Saturday, 5 September 2015

GE2015 Campaign Day 4: Parties shift focus back to national issues

PM Lee puts town council spat in wider context, as rallies touch on issues from CPF to immigration
By Rachel Chang, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

Venturing into opposition-held Aljunied GRC last night (Sept 4), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spelt out his party's plans for the area, and the country, as part of his pitch to voters there.

"Things will work again!": PM Lee Hsien Loong on why Aljunied residents should vote for the People's Action Party. #GE2015LIVE UPDATES: WATCH LIVE:
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Friday, September 4, 2015

Speaking at a rally in the GRC to show the ruling People's Action Party's support for the five candidates it has sent to take on the Workers' Party leadership in the polls, Mr Lee said:

"When we ask you to vote for the PAP, I'm telling you not just that we will look after your town council well, but also that we will look after Singapore well. Because we intend to form the next government, and we intend to take Singapore forward."

He gave a glimpse of the future in Aljunied, noting that the Paya Lebar Airbase occupies a large chunk of the constituency. When the airbase site is moved to Changi after 2030, some 800ha of land will be freed up for homes, offices, green spaces and other developments, he said.

"But you need a PAP government to do that," he said.

After several days of exchanges between the Government and WP leaders over the financial management of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), Mr Lee sought to put the issue in a wider context last night.

He noted that the progress that Singapore has made over 50 years could be demolished very quickly in a constituency.

"It's many years' work, decades of work by good men and women working with you, who made this progress. But it doesn't take long to demolish it, to waste it away."

Over the decades, PAP MPs had transformed the constituency and made it "better and better, year by year". "They also ran the town council well, good service to you, financially sound," he said. "It broke even (and) built up its reserves."

When the WP won the constituency in 2011, the PAP handed it a "working town council" with a surplus, he said. "But unfortunately for the last four years, things haven't gone well at all."

He called on voters in the GRC to back his party's team to "put things right" in Aljunied, before moving on to addressing other issues, including the Central Provident Fund (CPF) scheme.

Fot its part, the WP said that it had "said enough" on the issue of lapses found at the AHPETC, and would leave voters to parse the long-running saga.

Instead, its leaders refocused their campaign on national issues, with candidates at their rally last night outlining policy proposals on immigration, a minimum wage and public transport.

The WP is calling for a dedicated, not-for-profit entity to manage the rail and bus network so that it is insulated from profit pressure and thus works for the public interest, said its East Coast GRC candidate Gerald Giam.

WP chief Low Thia Khiang told the rally audience that if the PAP gets a clear mandate at the polls and senses a free rein from voters, it could reverse popular policies like the property cooling measures.

He also raised the spectre of a goods and services tax (GST) increase after the polls.

Across the nine rallies held by eight political parties last night, opposition politicians took up cudgels against the ruling party's policies on immigration and retirement savings.

Opposition veteran Chiam See Tong, who is not a candidate in the polls for the first time since 1984, made a warmly-received appearance at a Singapore People's Party rally in Toa Payoh stadium.

The 80-year-old urged voters to press the Government to return their life savings locked away in the CPF scheme.

But in Aljunied, PM Lee said that Singaporeans were flocking to the CPF scheme because of interest rates as high as 6 per cent on their retirement savings. Last year, Singaporeans put an additional $500 million by choice into their CPF accounts to enjoy these rates, he said.

"So why when you go to opposition rallies they never mention this? Because if they mentioned this, nobody will vote for the opposition," he said.

Town councils a neutral 'training ground' for parties
ESM Goh says they allow political parties to show they have what it takes to run an estate
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

Town councils are neutral training grounds for political parties to show whether they have what it takes to run an estate and, by extension, the government, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said yesterday.

By managing a town council well, a party can build up its credentials. But the reverse is also true, he said, and it is up to a party to prove itself.

"The town council is meant to be neutral. If you win, you take over the town council; do a good job, you build on your credentials," said Mr Goh, who was deputy prime minister when Parliament passed the Town Councils Act in 1988.

"If you run it well, you can prove yourself and expand, and people will give you more town councils to run. But if you don't do a good job, people will not want you to run their town councils."

Whenever I arrived at daybreak at the Cluny Road side of Botanic Gardens for my morning walks, a rooster would crow...
Posted by MParader on Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Speaking to the media after a walkabout in Braddell Heights in Marine Parade GRC, where he is contesting, he explained why the People's Action Party (PAP) government started the town council system in 1988.

The Town Councils Act gives MPs direct control over their town council and makes them directly accountable to their constituents.

"If I take over - which I did - in Marine Parade Town Council, we did a good job, people say, 'You have done the job very well, we'll elect you'. If you do a lousy job, you are out," he said.

The town council issue - the Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) in particular - has been the dominant issue of the hustings so far.

Politicians from the ruling PAP have raised questions about lapses in AHPETC, while the opposition party's leaders have defended their actions and their position.

Mr Goh was asked about the town council issue, and whether it would affect the Workers' Party's prospects in its contest for Marine Parade.

He said he thought that it had taken the shine off the WP's appeal to residents.

Mr Goh also said voters should look beyond the immediate excitement of the hustings and recognise what the Sept 11 elections are all about. The underlying point is that the stability of Singapore in the longer term is at stake.

Explaining his focus on the longer term, Mr Goh said that he learnt from the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who always considered what Singapore would be like 50 years ahead.

"I'm not concerned with this coming election. I think we'll do all right," he said, though he was quick to add that the PAP must still fight for every vote and can take nothing for granted.

Mr Goh said his concern was for the next two elections.

"I'm concerned at our longer-term stability beginning with this election because I look at the region," he said, pointing out that Singapore is small and surrounded by larger neighbours whose political future is uncertain.

"I do not want for Singapore to be classified as a politically unstable country five years, 10 years down the road. We are too small."

As such, he urged voters to consider this: "After Polling Day, what kind of Singapore will we have?

"(Do) we want to have a very exciting Singapore, which means that politically, it's not so stable, or you want life to resume like before the elections - you go to work, we take our MRT, we make a living and settle into orderly Singapore?

"It's not in the PAP's hands. It's in the people's hands. You have to decide how to have a stable Singapore - five, 10, 50 years down the road - for yourself."

Government thinks long-term and is systematic: Heng
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

The Government thinks long-term and implements policies in a systematic way, whether it is about jobs or education, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

He made these comments while on a walkabout in Tampines with his People's Action Party teammates - Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Masagos Zulkifli, Mr Baey Yam Keng, Mr Desmond Choo and Ms Cheng Li Hui.

The PAP team is facing legal consultant Lim Tean, 50, executive director Sebastian Teo, 67, business director Reno Fong, 46, business consultant Nor Lella Mardiiiah Mohamed, 41, and business administrator Choong Hon Heng, 45, from the National Solidarity Party (NSP).

Asked about the bigger issues concerning Tampines residents and Singaporeans, some of which have been raised by the NSP, Mr Heng said the PAP Government had responded to both the immediate concerns of Singaporeans and the larger issues.

"If you look at policies over the years, we have been very systematic, whether it is about jobs or preparing our children for the future," he said.

He pointed to the Workfare scheme, launched in 2007 to top up the wages of low-income workers, and the Government's move to slow down foreign labour inflows since 2010.

Mr Heng, who has held the education portfolio since entering politics in 2011, said long-term thinking had also been applied to education as it is a long-term endeavour and a child in Primary 1 today will go to work only 15 to 20 years from now.

He cited the SkillsFuture initiatives to build deep skills and expertise in Singaporeans as an example of policy that is forward-looking as, increasingly, employers value skills over paper qualifications.

Asked what he thought of the NSP fielding its strongest team to stand against his team in Tampines, Mr Heng said Tampines voters will have to decide.

"We have a team that has been here, that has continuity, that has been working day in, day out for many years to improve the lives of residents in Tampines," he said.

"Residents will judge which is the team that has consistently been attending to them, that has ideas to take Tampines forward, that has the ideas to take Singapore forward."

The PAP's development plans for the GRC have the Tampines Town Hub as a centrepiece. Opening next year, it will have a range of facilities, including a library, sports centre and hawker centre under one roof. It will also have clinics, childcare centres, culinary and music studios, and the offices of government agencies such as the National Heritage Board and the North East Community Development Council.

Its sports centre will be Singapore's first regional sports centre, complete with swimming pools, tennis courts, gymnasium facilities and a jogging track

Mr Heng's team includes Mr Choo, who lost twice in Hougang before being moved to Tampines this time.

Asked about the opposition jibe that he lacks "fighting spirit" for moving away from Hougang, Mr Choo said: "I believe hard work will prevail at the end of the day and I will continue to work on the ground in Tampines."

He added that he is encouraged by the warm reception so far from Tampines residents.

Grace Fu says PAP is better able to add value to projects
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

The People's Action Party (PAP) is better able to ensure that national projects are effectively implemented on the ground, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu said yesterday.

"We are the ones that understand the concerns, and we have the network to have dialogues with the people. We think that if we are involved, representing the people, it will result in better solutions for everybody," Ms Fu told reporters after unveiling Jurong Town Council's five-year plan for Yuhua SMC, where she is running in the Sept 11 polls. She has been the MP for Yuhua for two terms now. More projects are on the way in Yuhua, including playgrounds, cycling paths and covered walkways. These improvement works, said Ms Fu, have come about following feedback from residents over the years.

Major government-led projects will continue to transform the area, with booming development in the Jurong Lake District, which has seen a new hospital and a cluster of shopping malls. Her party, said Ms Fu, would be better able to add value to these projects. "We understand the needs of the people here. We are able to coordinate with the agencies better," she said.

She heads the Municipal Services Office, which coordinates government responses to municipal problems. Ms Fu added that with changes coming thick and fast in the Jurong Lake District, some residents worry about congestion and security, among other things.

The PAP, she said, will be "the party that will communicate and address the issues with the government agencies".

Yuhua was carved out of Jurong GRC in the 2011 General Election. Ms Fu defeated the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP's) Teo Soh Lung, a former political detainee, clinching 66.9 per cent of the vote.

This time, the SDP is fielding sales director Jaslyn Go, 43. She was on a walkabout in Yuhua yesterday morning, and ran into Ms Fu, who was greeting commuters at the Chinese Garden MRT station.

"We both wish each other all the best and I told her I'm looking forward to a gracious contest," said Ms Go, in a Facebook post.

"We should be focusing on issues and policies that benefit the constituents we will be representing, and may the best woman win."

She said the polls would be about what each party could offer to residents in Yuhua. "We believe in doing actual implementation work, supporting the residents - whether in hardware improvement, software programming or even just community building," she said of her team. "This is what we believe really matters to residents, and this is how we are campaigning now."

East Coast GRC: Lim Swee Say expecting another close fight
Both PAP and WP have been engaging residents there intensely in recent years
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

As the group representation constituency that the People's Action Party (PAP) retained by the closest margin against the Workers' Party (WP) at the 2011 General Election, it should come as no surprise that East Coast GRC is once again billed as a hot battleground.

While the PAP team's first rally on Thursday was bereft of the fiery speeches one might expect in hotly contested seats, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say knows it will be another tight race when Singaporeans go to the polls next week.

"We expect GE2015 to be hotly contested. We expect the results to be close," Mr Lim, who leads the PAP slate in East Coast GRC, told The Straits Times yesterday. He added: "We will never know until results come out at the end of polling."

Still, the gloves remain firmly on, at least for Mr Lim and his PAP teammates, who refrained from hitting out at their WP opponents at the rally. It is not the East Coast way, Mr Lim, 61, said at a rally at Bedok Stadium on Thursday.

Rather, speeches from the quartet of PAP candidates - the other three are Senior Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan, 53; Minister of State Mohamad Maliki Osman, 50; and backbencher Jessica Tan, 49 - were full of examples of what they had been doing for residents: home improvement projects, caring for the old and needy, and communicating complex national policies to residents.

"We believe that the most constructive way of competing for votes is for each party that is contesting in a ward to present themselves to the voters," Mr Lim told reporters at a walkabout yesterday.

That was exactly what they had been doing for the past 41/2 years.

In the 2011 General Election, the PAP won 54.8 per cent of votes in East Coast GRC against the WP.

The last time the area saw such a slim victory for the PAP was in 1988, when it won 54.9 per cent of votes against a WP team in then three-member Bedok GRC.

And the WP has been walking the ground intensely in the GRC, including in private housing estates that make up close to half the households here, in recent years.

But the PAP has not stayed still. This "deep engagement" which Mr Lim never fails to repeat in his media interviews was on display when the candidates lobbied for votes in the past few days.

There are 99,118 voters in the GRC, where households are almost evenly divided between HDB dwellers and those in private housing.

On the few occasions when The Straits Times followed the PAP team on the campaign trail, all four candidates mingled with ease among residents and shopkeepers, taking time to interact with them. This did not change even after the cameras were long switched off.

But as for how far this improved engagement will go in lifting the PAP team's vote share beyond the 54.8 per cent it got in 2011, a 9 percentage point drop from 2006, Mr Lim would only say: "We go for every vote."

But voters in the GRC are divided.

Consultant Ivan Loong, 46, said he was "leaning more to the blue side" to have more opposition voices in Parliament. "The impression is that they have one or two candidates who seem credible on paper. If they are charismatic, speak well, it could change the direction of our decision," he added.

The WP team contesting here is led by Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam, who was in the team that stood here in 2011 and has gained some visibility since then.

Law student Wu Guo Wei, 24, said he is "very undecided" about which box to cross on the ballot. He acknowledged that the PAP team "did a good job" managing the constituency, but was also struck by some of the issues Mr Giam had raised in Parliament.

Another resident, Mr Derek Peng, 48, a director in a logistics company, is also of two minds.

"We need to see what both parties can offer. But the opposition, they are no longer school dropouts; the feeling is that they are credible," he noted.

Asked about such views that have come about as a result of having better-qualified opposition candidates, Minister Lim said: "You can be someone from the top university of the world and so on, a person may know a lot, the question is what (do) they care about?"

While a number of voters find themselves sitting on the fence, there are those who have made up their minds - choosing a proven track record over just academic qualifications.

They include Mr Kendrick Khoo, 44, who runs his own business. He said he is leaving nothing to chance.

"Given the current economic outlook here and around the world, I still want a stable team who has been taking care of Singapore to be in charge," he added.

It is a view shared by housewife Malavika Bayanagari, 53. "The Government is already motivated and has a genuine interest in the well-being of the country," she said.

For a constituency that has benefited from significant estate upgrading programmes over the past five years, municipal matters are not major sticking points.

National issues - rising home prices, overcrowded trains, immigration - which the electorate was upset about in the last elections have also been progressively addressed by the Government.

After more than four years of the GRC being tagged as a hot ward, it appears no one is quite sure where the domino will fall come Sept 11, and it is hard to call even at this midpoint of the hustings.

The PAP has been working especially hard to secure support from younger voters as well as those in private residential estates.

These groups of voters are thought to be in favour of a greater diversity of voices in Parliament that can act as checks and balances on the Government.

With five days to go before campaigning ends, the probably not insignificant number of swing voters who are in the middle will have a lot of thinking to do.

GE 2015: Just how hot are things over in East Coast GRC?
By Aaron Low, Deputy News Editor, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

Mr Joe Sim was having breakfast at Bedok Central hawker centre last week when a group of Workers' Party (WP) members came to him to hand him some fliers.

Just as he was about to tuck in, another group of activists, this time in white, came by to hand him fliers too. "I don't think I've ever seen so many activists walking around before," said the 32-year-old bank officer. "I just wanted to eat my chee cheong fun."

East Coast GRC is shaping up to be the hot ward of 2015, much like Aljunied GRC back in 2011. But is it also likely to follow in the same footsteps? There could be some reason to believe so, based on past electoral trends. In 2006, when WP chairman Sylvia Lim led a team to contest Aljunied, it got 43.91 per cent of the vote against a People's Action Party (PAP) team led by then Foreign Minister George Yeo. WP followed up by capturing the seat in 2011 with 54.72 per cent of votes.

For East Coast, this will be the third time WP is knocking on its doors. In 2006, WP contested against a PAP team led by former deputy prime minister S. Jayakumar. WP lost, getting just 36.14 per cent of the vote. In 2011, WP went after East Coast against the team led by then labour chief Lim Swee Say. Again, WP was defeated, although it improved its margin, getting 45.17 per cent of the vote.

WP is sending its second best team, led by Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam, to East Coast - its "A" team members are staying in Aljunied to defend their seats - a sign it is out to win.

Even their chief opponent, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, who anchors the PAP team at East Coast, admits that it is a tough fight.

Is it really? The numbers seem to suggest that while it may be a hard battle, WP is swimming against the tide.

For one thing, Fengshan, which was originally part of East Coast in 2011, has been amputated from the GRC after electoral boundaries were redrawn. WP is said to have scored the highest in Fengshan in 2011, causing analysts to say its carving out was a way of saving East Coast from falling to the WP. The other wards - Siglap, Bedok, Simei and Chai Chee - did not do as well as Fengshan, said party sources. Without Fengshan, the estimate is that WP probably got about between 42 per cent and 43 per cent of the vote.

Secondly, in 2011, Aljunied fell because of a national swing against the PAP. Across all constituencies, the opposition got a huge boost as a result of the "protest vote", which resulted in the PAP suffering a vote share fall of about 6.46 percentage points. This translated directly into more vote share for the opposition.

Needless to say, the WP received the biggest boost in 2011. Wherever they contested, they got at least 40 per cent of the vote share. Added to the vote swing was what Mr Yeo called the "emotional dilemma" that was localised in the Aljunied battle.

This is the idea that if voters voted for PAP there, they would be voting out not just the top opposition leaders in Mr Low Thia Khiang, Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Chen Show Mao but also possibly leaving Singapore bereft of any opposition at all. The vote in Aljunied swung by 10.8 percentage points against the PAP.

For the WP to wrest East Coast GRC this year, it needs a five percentage point swing against the PAP. Without Fengshan, the hurdle is probably higher.

Could the push come from a national swing? Possible, but unlikely. The PAP has done quite a bit to fix some of the problems that lost the party votes in 2011.

Housing prices have moderated; foreign worker growth has fallen, although it is still a sore issue for some voters. Transport will require a long-term solution but the Government is boosting the number of buses and trains to add capacity.

These issues are by no means solved but many of the moves made have taken some of the sting out.

Third, in some ways, PAP has been more prepared for the fight in East Coast than it was in 2011 for Aljunied. After the last GE, it was clear WP was ascendant and that they would target East Coast next. Mr Lim said PAP has been preparing for this GE in East Coast since the last election, and it shows.

At the PAP rally on Thursday, the PAP candidates listed a string of improvement works made in their estates. It is a clear signal that they have worked to solve problems at the local level.

Of course, nothing is settled and there is still just under a week left of campaigning to go and things could change drastically by the time Polling Day comes around.

One last thing to consider is that Mr Low, being a shrewd tactician, may be playing the long game, assuming East Coast stays intact in the next GE.

The WP team's average age is 39 and apart from Mr Giam, the other candidates are all first-time candidates. In contrast, PAP's team is made up of veterans - Mr Lim is 61 and will be 65 the next GE.

There is a strong chance that he could retire by then, which would leave the GRC without a heavyweight PAP minister.

So even if WP does not take East Coast this time round, one goal it must have is to raise its vote share from the 45.17 per cent it won in 2011, to set the stage for another push next time. Little wonder then that East Coast GRC will be one of the most closely watched in the coming polls.

Focus on 'doing everything that is right for residents'
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

Even as the People's Action Party (PAP) maintains a barrage of criticism over financial mismanagement at the opposition-held Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), its team contesting the hot seat of East Coast GRC is resolute in not weighing in.

In his first comments on the issue, East Coast GRC candidate and Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say told reporters his team had no intention of getting involved in the debate on whether the Workers' Party (WP) had done a good job in the town council

"Whether they have done something right or wrong, I think it is for residents there to judge," Mr Lim said. "As far as we are concerned in East Coast, we believe in not just doing something legal, we believe in doing everything that is right for the residents."

Mr Lim is leading a four- member team, comprising Senior Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State Mohamad Maliki Osman and two-term MP Jessica Tan, against the WP for a GRC which had the slimmest margin of victory for the PAP in the last general election.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a morning walkabout at the Block 58 Bedok market, Mr Lim noted that the debate over the AHPETC issue had left the public "quite confused".

A resident had told him that "if they have done something wrong send them to jail, if they have not done something wrong, please stop all this debate and argument".

His words echoed WP chief Low Thia Khiang's assertion at a rally in Hougang on Wednesday that if there had been wrongdoing, the WP leaders would have been caught and jailed - a comment which was strongly criticised by the PAP leadership.

Mr Lim said he asked the resident: "As a father, as a head of the household, if we do not take care of our children and our spouse, I said is it wrong?

"He said, of course it is wrong. I said if it is wrong but would the head of the household be sentenced to jail? He said of course not.

"Therefore, there is a difference between right and wrong versus legal and illegal."

As to whether criticism by the WP that the PAP was adopting smear tactics would stoke unhappiness among voters in East Coast, Mr Lim said: "I don't worry about things that are beyond my control, because if I keep spending time worrying about things that are not within my control, then I will actually not be doing things I want to do."

Mr Lim said his team had focused on deepening engagement with the residents over the last 41/2 years, and they would conduct their campaign in the same way.

Pick your '89 drivers' carefully, says Swee Say
By Janice Heng and Lydia Lam, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

With only 89 seats in the next Parliament, "every extra passenger means one less driver, one less person working for you", said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say at the People's Action Party's (PAP) Fengshan SMC rally last night.

With an uncertain future ahead, Singapore needs strong leadership to do well, he told supporters gathered at a field in Bedok North.

Other than showcasing these broader points, the Fengshan rally - much like the one at East Coast GRC - lingered on local issues. Three of the four PAP candidates for East Coast GRC - which Fengshan was recently carved out from, as a single seat - took the stage again last night. And though Fengshan and its larger neighbour are touted as hot seats, the atmosphere at the rally was calm.

Mr Lim, anchor minister in the PAP's East Coast GRC slate, touched on the importance of leadership for Singapore's future. If someone claims that the next 50 years will definitely be good, "he doesn't know what he's talking about", said Mr Lim. But neither does someone who says there is no hope, he added.

The truth is that no one can tell what will happen to Singapore: "The future has not happened yet."

Mr Lim said that as Manpower Minister, he loses sleep over Singa-pore's peaking workforce, population and elderly. To overcome these challenges, Singapore needs "strong leadership and a strong, united people", and the choices lie in voters' hands, he said. "You the Singaporeans will have to decide - who do you want to have as your 89 elected representatives in Parliament. Every seat counts."

On the topic of seats, Mr Lim also spoke about Fengshan's close connection with East Coast GRC, saying: "This change in boundary can never separate us as one big family, one extended family."

Fellow East Coast GRC candidate Lee Yi Shyan devoted his speech to the ties between Fengshan and his Kampong Chai Chee ward, citing examples of cooperation.

"We want to maintain strong ties with Fengshan," he said in Mandarin. The Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development also pointed out that Fengshan will remain under the East Coast Town Council if PAP candidate Cheryl Chan is elected.

"The East Coast Town Council finances are healthy and prudent," he added - but he drew no outright comparisons with other parties.

Cheryl Chan spells out Fengshan plans
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

In her maiden election rally speech, the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate for the new Fengshan single-member constituency (SMC), Ms Cheryl Chan, cited her track record of volunteering at the constituency to promise that she would strive to improve the lives of residents, if elected.

The areas of improvement include upgrading Housing Board flats, sprucing up the mature estate, as well as programmes for families, elderly residents and less-privileged children in the community.

Ms Chan is the PAP's first new candidate to be fielded in a new SMC since the group representation constituency system was introduced in 1988, and the ruling party is expected to face a tough contest against the Workers' Party here.

Introducing Ms Chan at the rally held in Bedok North, the ward's retiring MP Raymond Lim said she was one of the many long-serving grassroots volunteers who are the "unsung heroes" in the community.

He noted that Ms Chan has been volunteering in Fengshan since 2005 and chairing the management committee of the Fengshan Community Club since 2012, apart from being involved in other committees.

He recounted an incident last year where Ms Chan returned from an overseas trip to the United States and took a taxi directly from the airport to Bedok Stadium so that she could take part in a community walk. "Rain or shine, she is there. In all she did, she gave her heart and soul," said Mr Lim.

In a 14-minute speech in Mandarin and English, Ms Chan, a 38-year-old senior executive in a multinational gas and engineering company, said she is a firm believer in "paying it forward".

She noted that the estate has seen major improvements. "Over the past many years, the PAP has improved a lot of infrastructure in Fengshan," she said, citing lift upgrading, covered linkways, playgrounds and fitness corners.

"While a lot has been done, there is a lot more we still have to do," she added. Future improvement works include estate upgrading and programmes for families, seniors and less-privileged children in the community.

"All eligible blocks in Fengshan have received or have been selected for the Home Improvement Programme," she said of the ageing HDB blocks in the ward.

She promised that if elected, she would champion two causes - programmes to help seniors and less- privileged children, including projects to bridge the young and old.

While national policies like the Pioneer Generation Package, MediShield Life and Silver Support Scheme will help seniors, she noted that it is still up to volunteers to provide help for seniors living alone at the community level.

She appealed to voters to support the PAP, which has a strong track record of delivering on what it promises.

"Nation building is a marathon, it is not a sprint," she said of the importance of supporting a party that can ensure Singapore's success in the next 50 years. The general election, she added, "is not a game with a reset button".

Amy Khor not taking chances
By Melissa Lin and Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

She may have been the People's Action Party's top scorer in Hong Kah North SMC in 2011, but Dr Amy Khor is taking no chances.

When The Straits Times accompanied her on her house visits in Bukit Batok on Wednesday, she went door to door, her 1.49m frame propped up on three-inch sandals, distributing fliers and tissue packets as she urged residents to vote for her.

Most recognised her and opened their doors for the 57-year-old mother of three who has represented the ward for the past 14 years. Each time she passed someone along the corridor or at a void deck, she would stop to chat in dialect, English, Mandarin and Malay.

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Dr Khor explained that she had always tried to strike up personal relationships with residents so that they will trust her with their concerns.

The Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower said: "I find that the most effective way is to be sincere and to really want to do your level best. So it's not a numbers game, how many per cent of votes. "

In 2011, she defeated Singapore People's Party (SPP) candidate Sin Kek Tong by winning 70.6 per cent of the vote. Her rival this time is also from the SPP - social worker and blogger Ravi Philemon, 47.

Dr Khor, who last month shared a five-year plan for the ward, including more than $80 million worth of estate upgrades, said she takes every challenge seriously and intends to cover "every nook and corner" of the ward to meet voters.

"Obviously there will always be some people who may not agree with what I do or the policies implemented by the PAP government," she said. "But I'll always try my best... Each one I convert is one more on our side."

Residents described her as approachable, chatty and a regular presence in the ward of 28,145 voters. Many were not yet familiar with her opponent, Mr Philemon.

Retired factory worker Nancy Leong, 63, said: "Dr Khor turns up at all the community events, she's very hard-working."

IT engineer Surianto, 35, who is from Indonesia and goes by one name, said he has met the MP a few times and found her friendly and down-to-earth. He became a Singapore citizen last year.

He said Mr Philemon visited him last week. "He asked my name and shook my hand," he recalled. "His helpers asked me to vote for him, but I didn't know vote for what."

Mr Philemon unveiled his election manifesto yesterday and pledged to hold three Meet-the-People Sessions each week if elected.

"Some matters are really pressing, and you need to see the MP as soon as possible," he said.

He is also giving residents his personal phone number and e-mail address. "I will be accessible to all the voters in Hong Kah North," he said.

Among other things, he wants to lobby for more bus services and a top-up of 30 years to the lease of older flats built in the 1980s, to give residents a greater sense of security. 

He also promised to set up a $500,000 Hong Kah North Medical Assistance Fund if he is elected, to help residents pay for "essential but non-subsidised" drugs which may be expensive.

He said he intends to use his fund-raising skills honed by his decades in the social services sector to raise the amount over the next five years.

More amenities in the works for Pioneer
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

Over the past decade, Pioneer SMC has been transformed from a far-flung residential area into a well-connected town with a stadium, an additional MRT station, and now a polyclinic in the pipeline.

These give People's Action Party candidate Cedric Foo, 55, who was MP for the ward for 14 years, room for optimism in the straight fight against National Solidarity Party's (NSP) Mr Elvin Ong, 37, for the hearts of 25,458 voters there.

But the NSP is no stranger to the ward, having contested the SMC in 2011. Then, Mr Foo won 60.73 per cent of the vote against his opponent, Mr Steve Chia of the NSP. And Mr Ong said he began walking the ground there three years ago.

Improving Our Estate
Posted by Cedric Foo on Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mr Foo, a chief financial officer, said his team's focus has always been on the residents and its "track record speaks for itself".

He noted that 14 years ago, the estate "lacked everything, except HDB flats". Today, the ward has many amenities, with more in the works, including a market and a mosque. "There are exciting plans that lie ahead of us, and I hope to continue to get residents' support, (so) we can make them come true," Mr Foo told The Straits Times.

Residents such as Mr Liew Ah Heng, 67, who moved into Pioneer 15 years ago, have felt the change. "Back then, nobody wanted to live here as there were no amenities. But now, living here has become very convenient," he said.

NSP's Mr Ong, a technical specialist, said he hopes to be the "true voice" of the electorate if he makes it to Parliament. Noting that many residents are from the working class, he hopes to tackle issues such as the competition for jobs. "The Government should keep the opportunities for the locals," he said.

To improve the ward, he said that while he does not have a ready solution, he wants to work with the Land Transport Authority to sort out the morning peak-hour jams affecting residents.

Developments seem to be "quite stagnant" in the past few years, he said, and new plans were unveiled only months before the elections. "Are they sincere in doing it, or is it just to win votes?" Mr Ong asked.

Mr Foo said in response that plans for the mosque were announced in 2011, with the ground-breaking last June. Eight childcare centres have opened progressively since 2011, he said, adding that he also urged the Education Ministry to get Frontier Primary School opened a few years ahead of schedule, in 2012.

Mr Foo said his team has delivered on its promises - such as one made in 2011 to have closed-circuit television cameras installed at HDB void decks to boost security. A year later, this was done for all 109 blocks, making Pioneer the only estate to have this feature.

But with new amenities under way, residents hope existing ones get a facelift.

As for the candidates, freelance producer Zann Yap, 32, said: "Both appear to be working hard. I'll see what they have to say at the rally. I'll vote for the one who has a good plan for Pioneer."

Banking on track record in Bukit Batok
By Lester Hio, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

Two of the candidates for Bukit Batok SMC lost no time starting their campaigns in the unexpected three-cornered fight, going door to door and walking about the estate and markets to secure support.

Mr David Ong, 54, of the People's Action Party (PAP) and Mr Sadasivam Veriyah, 63, of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) hit the ground immediately following nominations on Tuesday.

The third candidate, Mr Samir Salim Neji, 45, an independent, started his walkabouts only last night in the single-member constituency (SMC) that was carved out of Jurong GRC.

Mr Ong, as the MP in the ward for the last four years, is banking on the rapport he has built up with residents. "People do recognise me, most calling me by name, and that's quite nice. I think the last four years of hard work on the ground have paid dividends," said the manager of a publishing firm.

On a walkabout this week, residents greeted him warmly, with many promising their support.

Said Madam Rita Suria, 56, a resident of 30 years: "He gets things done." But she said that while the older generation knew how Bukit Batok had developed under the PAP, younger voters might see things differently.

Mr Ong, a grassroots leader since 1999, said he was not resting on his laurels. "You have to make sure that things are managed well, explain policies to residents and listen to their feedback," he said.

The last time Bukit Batok was a single seat, in 1991, the PAP beat the SDP narrowly, with a margin of 4 percentage points. SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan has called this year's contest a homecoming of sorts for the party.

Its candidate, Mr Sadasivam, a former teacher and ex-PAP member, said that though a relative newcomer, he did not feel disadvantaged, calling the constituency a "level playing field".

He said response from Bukit Batok residents had been good and the problems they had with living and medical expenses were the same issues residents elsewhere faced.

He said: "The cost of living is a national issue which doesn't just affect residents here. I'm highlighting all national issues which are also applicable to voters of Bukit Batok."

Bukit Batok SMC, comprising 27,077 voters, is made up mostly of public housing, with 4 per cent of residents living in condominiums.

Though both parties have had to rewrite the script a little, given the surprise appearance of a third candidate, neither has shown any dismay.

Mr Samir, managing director of software company Anaplan Asia, needed help on Tuesday to find assenters so that he could complete his nomination form.

Mr Samir immigrated to Singapore 18 years ago and has been a citizen for the last 11. "My fellow contestants are capable, but probably they belong to the older generation. I'm young and have better ideas that I can execute for the constituency and I have more energy," he said.

PAP and WP spar again over AHPETC
By Kor Kian Beng, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

The People's Action Party and the Workers' Party sparred again over financial lapses at the opposition-run town council, with Law Minister K. Shanmugam saying WP should treat Singaporeans with respect "by telling them the truth".

But the debate between the two sides, which surfaced in 2013, may be tapering off after dominating the first week of the hustings.

Speaking at a walkabout at Chong Pang market in Nee Soon GRC, Mr Shanmugam said Hougang Town Council (HTC) had a deficit before merging with Aljunied Town Council (ATC) on May 26, 2011.

He was responding to WP chief Low Thia Khiang, who said at a rally on Thursday that HTC had a surplus of over $80,000 before merging with ATC after the WP won Aljunied GRC at the 2011 election.

Mr Low's comment was made in response to statements from the PAP that ATC's surplus was used to cover HTC's deficit.

Said Mr Shanmugam yesterday: "First, I think Mr Low should look at his March 31, 2011 audited accounts. Those are the accounts for the entire year and they show a $91,800 deficit and an accumulated deficit of over $8,000. It's clear, it's there in black and white."

Singaporeans should be treated with respect by being told the truth, he added.

AHPETC Scandal
Michelle Ang made this video that explains the AHPETC issue. A bit long but easy to understand.Sylvia Lim Swee Lian and Low Thia Khiang must respond to these queries! (Video by Michelle Ang)
Posted by Maa Zhi Hong on Saturday, September 5, 2015

HTC's statements showed a deficit of $91,807 for the year ended March 31, 2011, and that some spending was not captured in the two months before the merger.

Mr Shanmugam said it was WP which broached the issue of lapses at the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) at the hustings, before adding that PAP believed in focusing "on the future and who can best serve Singapore".

"Integrity is a key issue. The record is there, what they have said in Parliament... Rather than getting sucked into (the AHPETC issue), I would prefer to say we have made our points... Whether (WP) answered the questions... people can go and look at it."

Mr Low, at a walkabout in Chong Pang, said Singaporeans can make their own judgment by going through AHPETC's audited accounts for financial year 2014/15, which have been made public.

Separately in Fengshan, WP chairman Sylvia Lim added that "this election should focus on national issues".

Additional reporting by Danson Cheong

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