesses and the self-employed.

“We have our own local programmes to help every vulnerable family. Through good times and difficult times, we have been here with you,” he said.

He said future plans for the GRC will see four MRT stations connecting Pasir-Ris and Punggol town, and the new Punggol Digital District which “will bring education and job opportunities closer to home”.

Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary, 47, who is in the five-member slate, added that Pasir Ris is undergoing an extensive rejuvenation exercise, and “Punggol is still growing and developing”.

The other team members are three new faces – Mr Mohamed Sharael Taha, 39; Ms Yeo Wan Ling, 44; and Mr Desmond Tan Kok Ming, 50.

Speaking in English and Malay, Mr Sharael, an aerospace engineer, lauded the Singaporean spirit in Pasir Ris-Punggol, saying he wants to work together with residents to “build a stronger community”.

Ms Yeo, a social entrepreneur, said she will seek to create opportunities for the elderly, while Mr Tan, a former People’s Association chief executive, said that “while politics is new to him, serving and helping others is not”.

The opposition Peoples Voice candidates touched on competition for jobs due to rising numbers of foreigners, assistance for the elderly, and the need for better transport amenities. “Peoples Voice is a new party, but we are not a stupid, irresponsible or a troublemaker party,” said Mr Jireh Lim Kay Cheow, 61.

Mr Gilbert Goh, 59, a career counsellor, noted: “The current crisis is made worse by the high influx of foreigners in our midst as one out of three workers now in Singapore is a foreigner.”

Mr Prabu Ramachandran, 32, a business financial consultant, touched on transport links in the estate. Ms Vigneswari V. Ramachandran, 38, a pre-school educator, advocated free primary and secondary education, while freelance economics lecturer Mohamed Nassir Ismail, 63, said he is concerned about the rising cost of living.

The Singapore Democratic Aliiance (SDA), which is also contesting in the constituency with 166,587 voters, raised employment and elderly care as its key concerns. SDA chairman Desmond Lim Bak Chuan, 53, said in Mandarin that the party will press for stricter hiring of foreigners to ensure that Singaporeans have priority for choice jobs, among other among key areas in its manifesto.

The SDA candidates come from a diverse spectrum, from an engineer to a chief executive of an education group, he said. “The SDA has stuck around Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC after each election and served residents tirelessly,” said Mr Lim.

Mr Harminder Pal Singh, 48, said the SDA will ask for the return of CPF money in full, an extra 1 per cent of gross domestic product to help poorer families and tighter controls on immigration, and oppose “irresponsible and extravagant government projects”.

Mr Abu Mohamed, 69, who spoke in Malay, also pointed to competition from foreign talent as the root of the employment problems.

The SDA team includes two new faces – operations manager Kelvin Ong, 34, who questioned the sufficiency of retirement schemes and CPF payouts, and electrical engineer Kuswadi Atnawi, 57, who said the SDA will voice the concerns of the public in Parliament.

They said they are “ordinary citizens” with “the heart to serve the people”.

CATCH MORE CONSTITUENCY POLITICAL BROADCASTS TODAY

Broadcasts for the following constituencies will be shown from 7pm.

• Pioneer SMC

• Potong Pasir SMC

• Punggol West SMC

• Radin Mas SMC

• Sembawang GRC

• Sengkang GRC

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