GE2020: Important to listen to concerns ‘face to face’, bring government schemes to the ground: Desmond Lee
SINGAPORE: As a new candidate in West Coast GRC, it is “very important” to listen to the concerns of the people and “to do so face-to-face” no matter how many years of experience one may have as a Member of Parliament, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee on Saturday (Jul 4).
Mr Lee, along with fellow People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate Ang Wei Neng, had left Jurong GRC to stand in West Coast this General Election. The two will contest alongside West Coast incumbents Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran and Ms Foo Mee Har, as well as new face Rachel Ong.
They are up against a Progress Singapore Party (PSP) team led by Dr Tan Cheng Bock, a former Ayer Rajah MP when he was with the PAP.
Mr Lee said he has been campaigning in Boon Lay by visiting families door-to-door and walking in the community with a small group of volunteers.
“It is one thing to walk around 10 events. It's another thing to spend time door-to-door allowing people to open up their hearts to you," he told reporters after completing a walkabout at Boon Lay Place Food Village with the West Coast PAP team on Saturday morning.
Noting that he is “not entirely new” to Jurong West after representing the Jurong Spring ward in Jurong GRC for more than eight years, Mr Lee said: “Our mission, front and centre, our most immediate mission if elected, is to bring government schemes to the ground. To ensure that the schemes that the Government enacted to help citizens at this time of crisis, reach the families who need the help.”
Residents have shared their concerns with him - asking for help to apply for the relevant schemes, concerns about family who are overseas, and getting the rental rebates from their landlords - Mr Lee said.
“And so, we campaign by helping people solve their difficulties. And going forward, if elected, that will continue to be the posture that we take.”
Mr Iswaran said Mr Lee has “devoted significant attention” to Boon Lay. Mr Lee is replacing former MP Patrick Tay in the Boon Lay ward of West Coast GRC. Mr Tay will contest in Pioneer SMC for the upcoming General Election.
“I think much of the experience and knowledge he brings will be very relevant for the residents of Boon Lay in particular, but actually, for all our residents. Because we have a demographic that is mainly working class people, and they are concerned about the important bread and butter issues,” said Mr Iswaran.
“They are concerned with the impact of COVID on jobs and livelihoods. And we are working on that at the national level and at the local level.”
Noting that the PAP’s candidates for West Coast GRC will work as a team, Mr Lee said: “We bring our experience to help the team look after residents. (From) MSF and MND, I’d like to bring those skill sets to help the residents not just in Boon Lay but all of West Coast.”
Pointing to the SG Cares community network that he started, which is modelled after a local initiative in Jurong Spring, Mr Lee said he plans to strengthen it in Boon Lay and all over Singapore.
“That idea that by coming together and coordinating and sharing information and working together, we can help to tackle inequality by rolling up our sleeves and solving it practically family by family,” he added.
Responding to questions about what areas of West Coast’s social safety network need to be improved on, Mr Lee said that different agencies focus on different areas, including mental health, disability, housing and financial assistance.
“But they're focused on the problem. I think it's important to look at families as a whole, to look at the individual as a whole, understand what are the complex array of issues, often interlocking, that need to be resolved in order for the family to find relief for them to be able to take ownership of their lives, to be able to stand on their own two feet," he added.
“There are some people who might suggest broad slogans that may be able to solve inequality, but if you speak to social services, social workers and professionals every family faces a different set of issues," he said.
“And by understanding what the strengths and assets (are), and also the problems that they face, we’ll be able to better harness the collective strength of the community, as well as government agencies to tackle difficulties they face one by one in order to enable them to stand on their feet.”
On other matters, Mr Lee said he is “excited” to bring the 1 million trees movement to the constituency.
“We can seek to find the cure or vaccine for COVID. But many of our friends in environmental circles will tell you, there is no vaccination for climate change, and it will hit us hard," he said.
More than 100,000 trees will be planted in West Coast, including the industrial areas, and Mr Lee plans for families and enterprises to be involved with the tree planting.
“As you know the industrial belt are some of the warmest areas in Singapore. I think we can really make a difference by planting trees and getting industry to have a stake and partnership in doing it," he said.