SINGAPORE: Mr Murali Pillai, the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election, on Tuesday (April 26) unveiled his manifesto alongside plans to focus his campaign on the constituency's elderly.
One of these is a health cooperative run by doctors and nurses, which would help families reduce the cost of consumables like milk, vitamin supplements and more, Mr Murali said.
He added that this would serve to help the sandwiched class, as the lower income already have grants to aid them in this area.
Mr Murali said a health cooperative would also increase the "medical literacy" of citizens and teach them how to prevent being "saddled" with illnesses like osteoporosis.
As part of his "special emphasis on the elderly living alone" in Bukit Batok, Mr Murali added that he hopes to introduce an "emergency button scheme".
"The elderly who are facing a calamity can press a button and raise the help of neighbours or community volunteers to attend to their needs, and hopefully save them from whatever emergency they may be facing," he said.
IMPROVING SOCIAL, PHYSICAL MOBILITY
Mr Murali said that improving social mobility of Bukit Batok's residents would also be an area of focus for him. "Bukit Batok has a strong pool of volunteers who are well-educated professionals, who can inspire children from low-income families to aim high to succeed in life," he said.
Asked if existing social programmes in Bukit Batok would continue if he was not elected, Mr Murali said: "Whether the programmes continue or not depend on the MP which the residents choose."
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who was also at the press conference, explained that it depends on “strong” volunteers base in Bukit Batok, on whether they want to carry on with these social programmes. “They will have to decide whether they carry on with the programmes. Are they able to work together, get resources? Is there someone there to help them get resources and keep it going?”
In his manifesto released on the same day, Mr Murali revealed that his plans for the constituency also include home and neighborhood improvement works; higher adoption of the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme; enhanced barrier-free access; three-generation fitness parks; an innovative sensory park at Bukit Batok Avenue 8; more sheltered walkways to improve connectivity, as well as sheltered overhead bridges to Jurong East.
MURALI'S BIGGEST ASSET IS HIS PERSONALITY: GRACE FU
Mr Murali was again asked about the racial element, as well as by-election effect in the coming polls, and responded by stating: "I'm Indian, but I'm also Singaporean. The by-election effect is real, but I'll fight for every vote."
Also speaking at the press conference was Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu. She said that Mr Murali has done very well in Aljunied - particularly in Paya Lebar division, where 84 percent of the voters are Chinese. “For him to have a good result in a predominantly Chinese (division) – by far above the national average, I think that is testament of his ability to cross the language barrier, and reach out to the Chinese constituents,” she said.
She added that to her, Mr Murali’s biggest asset is his sincerity, which is shared by his volunteers and activists. “They know he is a sincere person, and there are there to support him willingly and fully,” she said. “This has been very helpful because when he needs to cross the language boundary to reach out to the Chinese voters, they have always been there to help him.”
Mr Tharman also explained why Mr Murali would be the type of MP that he liked. “I have been struck by my conversations with him that he is not merely satisfied with what the Government is doing. In each area he spoke about - jobs, elderly, social mobility - he wants more to be done and he want policy adjustments. On jobs, he spoke on fair hiring, tightening employment pass criteria, on elderly, on enhancing Eldershield payouts … As an MP in Parliament, this is the sort of MP I really like. Someone who is scrutinising policies, critical where he needs to be and proposing enhancements and improvements in a thoughtful way. "
"PUZZLED" BY SDP: THARMAN
The Deputy Prime Minister also said he was "puzzled" by recent comments made by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on Sunday.
"The SDP is not new to Bukit Batok. They contested in the last General Election. They were on the ground quite early. They have actually had time to know the constituency, to listen to people, consult people and have some idea of the plans that they could develop, or even have plans that are already developed," said Mr Tharman.
"But if they need more time, just say so. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
"There's no need for all this bluster. There's no need to begrudge the PAP for having already done its work in consulting residents and making plans," Mr Tharman said.
He was referring to an SDP statement on Sunday, where it said that it "sees the need to consult the residents before committing so much of their own and other taxpayers’ money into such a project." This was after Mr Murali unveiled improvement plans that will reportedly cost S$1.9 million.
Mr Tharman added that the town council started its consultations on the latest Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) "several months ago" in response to residents' feedback.
He noted that Bukit Batok has had a "lion's share" of NRPs with five of the 15 NRPs rolled out by the Jurong-Clementi Town Council there.
"The reason is because it is a more mature estate. We have assessed that their needs are larger, and we have, in fairness, dedicated resources, put them on highest priority when we applied for the Government funding," said Mr Tharman.
He also noted that if SDP wins the by-election, it will have a town council for a single constituency, whereas if the PAP takes the seat, Bukit Batok would still be under the purview of the Jurong-Clementi Town Council, which has a "decent track record" of implementing NRPs, Mr Tharman said. Residents would have to judge who would be able to roll out plans for Bukit Batok more effectively, he stated.