Saturday, 22 August 2015

Shift towards inclusive society 'a work in progress': Tharman

DPM seeks people's support as many more years are needed to see measures through
The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2015

Singapore's shift towards a more inclusive society started years before the last general election, and it needs many more years to see these measures through, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday.

These efforts include providing more opportunities early in life for the disadvantaged, giving second and third chances to adults throughout life, and offering greater assurance for the elderly.

"We hope that we get the support of the people for us to continue on this path, recognising the work and the progress that has been made but also the work... which we want to see done in the years to come," he said.

Mr Tharman, 58, who is also Minister for Finance, was speaking during a press conference at the Clementi branch of the People's Action Party (PAP) to introduce the party's candidates for Jurong GRC and Bukit Batok SMC.

The Jurong GRC team he leads comprises Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee, 39, MP Ang Wei Neng, 48, as well as two newcomers, lawyer Rahayu Mahzam, 35, and oncologist Tan Wu Meng, 40. First-term MP David Ong, 54, will defend newly carved-out Bukit Batok SMC.

The PAP team in Jurong is expected to face a team from the new Singaporeans First party at the coming election.

In 2011, the PAP won 67 per cent of the vote against a National Solidarity Party team.

Asked about the likely contest, Mr Tharman said: "An election is always a battle for hearts and minds, and we don't take any Singaporean for granted."

"We think we've got a strong track record but we go into this election not as a party that thinks it's got some natural advantage over the opposition. We don't," he said. "We go in for this election with our record, with our plans, and we hope that we win hearts and minds."

Mr Tharman also noted that Singapore had achieved more than most societies.

"But there is a lot more that we want to do and that we have to do for our poor, for our elderly, and for people in mid-life who, for various reasons, fall into a bit of difficulty.

"It requires a whole system: strong government, strong leadership, volunteers on the ground, coordination between voluntary bodies and government and the community activists on the ground."

And the PAP team has been doing this in Jurong GRC, he added.

Mr Tharman had also spoken at an Economic Society of Singapore lecture last week on how the Government's shift to the left in social policies did not start in 2011.

Yesterday, asked whether such measures could yield political dividends for the ruling party, he said these steps were taken not for "short-term political gain".

Rather, they were taken "because we believe in our hearts that this is the way Singapore should progress: as a more inclusive society, but one that remains vibrant."

The Clementi ward has also been redrawn into Jurong GRC, and Mr Tharman said Jurong Town Council would be renamed Jurong-Clementi Town Council, with a separate office in Clementi to serve residents.

He also said the PAP's approach in helping residents in Jurong GRC was based on extensive home visits over the past five years.

He also took pride in various community initiatives to reach out to at-risk youth, former inmates, poor children and the elderly.

"This may be mundane but it's extremely important," he said of these visits and efforts.

"The way we do it is that we do it. Do it quietly, without show, without cameras. Do it with our heart."

Lawyer, doctor join PAP team in Jurong GRC
The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2015

Lawyer Rahayu Mahzam and doctor Tan Wu Meng are two professionals who see politics as a platform to further champion the causes that have become their passion at work.

Ms Rahayu, 35, a specialist in civil litigation and family law, wants to help troubled families and at-risk youth.

Her mission is sparked by the many encounters she had with such families and people who struggle to make ends meet when she was deputy registrar of the Syariah Court the past two years.

Dr Tan, 40, an oncologist in private practice, believes a patient's health is not just about medicine, so he is a friend to his patients as well.

If they cannot find a job, he would write letters to employers supporting their job hunts.

In one instance, he successfully convinced a boss to let a patient's daughter take leave frequently to help look after her father.

"Life can be very short and very unpredictable. So it's about leading a meaningful life and helping others," he said yesterday at a People's Action Party (PAP) press conference to introduce the line-up that will contest Jurong GRC.

Dr Tan lost his father, a cardiologist, to cancer about three months ago. His father was his inspiration: "He made time to help folk who were disadvantaged or of limited means. For many years, he helped run a subsidised clinic as a visiting consultant."

Like Ms Rahayu, he is a new face in the five-member team led by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Ms Rahayu, married to a legal officer, left the Syariah Court earlier this month as a prelude to entering politics. She is back in private practice. If elected, she wants to focus on the laws relating to families and youth, as well as improving programmes for broken families, especially in housing.

Providing more opportunities for young people is another hobbyhorse of Ms Rahayu, who started volunteering with the Malay Youth Literary Association and has helped at youth debates since the age of 17.

There are funds that help the youth pursue extra-curricular activities, such as how to build networks and getting a mentor. She plans to enhance and extend the scope of such funds, she said.

Similarly, Dr Tan has been doing grassroots work for 10 years, helping at the Senja-Cashew ward in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

If elected, he wants to lobby for ways to better integrate hospital care and medical care in the community for the Clementi ward, which would come under his charge. In short, bring healthcare closer to patients' homes.

His ambition dovetails with overall plans for Jurong GRC, which Mr Tharman plans to make a model of such help.

Work has started to build "a network on the ground to make care available close to home and at home", the minister said.

It will involve active participation by the community, including doctors and nurses, voluntary welfare organisations and volunteers who would visit elderly residents to make sure they receive the care they need, he added. "We make sure help comes to them... providing quality care in the most friendly way, close to home and at home."

Ms Rahayu will represent the Bukit Batok East ward, taking over from Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, who is moving to Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

They are very big shoes to fill, she said, but Madam Halimah has helped with tips: "Just be yourself, be on the ground and really understand and listen to people's problems... It's not a show of walking, not wayang. It's really about finding out what their needs are."

Political service an extension of doctor's job
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2015

Tan Wu Meng, 40

Occupation: Oncologist

Family: Married to an infectious disease doctor, 43. They have a daughter, three.

Education: Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from England's Cambridge University, Master of Medicine from the National University of Singapore and a PhD in molecular biology from Cambridge University.

Hobbies: Reading and cooking, especially chicken rice for his family.

Why politics?

As a doctor, you get to touch one life at a time. That's important. But in politics, you bring additional ideas and have the chance to shape the discourse on a larger scale.

Why you?

I've realised that helping a patient is not just about medication, technology or facilities, but about understanding his hopes and fears, what's happening in his family.

I see political service as an extension of what I do as a doctor.

I write occasionally to the media and online sites about current affairs or an issue a patient shared with me.

Politics would help me voice these concerns on a larger platform.

What issues will you focus on?

Further integrating hospital and medical care in the community, for residents to get better access to healthcare near their homes.

If elected, I'd like to find a way to integrate GPs and polyclinic doctors in the area, and make them and residents alike feel they are part of one big kampung.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

Gardens by the Bay. It's a unique complement to the Botanic Gardens and a work of wonder, much like Singapore.

Family, youth issues deserve attention
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2015

Rahayu Mahzam, 35

Occupation: Partner at law firm Heng, Leong & Srinivasan, specialising in civil litigation and family law.

Family: Married to a 38-year-old legal officer in the Attorney-General's Chambers.

Education: Bachelor of Laws from National University of Singapore.

Hobbies: Jogging, cycling, reading and watching movies.

Why politics?

Politics provides a broader reach and changes can be made on a larger scale. If elected, I can help a bigger segment of the community, supported by a party that has the mechanism in place and with a history of a very strong track record, I would be able to reach out more and do more.

Why you?

The party looks for such basic values as honesty and integrity. I believe I have those values. At the end of the day, it is about the willingness to serve and the willingness to look beyond yourself and see what you can give back to the community. Those are things my parents had instilled in me since I was young.

What issues will you focus on?

Families are the building blocks of the community. It's important to pay attention to this. Also, youth, as they are the next generation, it is important to give greater focus to their development.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

The area between Boat Quay and Esplanade, where I used to run in the evenings after work. I would get a great feeling seeing the place light up.The city lighting up as dusk falls is always a reflection of how much we have progressed and a reminder of what a great city state Singapore is.

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