Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Punggol East By-election campaign - 22 Jan

Go by what candidates can offer: DPM Teo
He urges residents to compare Koh's comprehensive plan with that of others
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2013

DEPUTY Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday called on Punggol East voters to compare the plans People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Koh Poh Koon has to offer with those of other candidates, as he sought to focus the campaign on the man himself.

He said: "Poh Koon basically is a man with a comprehensive plan for Punggol and he will get it done. I hope that residents will compare what Poh Koon has to offer together with what other candidates can offer."

He was speaking to reporters with Dr Koh by his side, holding a flier that set out the candidate's plans for the constituency.

These include expanding or adding new childcare centres, and setting up study areas for youth, integrated elder-care facilities and a job placement centre.

Also on the list: pushing for feeder bus services, exploring options for more wet markets and coffee shops as well as building a new community club.

DPM Teo also gave another reason for voting in Dr Koh: The constituency will gain from working with the larger Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC under the PAP, where he is the team leader.

The GRC has cooperated with the constituency on projects and he looked forward to working with Dr Koh as "one big Pasir Ris-Punggol family", he said.

Earlier, both men and Minister of State Teo Ser Luck welcomed children heading for class at a PAP Community Foundation kindergarten. They later canvassed for votes at Rivervale Plaza, from shop owners and customers at a wet market and two foodcourts.

His call to compare the candidates and their plans contrasts with the Workers' Party's pitch to voters to give it one more seat because the PAP is already in power.

Asked about the WP's stance, he said: "Well, that's not a new argument. They use it all the time."

DPM Teo noted that residents have received Dr Koh well.

"I think they will find that he is a very down-to-earth person, listens, good sense of humour too. And he will work hard for them."

He declined to comment on criticism levelled by some opposition supporters at the WP.

But he rejected suggestions that recent announcements, such as the plans to expand the MRT network and pro-family measures, were to supply additional firepower for the PAP campaign.

"These are things which have been in the works for a long time. I hope it will benefit Singaporeans as a whole," he said.

Mr Teo also acknowledged that the PAP faces a "keenly contested campaign", adding: "Poh Koon is taking it very seriously, so is the party. We will reach out to every voter. We will take the vote seriously and we want to make sure that we can serve them well in the future."

The aim is to reach out to every voter and household, he added, before the campaign window closes on Friday, the Cooling-Off Day.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah, who was among the seven PAP MPs who went from flat to flat yesterday, told The Straits Times the contest would be fierce. "It's expected to be a very tough fight based on ground feedback. I would like to help my comrade," she said.

DPM Teo rebuts WP chief
RazorTV, 23 Jan 2013

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that while Workers' Party MPs have raised issues in parliament, they avoided taking a stand on major issues such as population or foreign workers.

DPM Teo was responding to WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang, who defended his party's performance in parliament at a rally on Tuesday, after recent comments by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that the opposition party does not have alternative policies and strong views.

He said in a Facebook post that the opposition party had avoided taking a stand on major issues where tough trade-offs are needed, while PAP MPs have offered more constructive suggestions. PAP MPs were prepared to take a stand, and speak for measures, even difficult ones.

DPM Teo added that voters should also ask which candidate has the best plans and can serve them best.

During the WP rally, Mr Low said that while there is a group of professionals and academics working behind the scenes with WP MPs to scrutinise government policies, it was premature and unrealistic to expect only six MPs to form an alternative government.

He also highlighted the issues that WP MPs have raised in Parliament since October 2011, such as flooding and drainage, childcare, immigration and infrastructure, pricing of drugs at public hospitals, housing, high rental costs, foreign manpower, public transport, and taxi and COE bidding.

Workers' Party will be holding its third and final rally on Jan 23, 2013, from 7pm to 10pm, at the open field in front of Block 183C, Rivervale Crescent.

The PAP will hold its second rally at the open field in front of Block 128C Punggol Field Walk on Thursday, Jan 24, 2013 from 8pm to 10pm.

Koh said 'no' to PM at first
By Leonard Lim, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2013

SOON after Punggol East MP Michael Palmer quit politics last month, Dr Koh Poh Koon received a call to go to the Istana to meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He knew what was on the agenda: Would he stand as the People's Action Party's candidate in the single-seat constituency?

Dr Koh, who had been invited to a PAP tea session in the middle of last year, quickly consulted friends and family.

Many told him not to take the plunge into politics.

"Everyone felt that it was hard to be yourself and be honest, and still do good," Dr Koh, a colorectal surgeon, told The Straits Times yesterday.

A self-described "troublemaker", he had criticised certain government policies during a meeting with PAP leaders.

Friends were concerned that agreeing to wear the PAP whites would require him to toe the party line, even when he disagreed with it.

He shared their fears: "I don't want to change. I don't want to do populist politics. I want to do real work."

That was the reason he told Mr Lee politely at their meeting that he felt he was not suitable for the task. But the Prime Minister, who is the PAP's secretary-general, asked him to think about it, related Dr Koh.

The 40-year-old had intended to return and say "no" again. He was, however, wracked by guilt over the next few days.

"I thought by saying 'no', I would sleep better. The whole week before that, I was struggling with the answer.

"I felt I had turned my back on society, and that I was being selfish," he said, pausing often and struggling to describe his inner conflict.

Since his school days, he said, he had felt a strong sense of wanting to serve Singapore. He has been involved in grassroots work since 2002, and is a battalion commanding officer for his reservist duties.

He discussed his concerns with his wife, also a specialist doctor, thought hard about it and decided to say "yes" to Mr Lee.

"She knows what kind of person I am. That if the button is pressed today, I will say goodbye to my family, take my gun, and go. Serving the country is a higher calling," said the father of two daughters, aged four and nine.

"Saying 'yes' would be the harder thing, but it would be the right thing. I could sleep better."

Since his unveiling as a PAP candidate a fortnight ago, he has been criticised online.

He was initially demoralised. "Even my wife said, 'See, you want to help people, but they don't want your help'."

But he has come to terms with the fact that there will always be negative remarks, and now pays less attention to them.

He maintains he will continue to be himself. "I'm hoping that with time I will not change. If I do, I'll have no more value being here."

Underdog with derring-do instincts
By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2013

A GIANT shark-shaped balloon bearing Mr Desmond Lim's smiling face might well have been floating around Punggol East by now, if he had his way.

"But I wasn't sure the police would allow it," said the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) candidate on a recent walkabout. As it turns out, the law would frown on it as illegal election advertising.

Such campaign ideas are not new to the man. From his latest "online rally" to the superhero ant mascot Sinpo who could obliterate high taxes during the 2011 General Election, the engineer can be counted on to come up with unusual ideas.

The quirky, derring-do instincts have driven him back to Punggol East, despite garnering only 4.5 per cent of the vote in the general election and losing his deposit of $16,000. Others may be embarrassed by the poor showing. But Mr Lim, 45, turns it into his campaign message.

Holding up his clasped hands, he greets residents in Mandarin: "Hello, I'm Desmond Lim. I'm back again. I didn't do so well the last time, so please consider giving me your vote now."

Some residents say they like his underdog indefatigability. "He is very sincere. Even though he didn't succeed last time, he still wants to serve us," said Mrs Susie Wong, a 48-year-old housewife.

But ask them if they would elect him as their MP and they are not so sure. Their main concern is whether he can deliver on promises like a new hawker centre, bicycle paths and childcare centres.

Said cargo worker Ali Hussain, 40: "Mr Lim is enthusiastic. But his party is not as established as the People's Action Party or the Workers' Party. At least they have experience running estates."

Others say his small walkabout team of about six helpers, compared to the larger entourages by bigger parties, do not inspire confidence.

Mr Lim is aware that the SDA brand does not have the same heft as other parties. So he touts his credentials in Potong Pasir Town Council, where he was former opposition MP Chiam See Tong's right-hand man. Mr Lim helped run the council for 14 years, before leaving in 2010 after a spat with Mr Chiam and his wife.

Now, it is his turn in the spotlight, the one whose face adorns election posters or perhaps even a shark-shaped balloon.

That is why he has not given up on Punggol East. Said Mr Lim with a grin: "I'm moving forward now, and there will always be a place for me in life."

Message to voters most important: Desmond Lim
TODAY, 22 Jan 2013

Responding to the negative online reaction to his rally videos posted on YouTube, Singapore Democratic Alliance Secretary-General Desmond Lim said the “most important thing” is that his message is being conveyed to voters.

“Everything is about the learning curve. We will listen to it and work on it,” said Mr Lim, who is the party’s candidate for the Punggol East by-election. "The most important thing is that my message is conveyed to the masses."

The party has posted four clips of Mr Lim’s online rally so far, tackling issues such as childcare and healthcare. The 45-year-old Lim plans to produce at least 10 rally clips.

His first two videos, posted online yesterday evening, have garnered more than 84,000 views. The other two were posted online this morning and as of 1pm have nearly 500 views.

Online reaction has been harsh, with many criticising Mr Lim’s poor command of the English language.

Speaking to the media today on the sidelines of his campaign, Mr Lim said: “I’m learning just like everyone else. Most importantly, never give up. We need to be sincere and have the heart to serve.”

He added that it is a “great achievement” for the party to have been able to launch the videos in a short period of time.

If he is elected, he will "first and foremost" have the people's interest at heart, said Mr Lim.

No typical day as schedule stays fluid
By Joyce Lim And Robin Chan, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2013

AFTER the morning rain, the sun is now beating down on a group of men dressed in yellow tees as they knock from door to door.

At every door that opens, one of them steps forward, offers a faint smile and a whiff of a British accent: "Hello, I am Kenneth Jeyaretnam. I am J.B. Jeyaretnam's son."

That is how he wants to be known, as the son of the late opposition veteran. But don't vote for him because of that, he insists.

"Vote for the Reform Party because you believe in our policies. We have the best policies for you," he says.

For the first time since his return to Singapore to begin a political career in 2011, Mr Jeyaretnam is finally in the national spotlight. In 2011, he contested and lost in the barely noticed sleepy race in West Coast GRC.

Punggol East is his chance to establish his profile, to get the needed support to enter Parliament.

The odds are not in his favour. Unlike the well-oiled machinery of the People's Action Party and increasingly, the Workers' Party, the Reform Party (RP) relies on a core team of of six people. They are an energetic motley crew.

Schedules are fluid and events are often re-interpreted as much by choice as circumstance. So, a discussion with "grassroots" on his five-year plan for the ward turns out to be a lunch at Rivervale Mall's foodcourt with just one resident - his assentor.

Thus, there is no typical day on the RP campaign trail. Once, Mr Jeyaretnam arrives half an hour late. His cabby had lost his way.

Then, while trying to take the LRT train from Kangkar to Rumbia station to greet residents, he finds his ez-link card is out of money, and the top-up machine is down. He fiddles around for a one-way fare, as everyone waits and watches. "I was charged 80 cents more," he grumbles.

The Cambridge-educated economist is trying to fit in, adjusting to the toils of campaigning.

A Facebook comment about his posh accent elicits a detailed explanation from him that it is his linguistic legacy from the English-educated Tamils who left Jaffna in Sri Lanka for Singapore in the late 1800s.

"I am as proud of my own heritage as I am proud of our Republic's cultural diversity," he says.

His atypical background, including his persistent criticism of a pledged billion-dollar international loan, is jarring to some, but others find themselves drawn to him. They are curious why he has chosen this path when his younger brother Philip is happily in the mainstream with his legal career.

Engineer Hui Kong Meng, 46, is the only one to drop by at RP's residents' feedback session on Monday. He wanted to meet the candidate in person, impressed by his vigour and passion, and his "well-researched" views on "deep national issues".

But it was not to be. The weather had felled Mr Jeyaretnam. He stayed home nursing a flu.

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