SINGAPORE: Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic “has been tough on everyone”, and the crisis is far from over, but help is available for Ang Mo Kio residents — as it is for other Singaporeans — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday (Jul 3).
That was a point he made in the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) constituency political broadcast for Ang Mo Kio GRC, on the first evening of these broadcasts.
The Ang Mo Kio Town Council has given rebates to households and merchants to lighten the burden, he noted. Two community job fairs will also be held this month, at Cheng San and Yio Chu Kang community clubs (CCs) respectively.
“Jobs are our top priority ... If you’ve lost your job or lost income because of COVID-19, we have schemes to help you,” said Mr Lee, who was accompanied by Mr Darryl David, Mr Gan Thiam Poh and new faces Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin and Ms Ng Ling Ling.
Their opponents from the Reform Party (RP) were represented by Mr Charles Yeo and Ms Noraini Yunus. Among other things, Mr Yeo highlighted that Ang Mo Kio residents were being served by part-time Members of Parliament (MPs) to deal with issues like ageing public flats and rising cost of living.
The candidates spoke in English, Mandarin and Malay, and the PAP’s address was broadcast first.
PAP: TACKLING EFFECTS OF COVID-19
Speaking after Mr Lee, Ms Nadia recalled her experience during the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003, when she was still a student.
“My father was the sole breadwinner, and he’d worked in the same company for more than 30 years. It was devastating when companies could no longer keep their employees, my dad included,” she said.
“But my parents did everything they could to ensure that we continued our education.”
Noting that she has met Cheng San-Seletar residents since earlier this year alongside former MP Ang Hin Kee, Ms Nadia added that she launched home-based learning kits with her team to support students from similar backgrounds.
“Empowering every student to reach their potential — that’s a cause close to my heart. I’ve worked in youth development initiatives for the last 15 years.”
Speaking last, Ms Ng said she empathises with residents whose jobs and businesses have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Co-leading the development of social and financial resilience efforts in Jalan Kayu with outgoing MP Intan Azura Mokhtar, she recalled meeting a couple working in the tourism industry who both contracted COVID-19.
“As they have a young child, they were very worried. When they recovered, we helped them find contract jobs to tide themselves over,” she said.
“This is how families can be affected and how I’ll continue to help them with the volunteers in Jalan Kayu.”
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PAP: PROGRAMMES FOR A MATURE ESTATE
Mr David said his family were “amongst the first residents” to move into Ang Mo Kio in the 1970s and that he still lives in the area today.
It has since become a mature estate, he noted, and as flats and facilities age, the PAP team has launched programmes to enhance homes and the surroundings.
For example, the Home Improvement Programme has been rolled out over the last five years, said Mr David. More than 180 blocks of flats will have benefited from this by next year, he added.
He also noted that Teck Ghee CC reopened with upgrades last year, and Cheng San CC is “due for an upgrade soon”.
The “brand new” Fernvale CC - which was initially slated to be completed by this year - will also open next year with a childcare centre, hawker centre and wet market, said Mr David.
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The number of bus services has also increased and bus networks have been extended to private estates, he added. Cycling and walking networks are also being extended, and Lentor and Mayflower stations on the Thomson-East Coast MRT line will open soon.
Ms Ng said the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) also has “many good social and healthcare programmes today”, including charities like Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre, Thye Hua Kuan Moral Society and Sunlove Home.
“As Ang Mo Kio matures and its population ages, we’ll need more social and healthcare programmes,” added the former public servant at the Ministry of Health Office for Healthcare Transformation.
“On the GRC team, I’ll use my social service and healthcare transformation experience to develop new initiatives for healthy living and strong social support for our senior residents.”
In his speech, Mr Lee also said the PAP plans to form one town council covering the GRC and the Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) of Yio Chu Kang and Kebun Baru. He called on voters there to support their PAP candidates too.
“Let’s all work together to make Ang Mo Kio an ideal town in which to live, work and play.”
RP: PART-TIME MP AND HDB CONCERNS
Speaking after the PAP team, the Reform Party’s Mr Yeo said: “You deserve full-time MPs devoted to your interests. All of us in the Reform Party team, led by Kenneth Jeyaretnam, are well aware that our first and foremost duty is to you, our constituents, and that public service is an honour, not a right.”
Citing what residents have told him on his walkabouts — that they have not seen their MP or only “very sporadically” — Mr Yeo said this was “unsurprising”.
“The PAP parachutes in many backbenchers with heavy professional work commitments. Claims of dedication ring hollow unless one’s prepared to be a full-time MP,” he added.
“It’s a matter of common sense. If one’s to be engaged in the day with his work, he’ll have no energy after the end of the work day to fulfill his MP duties.”
He promised to organise more frequent Meet-the-People Sessions if his team is elected to represent Ang Mo Kio GRC.
“We will, all of us, make ourselves available to our constituents and respond to you with a sense of urgency and diligence. All legitimate questions that you direct us to ask in Parliament will in fact be asked.”
He also cited complaints from constituents about high service and conservancy charges.
“We’ll change this. I’m a practising lawyer, and I’ll carefully examine the wastefulness of projects proposed by the PAP which seem designed not to improve the lives of the residents but purely to provide contracts for its own sake,” he added.
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With ageing HDB flats in a mature estate, Mr Yeo said he has spotted staircase cracks and that “no doubt spalling concrete is an issue as well”. He said the Reform Party plans to address this, adding that HDB flats should be “affordable”.
“As the price of HDB flats increase, the PAP promise of being able to afford your own home rings hollow. The reality is that many elderly (people) may be evicted from their flat by the time their lease expires. And other residents will find themselves with virtually nothing at all to pass to their children after a lifetime of hard work,” he said.
“This is how the PAP creates austerity for the common man, but a good life for those who are its bootlickers. It makes a mockery of the PAP’s claim that your HDB flat will be an appreciating asset forever. We now know that at the end of the lease, its value returns to zero.”
RP: COST OF LIVING AND EMPLOYMENT
Cost of living is another issue constituents face, Mr Yeo said, adding that shopkeepers have shared that rental is high and that they find it difficult to do business “due to bureaucratic red tape”.
“This is wrong. Business has been hit hard by the pandemic, and that creates job losses and real hardship.”
Pledging to facilitate the development of small- to medium-sized enterprises, “which is the lifeblood of citizen welfare”, he said he will actively meet with resident stallholders to look into their commercial concerns.
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Lastly, he addressed concerns among parents whose children are about to enter the workforce and who have expressed “discontent” that their children have had to take up ad hoc jobs instead of permanent employment.
“Many of you here have children of school-going age or about to enter the workforce, and you’ve voiced your concern that the propagandistic education system, which is designed to be a tool of social control, doesn’t allow for critical thinking skills to be developed or for the skills required for employment,” he said.
“These aren’t issues unique to Ang Mo Kio. Thus all I’ll say is that we’ll actively campaign against educational elitism and the lie that every school is a good school — and for the legitimate duty of the Government to protect its citizens first and foremost in the area of employment.”
In closing in his English speech, Mr Yeo said he hoped his words do not sound “overly harsh”. “We can love Singapore and be diligent citizens, and at the same time, voice out our complaints.”
Inviting voters to visit the Reform Party website to see its policy proposals in detail, he added: “If you want a change for the better, please make sure to go out and vote on Polling Day.”
Editor's note: Mr Darryl David said during the broadcast that 180 flats would have benefited from the Home Improvement Programme by next year. He has since clarified that it should be 180 blocks of flats. This story has been corrected accordingly.