SINGAPORE: Flanked by party bigwigs on a constituency walkabout on Saturday (Apr 30), Mr Murali Pillai, the People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election, has maintained that he will be his own man.
Mr Murali was responding to a charge by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) that he would be a less effective Member of Parliament (MP) because he will be constrained by the Party Whip in Parliament.
“For me, being in politics is not an occupation, it’s a cause. So why should I muzzle myself? It does not make any sense at all. I will say, I will push, whatever that is necessary to serve the legitimate interests of Bukit Batok residents, or for that matter, Singaporeans,” he said.
Of the 101 seats in Parliament, 82 are PAP MPs, six are elected opposition MPs, three are Non-Constituency MPs, and nine are Nominated MPs. The seat of Bukit Batok, which is currently being contested, was vacated by former MP David Ong, after he resigned due to an alleged extra-marital affair came to light.
Speaking to the press after the walkabout, Mr Murali said he appreciates that PAP Secretary-General and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and second Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam turned up to canvass votes for him. However, he will have to win the election on his own strength.
“I’m appreciative that they are here, and I’m really appreciative that they are supporting me in a big way, but at the end of the day, it’s me. I have to reach out to Bukit Batok residents, convince them that the plans that I have for them are good for them, and get their buy-in. That’s very critical,” he said.
He also reiterated his stand that being a full-time MP – a pledge made by his opponent, SDP party chief Chee Soon Juan – does not necessarily make a better MP.
“Taking care of our Bukit Batok residents is not just one person’s job, even though you may be working full time. You need a team to take care of the town council; you need a team to take care of the residents’ concerns, to walk the ground, to find out what really is happening on the ground," he explained.
"This is a team effort, not just volunteers, not just town council staff, but also community partners,” he said, adding that this is the approach he will take if he is elected.
On whether the issue of race could affect his prospects at the ballot box, Mr Murali said: "Issues of race have been with our society for a while. But ultimately, I am confident that if I can show to our Bukit Batok people that I am sincerely interested to solve their issues, I can overcome the language issue, the race issue, together with my committed group of volunteers."
Noting that the “by-election effect is real”, Mr Murali stressed that he is taking the election “very seriously” and is fighting as hard as he can “to win the hearts and minds of Bukit Batok residents”.