Bukit Batok by-election: Candidates argue over upgrading plans

Details of the Bukit Batok Neighbourhood Renewal Programme on display for residents to view.
Details of the Bukit Batok Neighbourhood Renewal Programme on display for residents to view. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Walk around Bukit Batok and it is clear that improvements to the estate are taking place, People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Murali Pillai said on Thursday (April 28).

He was responding to his opponent, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan, as their dispute over upgrading plans for the estate continued.

Dr Chee had, a day earlier, taken issue with a $1.9 million upgrading project Mr Murali unveiled on Sunday, and asked what happened to some $24 million worth of plans the PAP had pledged at the general election last year.

On Thursday, Mr Murali told reporters the $1.9 million project was just for one precinct in the estate, and it was part of a $23.6 million masterplan that former MP David Ong had announced some eight months ago.

The ballpark figure was for projects over five years - working out to some $4.5 million a year - for the single-member constituency, he added.

"There are a number of projects that have been fully executed, a number are still ongoing, and a number that are in the pipeline.

"I invite them (SDP) to do their homework, go around, then they can see with their own eyes what's happening," he said.

Responding, Dr Chee questioned why it was not made clear that the $1.9 million renewal project was part of the larger $24 million worth of plans that had already been mooted. "That's a very serious lapse on their part," he said.

Dr Chee added that he was happy to continue with Mr Ong's plans if he was elected, as he believed that residents welcomed the proposed upgrades.

But he also said that his town council will suggest other upgrading projects as he believes that certain areas in the constituency lack facilities such as zebra crossings and covered walkways.

He also believes the feeder bus services in the estate are not good enough, and would speak to bus operators SBS and SMRT about it.

Mr Murali explained that the $1.9 million plan came under the Government's Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP), which was "funding-neutral".

This means that funds would be disbursed regardless of who won the May 7 by-election.

But, Mr Murali pointed out, it would be the town council under the charge of the elected MP that would implement these renewal plans, and the Jurong-Clementi Town Council has so far carried out the plans for Bukit Batok well.

 

Earlier on Thursday, the PAP issued a statement to correct remarks Dr Chee made on Wednesday - that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) would develop such projects, and the MP and town council were there only to push for

 

the projects. The PAP said Dr Chee had repeated his party's "basic misunderstanding" over the role of town councils in upgrading matters.

 

It was not the URA that was responsible for implementing NRPs, but town councils, the PAP said.

This means that they are responsible for "prioritising needs within all the estates under their charge, developing detailed plans in consultation with residents, awarding tenders responsibly, overseeing the contractors and finally ensuring maintenance of estate enhancements", it said.

The PAP added: "As the SDP says it will run an exemplary town council, voters will have to judge if it understands its responsibilities and can carry them out efficiently."

Mr Murali told reporters he was confident Jurong-Clementi Town Council, which Bukit Batok would remain under if he wins, would do a good job as it had done with 15 NRPs, including five in Bukit Batok.

He pledged that if elected, he would not be "satisfied with the current state of affairs" but work on new solutions to residents' needs, like an extra eldercare centre.