Monday, 21 January 2013

Punggol East By-election: RP Rally, 20 Jan

Speakers take aim at PAP and WP
RP chief pledges to present 'ideas and policy alternatives' if elected
By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times. 21 Jan 2013

THE Reform Party (RP) took aim at the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) last night at its first rally for the Punggol East by-election, accusing the ruling party of creating a Third World economy and a Third World democracy.

But several speakers also slammed fellow opposition Workers' Party (WP) for failing in its duty as a watchdog on the PAP in Parliament.

"The driver is falling asleep but the co-driver is also falling asleep... We need the Reform Party to knock the heads of both drivers," said RP central executive committee member Prabu Ramachandran.

He was referring to an analogy used by WP chief Low Thia Khiang in the 2011 General Election (GE) that the WP could be the co-driver that would slap awake the main driver - the PAP - if the ruling party were to falter in governing the country.

RP chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam also lobbed the accusation that the WP's candidate Lee Li Lian has been "missing in action" since she contested Punggol East at the GE.

Addressing a crowd gathered in the evening drizzle, he recounted how two "heavyweight brands" - a veiled reference to the PAP and the WP - came to Punggol East and made promises to voters in a three-cornered fight that included the Singapore Democratic Alliance.

In a jibe at the PAP's Mr Michael Palmer who won the 2011 polls, Mr Jeyaretnam, 53, said "one promised millions of dollars of projects" such as bus stops and a new community centre, as well as a revamp of Rivervale Plaza, which has been delayed.

"The other candidate promised you hard work and shared resources, then went missing in action," he said, delivering a jab at Ms Lee.

The RP chief also accused the WP's MPs of not fulfilling their duties in Parliament by not questioning the management of Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies, nor a US$4 billion (S$4.9 billion) government loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

But as a "well-qualified economist", he had looked at CPF figures and raised questions, and taken the Government to court about the IMF loan, he said.

Mr Jeyaretnam last July applied for a court injunction on the loan commitment, arguing that it was made without the approval of the President and Parliament. The court has dismissed his case, saying it did not breach the Constitution. But he is appealing.

Mr Jeyaretnam is going up against Ms Lee in a four-cornered fight at the Jan 26 polls, with the PAP's Dr Koh Poh Koon and the Singapore Democratic Alliance's Desmond Lim also contesting.

He also criticised the PAP over several issues, from the rising cost of living to the health-care system. For instance, he said Singaporeans now face a "Swiss cost of living" - instead of the promised "Swiss standard of living" - as wages have stagnated with the influx of cheap foreign labour.

Amid his attacks on the PAP and the WP, Mr Jeyaretnam also tried to set himself and the RP apart by pledging to present "ideas and policy alternatives" if he enters Parliament.

He promised to move to Punggol East, be a full-time MP, and donate at least 10 per cent of his MP allowance to the community if elected.

Jeyaretnam carrying on father JBJ's legacy
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2013

THE memory of party founder J.B. Jeyaretnam was invoked by nearly all the speakers at the Reform Party (RP) rally last night, as they sought to draw comparisons between the late opposition stalwart and his son, Kenneth.

They said his courage and spirit can be seen in the younger Jeyaretnam, adding that the current RP chief carries on his father's legacy in his political work.

Last night, Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam also cited his father as an inspiration to carry on with the rally, despite fearing for his family's safety after they received death threats.

"I remembered we have a First World people here in Punggol East, and I remembered the Reform Party follows its heart. And I remembered who I am - the son of JBJ!" he said.

However, he stressed that voters should not vote for him just because of who he is, or because they wanted to give him a chance. "Vote for me to have a real promise of a better future for all together in Punggol East and all Singaporeans," he said.

Mr Jeyaretnam, the last speaker of the night, also laid out why he felt he was the most qualified candidate for Punggol East. He cited his credentials as a trained economist and his recent court battles regarding the Government's US$4 billion (S$4.9 billion) loan commitment to the International Monetary Fund.

But while he chose not to play up his father's brand, those who spoke before him did not hesitate to do so. An image of JBJ also featured prominently on the stage backdrop.

At least four of the seven speakers - mostly in their 20s and early 30s - argued that electing Mr Jeyaretnam into Parliament would allow the memory of JBJ to live on.

Calling Mr Jeyaretnam "a chip off the old block", party chairman Andy Zhu said father and son shared the same values, like justice and leading a simple life.

Another speaker, Mr Prabu Ramachandran, said that since 2001, when JBJ was declared bankrupt and barred from contesting elections, "we have lacked the presence of a Jeyaretnam in Parliament".

He added: "The last name the PAP wants to hear in Parliament is the name of a Jeyaretnam. That's why, Singaporeans and voters of Punggol East constituency, you've got to cast your vote for another Jeyaretnam after 12 years."

Rally goes on despite threats to RP chief's son
By Joyce Lim, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2013

TWO e-mail messages, containing 27 "awful images", proved to be the last straw for Reform Party (RP) candidate Kenneth Jeyaretnam as he considered calling off his first election rally last night.

The e-mail messages were sent to his son on Friday, and Mr Jeyaretnam told reporters yesterday that they involved threats to castrate his son.

That threat, coming after a string of death threats made against Mr Jeyaretnam and his wife, led the party to announce yesterday morning that it would be cancelling the rally unless it felt assured of the RP chief's safety. Hours later, the party changed its mind and said the show would go on, citing police assurances of security measures.

His wife, Mrs Amanda Jeyaretnam, 52, yesterday also revealed the nature and content of the threats that the family had received in a phone interview with The Straits Times. Both Mrs Jeyaretnam and her son Jared, 16, live in London.

Referring to the e-mail messages, she said: "They were the most shocking, awful messages I have ever seen," she said. "My son called me immediately and was screaming into the phone. He was so terrified."

She said she saw the e-mail messages as a direct threat to her son's safety and took him to a police station immediately to make a report. She added that the family started receiving death threats on Wednesday after Mr Jeyaretnam was confirmed as one of the four candidates in the Punggol East by-election.

Mr Jeyaretnam made a police report here last Friday and spoke about the threats at a press conference. The RP chief, 53, a former hedge fund manager, said they were aimed at forcing him to drop out.

His wife yesterday added that after Mr Jeyaretnam went public with the threats, the family received even more - including a second death threat directed to his Facebook page on Friday at 4am.

"I called him and woke him up. He removed it before anyone could have seen it," she said. "I can't reveal what exactly was written in those threats because I don't want the person to be alerted and leave the country or hinder police investigations."

A police spokesman confirmed that two reports were made, and they "are looking into the matter".

Mrs Jeyaretnam, who had initially planned to travel with her son to Singapore next month, said the trip is now on hold. But despite their fears, she said the family is firmly behind Mr Jeyaretnam in his electoral bid: "We support Kenneth, but I hope that our son can be left out of it."

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