Monday, 21 January 2013

Punggol East By-election campaign - 20 Jan

'Vote for whoever can serve you best'
Heng says by-election is not about getting more opposition into Parliament
By Leonard Lim, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2013

THE People's Action Party works hard not because of opposition presence in Parliament, but because it takes its responsibility to Singaporeans seriously, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

He was responding to comments made by Mr Low Thia Khiang at an election rally last Saturday, where the Workers' Party chief urged Punggol East residents to vote for the opposition to make the PAP work harder.

Mr Low had pointed to a slew of policy changes in areas such as housing and health care, instituted since the 2011 General Election, as evidence of the impact his party has had.

Calling on voters not to be "misled", Mr Heng retorted: "We are working hard because we want to serve our people, not because of opposition members in Parliament.

"Our responsibilities are to our people and to do our best to create a better future for all."

He added that it is an "important responsibility" to improve the lives of Singaporeans, to build a better future for the young, and to take the country forward.

"We take this responsibility seriously."

He offered some examples from his own ministry, saying that the Government has invested and improved the education system over the years, even when there was no opposition in Parliament. "As Education Minister, I am very clear that we will do our very best to help every child get as good an education as possible.

"I will work hard to support our teachers in our schools to bring out the best in every child," he told reporters at a community event in his Tampines GRC constituency.

Mr Heng also challenged Mr Low's argument that having more opposition MPs would make the PAP work harder.

He said: "Well, maybe that's the basis on which the Workers' Party operates and the basis on which it is motivated.

"If that is the case, I think voters should look at what the various MPs have done, and what they have contributed in their constituencies and in Parliament, and I think they will come to the conclusion that they should vote for the PAP to make the Workers' Party work harder for you."

The ruling party, he added, "has not and will not" take voters' support for granted.

Calling the PAP's candidate, Dr Koh Poh Koon, sincere, hard-working and dedicated, the minister said the colorectal surgeon would work hard to meet residents' needs and improve lives.

On a broader level, Mr Heng said Dr Koh would also work with ministers to convey his feedback.

Mr Heng said it is important to understand what the Punggol East by-election is about.

Reiterating a point made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last Saturday, he said the election was not about voting more opposition into Parliament, but rather electing the right candidate who can best serve the residents of Punggol East.

He added: "Voters should cast their votes based on who is the best person who can serve them, and not for them to serve the interests of an opposition party."

Voters should cast their votes based on who is the best person who can serve them, and not for them to serve the interests of an opposition party.
- Education Minister Heng Swee Keat

'Vote to help strengthen WP'
Low says a stronger party will make a difference to lives of Singaporeans

By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2013

THE Workers' Party yesterday urged Punggol East voters to help strengthen the opposition party by sending one more WP representative into Parliament.

This was the response of party chief Low Thia Khiang and candidate Lee Li Lian to the advice by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to voters to vote for what they believe in, rather than tactically.

A stronger WP will make a difference to the lives of Singaporeans, especially voters of the single-seat ward, as the Government will work harder, said Ms Lee.

During a morning WP walkabout, Mr Low was also asked about PMLee's remarks last Saturday that the WP's elected MPs have neither objected to the Government's agenda nor offered alternative proposals of their own since 2011.

"I'm pleased that what all the PM had to say about the WP is to lament that we have not done enough in Parliament," Mr Low replied.

He declined to comment further, saying he would speak about it at the coming two WP rallies.

Last Saturday, referring to the so-called "by-election effect" where voters support the opposition knowing that the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) is already in power, PM Lee said it would pose a problem if everyone did so to "get two people to look after me".

A two-for-one proposal - of an opposition MP and a PAP challenger - is often used by opposition parties to win votes.

Yesterday, Mr Low said: "I noted what PM said, and I would urge the Punggol East voters and residents to vote for Lee Li Lian and send her into Parliament to strengthen the WP."

Ms Lee said that having one more WP parliamentarian, in addition to the existing six elected and two Non-Constituency MPs, would add to their impact.

"One more WP MP means we have more voice, more airtime and more questions to ask, that would definitely make a difference," she said.

The WP would also be able to push the Government harder, she said.

If elected, she said, she would speak up on topics such as the cost of living, welfare for the elderly and family-related issues.

When asked about Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean's remarks last Saturday that he was glad "the WP agrees PAP's new policies are good", she agreed that it had some good policy changes but she cited only one: the extension of bus concessions to the elderly in 2011.

There were other areas that still needed to be improved, she said.

"I think they should further look into paternity leave, really materialise it, instead of (saying) 'keep looking into it, keep looking into it'," she added.

On tactical voting, Ms Lee said voters have the power to voice their unhappiness against the ruling party.

In a similar vein, party chairman Sylvia Lim added that "people will make their own decision based on their own calculation".

I noted what PM said, and I would urge the Punggol East voters and residents to vote for Lee Li Lian and send her into Parliament to strengthen the WP.
- Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang

PAP man lists what he can do for voters in new flier
By Leonard Lim, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2013

PEOPLE'S Action Party (PAP) candidate Koh Poh Koon started handing out a new flier on the campaign trail yesterday, providing a quick summary of his plans if elected as MP.

Entitled "Punggol East Update" and printed only yesterday, the A4-sized flier lists the various plans he has spoken about so far.

The ideas are categorised under target groups such as families, the elderly and the low-income.

For senior citizens, Dr Koh pledged to introduce integrated elder-care facilities, health screening and more covered linkways.

Previously, the 40-year-old's fliers contained simple messages to voters appealing for their support. He adds in the new flier examples of how Punggol East residents' needs have been met - through more childcare places, for instance.

"I hope that you would give me a chance to continue the good work, and to do even more, as your MP. Let's transform Punggol East into 'A Home with a Heart'."

Yesterday, Dr Koh also elaborated on plans for a wellness centre for the elderly and more health screening programmes, as he made a pitch to elderly voters.
The centre and programmes would be located at void decks or a new community centre slated to be built on an empty plot of land behind Rivervale Plaza mall.

Turning to infrastructure in the ward, he said more benches and resting points would be added so that senior citizens can take a break when walking between their homes and malls.

Dr Koh, who spoke to reporters outside St Anne's Church, canvassed for votes from worshippers. He continued to pound the ground alone yesterday, but other MPs supported the PAP campaign by fanning out around Punggol East to knock on doors.
Today, Dr Koh, the commanding officer of a battalion, is expected to pause his campaign for a few hours as he goes back to camp to address his 400 men. He will promise to return for the second half of the two-week reservist stint once campaign and post-Polling Day activities are over.

I hope that you would give me a chance to continue the good work, and to do even more, as your MP. Let's transform Punggol East into 'A Home with a Heart'.
- Dr Koh's new flier

Should an MP's gender matter?
By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2013

WORKERS' Party (WP) candidate Lee Li Lian and her People's Action Party (PAP) rival Koh Poh Koon yesterday weighed in on whether the gender of an MP should matter to voters.

Speaking to reporters during the WP's walkabout at Rivervale Plaza, Ms Lee said she believes women "have a different point of view when we look at different things, that would add on to the value".

"I believe as women, we have a more personal touch, we probably would be able to understand the problem better," said the sales trainer.

Ms Lee, 34, is the sole woman in the four-cornered Punggol East by-election.

Besides the PAP's Dr Koh, 40, she is fighting the Singapore Democratic Alliance's Mr Desmond Lim, 45, and the Reform Party's Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, 53.

But Dr Koh, a colorectal surgeon, countered yesterday that gender should not matter, and asked voters to cast their ballots based solely on the capabilities of the candidate instead.

"All MPs should take care of different segments of the demographic equally well," he told reporters after greeting parishioners outside St Anne's Church.

"So I think the selection should not be based on gender per se. I think even at this present moment, we are all trying our best to take care of different segments: women, children, the elderly and the youth as well."

Their comments came one day after party chairman Sylvia Lim urged voters to support the opposition party's candidate so as to send another WP woman into Parliament.

Speaking at the opposition party's first election rally for the Jan 26 polls, Ms Lim said there are already many male MPs from the PAP.

Besides Ms Lim, the only other opposition woman in the House is Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam of the Singapore People's Party. Of the 98 Members of Parliament, 24 are women, with 18 from the PAP and four being Nominated MPs.

'Green soldiers' to spread SDA election videos
By Jermyn Chow, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2013

GREEN-SHIRTED volunteers of the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) will fan out across the Punggol East ward from today to disseminate up to 30 election video clips of candidate Desmond Lim.

The clips will be sent wirelessly to residents over the next few days, said Mr Lim.

"Watch out for the green soldiers," he told reporters as he went door to door yesterday to ask for residents' support.

Each video clip, lasting up to seven minutes, will feature Mr Lim and other SDA members raising issues such as cost of living.

They will also unveil plans to make health care more affordable for the elderly, he said.

Mr Lim, 45, who is an engineer with a telco, declined to elaborate on how the videos will be transmitted wirelessly, saying he did not want to "reveal my game plan to my rivals".

But he let on that residents will be able to view the clips on their computers, tablets and smartphones. He will also post them on the Internet.

IT analysts say Mr Lim could be sending the videos to mobile gadgets via wireless, Bluetooth or 3G access.

Mr Lim said cost was a key reason he ditched an outdoor rally - scheduled for last night - for the video clips. He is the only candidate who has not held a rally.

The video clips cost about $300 - a token sum charged by volunteers who produced them - in contrast to the more than $20,000 needed for an outdoor rally, he said.

"I want to catch the attention of the new generation of voters and can do so only with fresh, innovative ideas," he said.

Mr Lim, who contested Punggol East in the 2011 General Election, also on the SDA ticket, touted himself as a man of ideas as he attacked his rivals for making policy proposals that are "not new".

For instance, he said, People's Action Party candidate Koh Poh Koon's idea of setting up a wellness centre for elderly residents and building more rest stops like benches mirrored his proposal at the 2011 polls of setting up stress management corners for seniors.

Mr Lim also proposed removing the cap on the amount of Medisave funds that those aged above 81 can use to pay for private insurance premiums.

There is currently a limit of $800 per policy per year. The limit for those aged 81 and above is $1,150 per policy per year.

Mr Lim said: "My plan will ensure that the old can stay healthy and remain adequately covered by the insurance without having to overburden their children."

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