Bukit Batok by-election: Candidates spar over proposed upgrading plans for Bukit Batok

People's Action Party candidate Murali Pillai and Singapore Democratic Party candidate Dr Chee Soon Juan will face off in a straight fight for the Bukit Batok single-member constituency.
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 - A renewal plan for a Bukit Batok neighbourhood has sparked an exchange between the two candidates in the Bukit Batok by-election about upgrading promises.

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan on Wednesday (April 27) criticised the plan, proposed by People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Murali Pillai, as a "knee-jerk reaction everytime an election comes".

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mr Murali said his proposal comes under the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP), which is a neutral programme.

But he said it would be incumbent on "whoever Bukit Batok residents choose... to lead the town council to implement them".

 
 
 

Mr Murali, 48, had first unveiled on Sunday (April 24) $1.9 million worth of infrastructure plans to build covered walkways, ramps, a jogging track and a park for a neighbourhood in Bukit Batok West Avenue 4.

He pledged to carry out the plan, which he said was put up by the PAP Jurong-Clementi Town Council if he is elected.

But some people have taken issue with the plans, saying the PAP is politicising government-funded programmes.

In announcing it, Mr Murali had said: "We will have the mandate to carry on only if we are returned at the by-election.

If we don't have the mandate, then we won't have the ability to carry on because we will not form the town council.That's the rule."

Moments after being confirmed as a candidate, Dr Chee charged that if the PAP were genuinely caring, the party would not have said that they need to be elected to have the mandate to carry out the upgrading.

He added that former Bukit Batok MP David Ong had announced a $24 million upgrading plan during last year's General Election, and asked for an update on the plan.

Earlier, in two separate statements on Sunday and Tuesday, his party had said it too would work with government agencies to ensure projects are completed.

The opposition party pointed out that government agencies are non-partisan and will work with whoever is elected MP for the SMC.

It added: "To say that major improvements will come only if the PAP candidate is elected is unethical and could even be a contravention of the Parliamentary Elections Act (Section 59) which prohibits parties or persons from bringing undue influence on voters."

This drew a rebuttal from the PAP, which sent out a statement in the early hours of Wednesday.

"The SDP's statement is...misconceived, and its speculation that the PAP candidate in Bukit Batok may have made a statement in breach of the law absurd," said the ruling party.

It added: "If a candidate for election as Member of Parliament is not elected, his Party's town council naturally cannot be responsible for the constituency, and cannot carry out its NRP plans for that constituency."

"This simple fact was what Mr Murali had stated in response to a query from the media on April 24. It will then be for the new Town Council that is formed to decide on its plans and what it should proceed with."

The statement further said that it is the town council that nominates neighbourhoods which should be prioritised for the NRP when it applies for government funding, which is available to all town councils.