Bukit Batok by-election: Chee Soon Juan to raise issue of jobs, retrenchment benefits if elected

SDP chief Chee Soon Juan being presented with a garland by a female supporter after the Singapore Democratic Party rally at the field along Bukit Batok Industrial Park A on May 3, 2016.
SDP chief Chee Soon Juan being presented with a garland by a female supporter after the Singapore Democratic Party rally at the field along Bukit Batok Industrial Park A on May 3, 2016.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan charged that the People’s Action Party government had failed Singaporeans in areas such as employment and retirement adequacy and pledged to raise these in Parliament if elected.

SINGAPORE - Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan charged that the People's Action Party government had failed Singaporeans in areas such as employment and retirement adequacy and pledged to raise these in Parliament if elected.

"In all of last year the government created only 100 jobs ... for citizens and permanent residents," he said in a speech on Tuesday(May 3) night, without citing a source for the figure.

"That means one job per constituency," he added. "How many of you here in Bukit Batok think you're going to fight for that one job if and when you're retrenched?"

In January, the Manpower Ministry's initial estimates showed that 100 more citizens and permanent residents were employed at the end of 2015 compared to a year ago. The official figure was updated in March, to 700.

He also criticised Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call in his May Day Rally speech on Sunday (May 1) for Singaporeans to upgrade their skills to make themselves employable.

"If you create only 100 jobs a year and thousands are retrenched, then no matter how you upgrade yourselves, what are the chances of you finding re-employment?" asked Dr Chee, as he also hit at the policy of "bringing in foreign workers who may not necessarily have better skills but who are cheaper."

That is why the SDP is pushing retrenchment insurance, he said .

"If elected, I will work with Workers' Party MPs and even PAP MPs who want to see retrenchment entitlement for workers," he said.

He would propose legislation and work with such MPs to pass it.

In a 50-minute speech on Tuesday night, he warned that if residents "vote for the wrong person" who does not speak up for them, then their future "is in a lot of trouble".

Other causes he said he would raise in Parliament were the plight of the elderly and Central Provident Fund savings.

Noting an increase in the number of suicides among the elderly over the years, he said the SDP's Hearts for Bukit Batok scheme will help them, especially those living alone.

"It's not money we're talking about, it's the quality of life," he said. The SDP will hold activities such as "bingo nights, mahjong mornings" and gardening.

Dr Chee also spoke on CPF, and said despite the high national savings rate, Singaporeans felt they did not have enough to retire on: "Has the Government incurred huge losses in failed investments and cannot pay us back and then come up with a scheme to retain our money?"

He called for more transparency regarding Singapore's reserves and investments made using them.

He was preceded by eight others who spoke about having another opposition voice in Parliament.

Two SDP members, Ms Surayah Akbar and Ms Jaslyn Go, listed cases that they said Dr Chee would hold the government to account for if he were elected.

These included the deaths of student Benjamin Lim, 14, who was found at the foot of his HDB block after being questioned by police over a molest case; national serviceman Dominique Sarron Lee, who died as a result of a training incident; and two SMRT technicians who died after being hit by a train near Pasir Ris MRT station .

"Dr Chee is one person who is not afraid to ask difficult questions, to demand accountability from the authorities, " Ms Surayah said.

Others also stressed that the outcome of May 7's election will not affect upgrading plans for the estate.

The SDP and PAP are expected to hold their final rallies on Thursday night.