All three candidates contesting in Pioneer SMC took a trip down memory lane while laying out their plans for residents at the start of the fifth night of televised constituency political broadcasts yesterday.
With 24,672 voters, Pioneer is the only single-member constituency in this election with a three-cornered fight.
People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate Patrick Tay, 48, said Singaporeans are facing a “greater crisis” this time but can “overcome this mountain of a challenge”.
Speaking in English, he started off by recounting his time as a civil defence volunteer in the 1980s and being involved in two crises.
The first was the Hotel New World disaster in 1986 when he distributed food packets to those at the scene and saw the “importance of the community coming together, especially during a crisis, to help each other”.
The second was the Sars outbreak in 2003 when he helped “thousands of fellow Singaporeans from the affected industries and sectors undergo skills training” through a surrogate employer programme in the National Trades Union Congress.
“When the economy recovered, many of them went back to their work equipped with new certifications and new knowledge,” said Mr Tay, who is an assistant secretary-general in the labour movement contesting his third election.
Previously an MP in West Coast GRC, he assured Pioneer residents who face employment issues, require training to land a new job or who have legal challenges that they will get the help they need.
He also pledged to find innovative ways to connect residents and to make Pioneer a “vibrant and safe home for all to work, live and play in”.
The opposition candidate, Mr Lim Cher Hong, 42, from Progress Singapore Party (PSP), said Singapore should be very proud of its development into a First World country, thanks to the hard work of forefathers and those in the Pioneer and Merdeka generations.
While Singapore has “enjoyed many good years” since independence, he noted, the Republic was ranked 34th in the 2019 World Happiness report.
Speaking in English, he highlighted bread-and-butter concerns such as the increased cost of living, lack of job security and worries about retirement needs.
“We are worried how our children will cope in the future and if our parents will struggle in their old age,” he said, noting that Singapore’s “future is at stake here”.
“Do you want to continue to live with regrets for the next five years? Or choose the change that will deliver a better future?” he asked.
Mr Lim, who is an author and chartered financial consultant, said he hopes to address issues in a “transparent way” and “be held accountable for it”, even if it is a conversation that may not sit well with some people.
If elected, he said, he is committed to serving the constituency as a full-time MP to push for local issues that residents care about and to maintain high standards of estate cleanliness.
Mr Cheang Peng Wah, the only independent candidate in this general election, said the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had transformed Singapore from a “backwater” but there are “blindsided bugs” and “group-think viruses” that are plaguing the Government today.
Mr Cheang, who declined to give his age, asserted that it is not a “delusion” on his part to run in this election. As a citizen who had benefited from Mr Lee’s governance, he is responding to the call to serve by contesting, he said.
The business consultant said politics must serve the people and Parliament must have people with different life experiences to prevent “blinded group-think”. Among the changes that he hopes to bring about for Pioneer residents are MRT track sound barriers.
In a reference to retired veteran opposition politician Chiam See Tong and his wife Lina Chiam, he said: “When the Chiams are not around, Cheang must stand up and be counted.”
POTONG PASIR SMC
The two candidates contesting single-seat Potong Pasir underscored their commitment to make it a special town in their televised constituency political broadcasts (CPBs) yesterday evening, three days before the constituency’s voters, totalling 19,740, head to the polls.
People’s Action Party (PAP) incumbent Sitoh Yih Pin, 56, who is seeking a third term as the single-member constituency’s MP, reiterated the key message from his manifesto, which is to care for three generations of residents in Potong Pasir.
Mr Sitoh, who is facing a challenge from Singapore People’s Party (SPP) chairman Jose Raymond, said Potong Pasir has been “transformed” since he started working with its residents, after winning the stronghold of opposition stalwart Chiam See Tong in the 2011 election. Mr Chiam’s wife Lina stood in Potong Pasir that year and lost to Mr Sitoh by a narrow 114-vote margin. Mr Sitoh improved his showing in 2015, with 66.4 per cent of the vote against Mrs Chiam.
In his broadcast message to three generations of the estate’s residents, he urged the young to “dream big and pursue your passions”, and grow up in a neighbourhood “that is equipped with everything they need, from tuition lessons to holiday enrichment activities and many more”.
To the middle-aged residents, he gave this assurance: “Don’t worry! We will create ample programmes for you and your families. We will always be here for you.”
For the seniors, he had a sunny message: “Age well and live happily! I want our elderly to have their healthcare needs met and live fulfilling golden years.”
Mr Sitoh said his team has the capability and passion to improve Potong Pasir. Among the amenities he has promised residents in his five-year plan is a polyclinic and a new activity hub.
His opponent, Mr Raymond, who is contesting for the first time, said his “sole aim” when he started walking the ground in Potong Pasir 31/2 years ago was to help as many people as he could. “I did not ask for your vote but I asked to be your friend, because friends help each other out,” he said.
He also said this election is important as the electorate “could opt for status quo or look forward to a new dawn”, stressing that Singapore and Singaporeans are “best served through political competition”.
He said he has embarked on a more digital approach to reach out to residents.
CATCH MORE CONSTITUENCY POLITICAL BROADCASTS TODAY
Broadcasts for the following constituencies will be shown from 7pm.
• Tampines GRC
• Tanjong Pagar GRC
• West Coast GRC
• Yio Chu Kang SMC
• Yuhua SMC
Potong Pasir’s electoral boundaries were changed for the first time in more than three decades in the latest redrawing, bringing the total number of voters to 19,740.
PUNGGOL WEST SMC
Wooing young families and addressing cost of living concerns was a common theme for both candidates contesting in Punggol West SMC. The new single seat which has 26,579 electors was carved out of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.
PAP candidate Sun Xueling, a Senior Parliamentary Secretary, highlighted her efforts to push for affordable milk powder options, childcare subsidies and more government-supported childcare options.
Speaking about the disruptions brought on by Covid-19, Ms Sun, 40, said: “Many of you are concerned about job losses, changes to your way of life and uncertainties about our children’s future. I have set up an online jobs and legal clinic to help address your queries and also a local job placement service to help you with your job search.
“I know that the external environment is very stormy and you may feel depressed, your confidence dented. I assure you that I will work closely with the Government to identify opportunities for you,” she added.
Addressing constituents in English, Mandarin and Malay, Ms Sun said she would “continue to work closely with the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC team to continue to build and develop Punggol so that it is a valued home for you”.
Workers’ Party (WP) candidate Tan Chen Chen, who recently gave birth to her first child, said she hopes to help residents in Punggol West address their concerns, such as those on parking fees, road safety and primary school placement.
Speaking in English and Mandarin, Ms Tan, 38, a contracts administrator, said: “I am contesting in this election because I believe a government needs to be accountable to its people.
“In order to achieve this, we need to have a strong opposition in Parliament to question policies,” she added. Ms Tan, who is making her political debut in the general election, said she hoped to bring residents’ concerns to Parliament.
RADIN MAS SMC
The residents of Radin Mas will not be alone in going through the disruptions caused by Covid-19, said PAP candidate Melvin Yong.
“Your anxieties about the immediate future, your job security and your worries about whether our children can secure good jobs when they graduate, I hear you. Your concerns are my concerns too.”
The assistant secretary-general at the National Trades Union Congress said he will bring the support and resources of the labour movement to local community partners. “We will place our most experienced career coaches at our neighbourhood centres so that we can help you find a job during this challenging time. We will also bring training programmes closer to you, so that you can upskill and take on the jobs of tomorrow.”
Mr Yong, 48, who was an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, is contesting the single seat with 24,980 voters for the first time. He takes over from Minister of State Sam Tan, 61, who is stepping down.
While he acknowledged that he has “big shoes to fill”, Mr Yong said he has worked closely with Radin Mas residents in the last five years as chairman of Tanjong Pagar Town Council. “We have turned ideas for outdoor lifts, barrier-free access and sheltered linkways into reality. We have rejuvenated the estate through home upgrading and neighbourhood renewal programmes.”
He plans to create more green spaces and family-friendly amenities for residents, including smart lighting and solar panels to promote sustainable living.
Mr Yong’s opponent, the Reform Party’s (RP) Mr Kumar Appavoo, 51, did not turn up for the recording of the broadcast. In a statement, RP chairman Andy Zhu apologised to Radin Mas voters and said it was “an unfortunate event that has happened under unforeseen circumstances which resulted in us missing the recording”.
Mr Appavoo will instead give his personal broadcast on social media platforms, he added.
Mr Appavoo had told The Straits Times last Saturday that if elected, he plans to focus on the cost of living, job opportunities and municipal issues. A director in an oil and gas company, this is his second contest in the single seat, where he got 12.71 per cent of the vote in the 2015 General Election in a three-way race against Mr Tan and independent candidate Han Hui Hui.
When plans to redevelop the modest Sembawang Hot Spring were first mooted, the PAP team in charge of the GRC saw the need to preserve the rustic character of the area, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, 50, the anchor minister for the team.
They worked with government agencies to convert it into a public park, and Mr Ong personally insisted on a separate area in the park where residents can cook their own eggs. It has now been reshaped into a “charming, rustic place”, he said.
For every project that the team will manage in the future, from housing developments to the Woodlands Integrated Health Campus, the PAP team will “give it tender loving care, make sure the projects embody the characteristics of Sembawang GRC”, he pledged.
In his team are Mr Vikram Nair, 41, Dr Lim Wee Kiak, 51, Ms Poh Li San, 44, and Ms Mariam Jaafar, 43.
Speaking in Malay, Ms Mariam said the team will also work with schools and companies in the GRC to develop projects or internships for students to enhance their skills.
Ms Poh, who spoke in Mandarin, added that they will also try their best to help residents who have been financially hit by Covid-19.
Their opponents, the National Solidarity Party (NSP), promised to improve amenities and advocate for reforms in housing and employment policy if elected.
NSP secretary-general Spencer Ng, 40, who leads the team, said they will review and construct more barrier-free facilities for people with disabilities, as well as elder-friendly facilities.
Mr Ng also said they will set aside a portion of their MP allowance as seed funding in collaboration with local enterprises to help the constituency, such as to establish a fund to help the underprivileged.
Speaking in Mandarin, he criticised the Government for not handling the Covid-19 crisis as effectively as it had claimed to have, and acting irresponsibly by calling for an election now. There should be checks and balances in the system to hold the Government accountable, he said.
His running mates are Mr Ivan Yeo Tiong Boon, 72, Mr Sebastian Teo, 73, Mr Yadzeth Hairis, 57, and Mr Sathin Ravindran, 27.
Mr Sathin, who grew up in Sembawang, said he can relate to residents’ difficulties and be an advocate for them in areas such as education and social support.
As for the new Sengkang GRC, municipal issues like amenities were at the heart of the PAP team’s broadcast, while the WP team touched on national-level topics such as education and the economy.
The PAP team has promised to set up a new town council and introduce more amenities in the area if it is elected in Friday’s polls. “In this uncertain and even chaotic world, we want to assure you that the PAP is alongside to support and care for you,” said anchor minister and labour chief Ng Chee Meng, 51.
Recognising that jobs and livelihoods were some of the residents’ greatest concerns, he added that they had brought a jobs centre and fairs to Sengkang to help residents.
“Beyond securing your jobs and livelihoods, we want you and your children to have a good future, to have good opportunities to progress and live a good life in Sengkang.” Mr Ng said they plan to start a “Sengkang Together” movement to co-develop the town with its residents.
Also in the PAP slate are Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min, 50, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin, 41, and lawyer Raymond Lye, 54.
Mr Lye said they will also set up a new Sengkang Town Council, to better serve the municipal needs and help give the town its own identity.
“We will also improve on connectivity and integration within Sengkang, build more and better communal facilities like playgrounds, fitness corners, covered linkways, drop-off porches and the like. We will also pay special attention to our seniors, with more senior activity centres, barrier-free access routes and residents’ corners,” he added.
WP candidates called on Sengkang voters to envision a new future for Singapore, one with a more inclusive education system, better social safety net and more productive economy.
Lawyer He Ting Ru, 37, who is leading the WP team, believes all children must be given the chance to fulfil their potential. “We will do this by reducing class sizes, and developing a more inclusive education system. We must also have dedicated schemes to increase funding to less popular schools, and for universities and professions to widen access to students from all backgrounds,” said Ms He.
With a nod to caregivers such as her mother, she also called for policies that recognise unpaid labour and ensure that these workers have adequate safety nets, especially in their golden years.
Ms He is joined in Sengkang GRC by economics professor Jamus Lim, 44, equity research analyst Louis Chua Kheng Wee, 33, and social enterprise founder Raeesah Khan, 26.
Associate Professor Lim told voters the WP team would push for more neighbourhood shops in Sengkang. “We don’t just want more of the same: more covered walkways, more lift upgrades. We also want to tackle issues that truly matter to the people in Sengkang: relieving bottlenecks in childcare centres, dedicated paths for bicycles and PMDs, and more neighbourhood spaces,” he said, adding that they would do so with a new town council system.
He also said it is important that the Government promises jobs that Singaporeans want to take on, and which pay enough. “Too many of the promised jobs fail to meet our expectations, either because they require us to compete in a race to the bottom, or because they call for us to have skills that the educational system did not provide us.
“If elected, we will call for a re-examination of our nation’s economic model, to finally raise the productivity of our workers that has eluded us, and finally enable us to work not just hard, but also smart,” he added.
Sazali Abdul Aziz, Malavika Menon, Eddino Abdul Hadi, Yuen Sin and Toh Wen Li
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