EAST COAST GRC
Jobs and businesses were the hot topics for East Coast GRC last night, as both parties contesting the five-member constituency made their pitch to voters through televised broadcasts.
“We understand your anxiety about your jobs, and your families,” said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, 59, who helms the People’s Action Party (PAP) team.
He added that if elected, his team will work to keep Singaporeans in jobs, connect businesses with global opportunities and meet needs on the ground.
At the constituency level, this includes programmes to match mid-career workers with meaningful jobs and help young people get a good start to their careers despite the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“While the PAP is committed to create more job opportunities, traineeships and learning courses, there is no one size that fits all,” said one-term Fengshan MP Cheryl Chan, 44, whose single seat has been absorbed into East Coast GRC.
“I think we all need to have that resilient, adaptive mindset and to continue developing each of our own.”
At present, MPs also work with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the community, encouraging them to make use of available schemes to transform themselves and upskill their workers, added Ms Jessica Tan, 54, who oversees the Changi Simei ward.
The Workers’ Party (WP) team, led by lawyer Terence Tan, 49, called for “bold structural and fiscal reforms” to make local businesses and households financially self-reliant and the economy buoyant.
He called on the Government to reduce rentals for SMEs, consider employment allowances to encourage employers to keep workers on, and pay out cash grants to Singaporeans who have lost their jobs.
Elaborating on his team member’s point, Mr Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, 54, spoke about the WP’s redundancy insurance proposal, as well as its call for anti-discrimination laws to protect job seekers, as the job market becomes more competitive.
The team in blue includes Ms Nicole Seah, 33, Mr Dylan Ng, 44, and Mr Kenneth Foo, 43, all of whom have contested elections in previous years.
In their Mandarin speeches, Mr Foo made three proposals to help seniors cope with the rising cost of living, while Mr Ng addressed voters’ concerns over his team’s ability to manage the town council, should they win.
Whether the WP manages the town council directly or outsources this duty to a managing agent depends on whether such an agent is willing to put politics aside and focus on serving residents, Mr Ng said.
PAP new face Tan Kiat How, 43, touched on the topic of seniors in his speech. He said this group wishes to stay healthy and are worried about healthcare costs, with many anxious about keeping up with technology.
He pledged to enhance existing programmes to help seniors age well, and to pick up digital skills.
The PAP team also highlighted infrastructure developments in the group representation constituency, such as the upcoming Thomson-East Coast MRT line and residential developments in Bayshore.
Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, 54, said: “I entered politics because I firmly believe that we have a system that works – one that promises to give and deliver the best to every generation of Singaporeans.”
The WP’s Ms Seah said East Coast voters have recognised that the party is a “sensible and reasonable opposition”.
“We know that many of you will be facing a very difficult choice in the coming days,” she said. “We also hope that you would not want to see a super-majority in Parliament that goes unchecked. That is simply not the consequence we want for Singapore.”
Mr Terence Tan added that his party has fielded 21 candidates this year, all of whom are committed to “ensuring that Singapore rises, like a phoenix, from Covid’s ashes”.
“The Government does not have a monopoly of ideas,” he said. “A constructive and increased opposition presence in Parliament is all the more vital in these troubling times.”
CHUA CHU KANG GRC
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong thanked Singaporeans and healthcare workers for their understanding and perseverance throughout the Covid-19 outbreak.
“I know Covid-19 is on the minds of many people. In the past few months, we have been fighting this war together and supporting one another,” he said.
Mr Gan, 61, said he was heartened that many in Chua Chu Kang have also stepped forward to volunteer to look after and take care of those who are affected. “These selfless acts of volunteerism are really what make us different,” he added.
He also touched on the “many exciting projects” Chua Chu Kang residents can look forward to, such as the new Safra clubhouse which will be ready by 2022 and hawker centres that will be completed by 2026.
The broadcast also served as a platform for the two new faces in the People’s Action Party (PAP) team in the group representation constituency to introduce themselves to a wider audience.
Lawyer Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim, 39, spoke about growing up in Chua Chu Kang and initiatives to help vulnerable residents, while banker Don Wee, 43, said he believes in continuous learning and hopes to help students in the constituency secure better opportunities.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary Low Yen Ling, 45, rounded off the broadcast for her team, noting that the PAP has improved estates by adding many new facilities and making them senior-friendly and family-friendly.
“We have new plans and hopes for Chua Chu Kang GRC. It will be an eco-town of the future, connecting us to new train lines and also a transport hub,” she said. “This is where you and your children can continue to build your dreams and hopes.”
Meanwhile, the Progress Singapore Party team chose to focus on the PAP’s handling of broader national issues while positioning themselves as a “strong alternative voice”.
Mr Francis Yuen, 70, argued that the strong mandate the PAP is seeking does not necessarily make life better for Singaporeans.
“The PAP is clamouring for a strong mandate with the argument that they need it to fight the crisis. In effect they want a strong mandate to stifle dissent and continue to push for policies to suit their agenda,” he said.
CATCH MORE CONSTITUENCY POLITICAL BROADCASTS TODAY
Broadcasts for the following constituencies will be shown from 7pm.
• Jalan Besar GRC
• Jurong GRC
• Kebun Baru SMC
• MacPherson SMC
• Marine Parade GRC
“On the contrary, it is a strong alternative voice that is more important in today’s environment… No one party has all the answers and no one party has all the talent to fight this crisis,” he added.
Mr Yuen’s teammates Tan Meng Wah, 57, and Abdul Rahman Mohamad, 67, articulated the same message in Mandarin and Malay.
Mr Choo Shaun Ming, who at 23 is the youngest candidate in the 2020 General Election, cited Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in his concluding remarks.
The late Mr Lee had said in 1996 that there is a “glorious rainbow that beckons those with the spirit of adventure” among the young and the not-so-old in Singapore, exhorting these Singaporeans to “look at that horizon, follow that rainbow, go ride it”.
Mr Choo said: “When young people like myself look out into the horizon today, we see that the rainbow he spoke of doesn’t exist. We feel a sense of hopelessness and tend to look abroad for better work-life balance and better prospects. We cannot afford to lose our young people, and the talent they offer.”
The law undergraduate added that Singapore needs new ideas to create job opportunities and careers that people will find fulfilment in. “This can be achieved through robust policy debate, engaging industry experts and the use of deep AI (artificial intelligence) and analytics to match our talents with opportunity,” he said.
HOLLAND-BUKIT TIMAH GRC
The PAP team helmed by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan reiterated its focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following opening remarks by Dr Balakrishnan, 59, new face Edward Chia, 36, used his own experience to talk about the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The co-founder and managing director of Timbre Group said he believed in creating opportunities for others, referencing his setting up of the live music and dining social enterprise with his partner to give a boost to hawkers and musicians.
“SMEs create opportunities for stability and success for many Singaporeans,” he said.
“I understand how difficult this is, and I can truly empathise.”
Mr Christopher de Souza, 44, then emphasised the team’s partnership with residents “through thick and thin”, with the resulting “special bond” leading to initiatives during Covid-19 such as free food delivery for the needy.
He promised to work on making the GRC greener – a priority for residents – and matching residents with job opportunities during the economic downturn.
Senior Minister of State Sim Ann, 45, followed by giving residents a message of hope.
“We can build back better,” she said, “because we share a past… because between us there is trust.”
“I have never felt more energised,” she added, before Dr Balakrishnan rounded off the session by affirming: “You know us, you know what we stand for, you know we will do everything to support you.”
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) team facing them this year also began with the economy.
Mr Alfred Tan, 54, highlighted that he is a business owner with “years of management experience in international banking and industry”. While noting the importance of SMEs because they keep the economy “flexible and responsive”, he also talked about the courage to innovate.
“The knowledge economy will demand our people to question the status quo, to have the courage to test preconceived notions, and push existing boundaries,” he said.
This was followed by first-time candidate Min Cheong, 35, who spoke about job insecurity and the stress of making ends meet in “the most expensive (city) in the world”.
She said she wants to be elected because there is “excessive weight on power and status above more compassionate metrics” and because “the powers that be will not stand up for us and fight”.
Former SingFirst chief Tan Jee Say, 66, continued by saying that he had advocated for the creation of stable jobs since nine years ago, and said people should not be satisfied with short-term traineeships.
He said members of his team have “complementary skills and strengths” to serve residents.
Political scientist James Gomez, 55, then went on the attack against the PAP’s track record, saying it has mishandled the Covid-19 pandemic by changing its advisory on wearing masks and politicising the Covid-19 task force by putting themselves – instead of medical experts – front and centre. Dr Gomez said the SDP team could do a better job.
HONG KAH NORTH SMC
Residents in the West Extension of Hong Kah North can expect a new bus service connecting the area to Jurong East Interchange from July 26, said Dr Amy Khor, who is defending her single seat.
The Senior Minister of State for Health as well as the Environment and Water Resources said she has been working with the community over the past 18 years to improve the estate with new playgrounds, fitness hubs, transport services and other facilities.
A five-year EcoPlan was also launched recently, to promote sustainability, she added.
Dr Khor, 62, said she hopes to be able to work with residents of Hong Kah North again to develop a caring, cohesive and climate-friendly town.
Meanwhile, her challenger, Ms Gigene Wong from the Progress Singapore Party, recited the national pledge, and said that while Singapore has achieved prosperity and progress, there is a “lack of democratic (society), justice and equality”.
Ms Wong, 54, who was the chief executive of Gulf Oil China, said opportunities and jobs are not given to Singaporeans because the PAP Government is not challenged on transparency and accountability.
She added that Hong Kah North may be a small constituency, but should she win the single seat, this would send a “strong message” to the Government. “We need to find back our national pledge, the missing democratic, justice and (equality),” she said.
The Workers’ Party (WP) candidate defending the seat the party has held since 1991, Mr Dennis Tan, 49, said one more PAP MP will not make any difference in Parliament.
But as an opposition MP, he can, said Mr Tan, a shipping lawyer.
“(The PAP MP) cannot be your voice and vote against his party. But as a Workers’ Party MP, I can speak for you and where necessary, vote against any undesirable Bills or motions, as I have done in the last Parliament. The defeated PAP candidate will still remain as your grassroots adviser,” added the former Non-Constituency MP.
Mr Tan, who replaces WP stalwart Png Eng Huat, also said the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis has “left much to be desired” and there was a need for a balanced Parliament so that Singaporeans “will benefit from scrutiny of the uncertain PAP 4G leadership”.
In his speech, Mr Tan noted the ongoing upgrading programmes in Hougang, and pledged to ensure their completion if he was elected.
Addressing residents, he said: “Make your vote count, vote for the Workers’ Party, send me back to Parliament to speak up for you and your children.”
Meanwhile, the PAP’s candidate Lee Hong Chuang, 50, a senior IT manager, said he has fulfilled the promises he made in 2015.
Mr Lee was fielded in Hougang single-member constituency in 2015 and received 42.3 per cent of the votes against Mr Png of the WP.
The chairman of PAP’s Hougang branch said in the last six years, he has improved the lives of seniors in the estate through various care services and worked to improve the infrastructure and quality of life for residents.
“We have forged a caring and humane community together which has strengthened the kampung spirit of Hougang,” he said.
Mr Lee added that the Government has committed to creating more jobs in the wake of Covid-19, and he too will do the same by working with organisations to help residents transit into new jobs.
“I need you to entrust me with your vote to allow me to better serve this community and take care of your needs,” he said.
• Additional reporting by Charmaine Ng and Tan Tam Mei
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