GE2020: In Aljunied GRC broadcast, WP highlights role as check and balance, PAP lays out help schemes
SINGAPORE: The Workers’ Party (WP) and the People’s Action Party (PAP) delivered their constituency political broadcasts for the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) on Friday (Jul 3), in the first of a series this General Election.
As the incumbents, the five-member WP team spoke first – party chief Pritam Singh, Mr Gerald Giam and Mr Leon Perera delivered their speeches in English, while Mr Faisal Manap and Ms Sylvia Lim spoke in Malay and Mandarin respectively.
For the PAP challengers, Mr Victor Lye and Mr Chua Eng Leong spoke in English, while Ms Chan Hui Yuh and Mr Alex Yeo spoke in both Mandarin and English, and Mr Shamsul Kamar in Malay and English.
WP: “WE ASK TOUGH QUESTIONS ON YOUR BEHALF”
The WP team’s speeches focused on two broad points of appeal to Aljunied voters: To vote in MPs who would hold the PAP Government accountable, and its track record on the ground of running the town council.
Noting that all five members of the team have parliamentary experience – including Mr Giam and Mr Perera as former Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) – Mr Singh pointed out that they had “asked tough questions” of the Government.
The WP's MPs have been “rational and responsible”, he said, supporting the Government’s agenda when it is “on the right track” and opposing it only when we find the direction is not in the national interest.
“If you vote for a PAP team into Aljunied GRC, your new MPs will have to support the agenda of their party, and they may even need to watch what they say in order not to fall out of favour with their party leadership,” he said.
This will not strengthen Parliament as a check on the Government, he added.
At the town council level, Mr Singh said services in the wards that the WP manages under the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) are functioning, while renewal and improvement works have been ongoing.
He noted that the AHTC’s financial position is “healthy”, with the town council steadily building up its operating fund position since the current term started in late 2015.
“The latest audited figure recorded an accumulated surplus of S$7.9 million - more than double the accumulated surplus when we took over from the previous Aljunied Town Council in 2011.”
AHTC’s financial statements were also given a clean and unqualified opinion last year, while the Ministry of National Development graded AHTC’s corporate governance with a “green” banding, Mr Singh added.
Recalling the 2015 polls as “a close call” with the WP edging out the PAP team by just 2,626 votes, he said: “We have worked hard to earn your trust, sometimes under difficult circumstances. For those who feel that we have not met your expectations, we seek your understanding and promise to do better.
“Now, more than ever, your vote is essential to chart the kind of political system Singapore should have.”
In his speech, Mr Giam took aim at the NCMP scheme by noting that the scheme, which was designed to ensure a minimum number of opposition parliamentarians even if they are not elected, has its limitations.
“Without constituents to serve and a town to manage, it’s hard to establish a base,” he said, citing his experience as a NCMP between 2011 and 2015.
He said he has been covering the duties of former Aljunied GRC MP Low Thia Khiang for the past few months. “This has allowed me to walk the ground, familiarise myself with the constituency, and get to know many residents, in ways I could not as an NCMP,” he added.
“PAP keeps saying there’s no need to vote for the opposition as the NCMP scheme ensures your voice in Parliament. Don’t be swayed by this argument,” he urged voters.
Mr Perera, who was an NCMP in the 13th Parliament, added that “the voices of NCMPs can be ignored as they don’t carry the full mandate of the people”. However, the voices of fully elected opposition MPs cannot be ignored by the PAP.
He cited how WP MPs had spoken up to hold the Government to account on issues like spending on foreign student scholarships, and proposed alternative policies on big issues like public transport, NS safety, and Redundancy Insurance.
He spoke about how the PAP won 70 per cent of the votes or more in 2001 and 2015 – results that nearly wiped out alternative parties from all fully elected seats. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, “this could happen again” in GE2020, he added.
“But by voting for the Workers’ Party you will get constructive, responsible MPs who work hard in Parliament, while on the ground you’ll benefit from our experience in running the town council as well as the support of the (People’s Association), with the losing PAP candidate as grassroots advisor.
“The PA will continue to run activities, events and services, as has happened in Aljunied and Hougang since 2011,” he said.
PAP: “IT’S TIME, BRING US HOME”
In contrast, the PAP team’s speeches centred mainly on what they had done on the ground in Aljunied, and their plans to help residents through the difficulties in a COVID-19 world.
“Aljunied is yours, not somebody’s political hostage. It should be about your lives, your jobs and our future,” said Mr Lye, as he repeated the team’s rallying call of: “It’s time. Bring us home.”
Mr Lye – who was part of the PAP’s Aljunied team during the 2015 General Election – acknowledged that it is “not easy to serve in Aljunied” but that his team had chosen to do so, and that they had been “tested by adversity”.
Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about tumultuous times, with jobs and livelihoods at stake, he said.
“Though (we are) not your MPs, many of you reached out to us for help,” he said, citing an example of how he had received an email from a student whose father was out of work, and she needed pocket money.
Mr Lye said his team will start a pocket money fund for disadvantaged children in Aljunied, as well as set up Jobs and Livelihoods Centres across the constituency.
“We need the whole of Singapore in this tumultuous time to come together as a national effort, led by the PAP to steer us through the troubled waters,” he said. “Aljunied, please join this effort.”
In her speech, first-time candidate Ms Chan also outlined initiatives that the PAP team has in mind to help residents in Aljunied.
Noting that costs for essential services like caregivers and tuition can be high, Ms Chan said her team can get help from its supporters and Merchants Associations to support the community.
“We can harness the power of negotiation as a GRC to get the best prices for our essential goods and services. So we can get the best tutors for the best price so you pay less.”
The PAP team will also start a local fund for residents to tap, she said. This will be available even for residents living in private estates, as long as their income levels meet the lower threshold set.
“Our help schemes will be based on trust and not on rules that make it difficult for you to get help when you need it,” she said.
Mr Chua focused on what the PAP team in Aljunied has done for residents, with many new facilities added in the last 5 years.
“Our infrastructure has improved, as we continue to engage the Government on your behalf and provide necessary ground feedback,” he said, adding that the team had fought “hard” for major projects such as a new polyclinic, a community hospital and four MRT stations on the upcoming Cross-Island Line.
Mr Chua, who was also part of the PAP’s 2015 team in Aljunied, said the upgrading of neighbourhoods and parks will be completed in the next five years.
“These projects require a substantial amount of funds, but we will work hard to find a way, even in this difficult COVID-19 period to raise the funds for you," he said.
“With my 20 years of proven track record in finance, we will be fair and conduct our operations with integrity, and better manage public funds.
“Our vision is for a caring community and a vote for us, is a vote for change.”
New candidate Alex Yeo, who was last to speak, also recounted how the team continued to work the ground in Aljunied despite losing the elections.
He recounted how in 2017, he had worked with the team to revamp and relaunch a grocery distribution programme after observing some of the beneficiaries giving away groceries they had collected.
“I asked an elderly beneficiary why she did so. She said that it was too heavy and there were some items that her family would not consume. We thought we could do more, and we did,” he said, noting that the GEMS Programme was launched as a result.
“We raised funds so that we can purchase items based on feedback, giving beneficiaries what they need. We galvanise our volunteers and we now deliver by hand to each beneficiary household to their doorstep,” he added.
Mr Yeo said these experiences have taught the team to “always listen” and “go the extra mile”.
“At this election, our message is a very simple one. We want to do more. More importantly, we want to do more with you, for you.”
WP made history in 2011 by wresting the five-member GRC from the ruling PAP. The opposition party held on to the constituency at the 2015 polls, but with a narrower vote margin of 50.96 per cent.
For this election, analysts are expecting a close tussle again, especially as WP stalwarts – former party chief Low Thia Khiang and Mr Chen Show Mao - have made way for younger representatives from the party.
This election, about 151,000 voters are eligible to vote in Aljunied GRC.