Bukit Batok by-election: SDP's Chee Soon Juan questions PAP leaders' remarks; says he is confused who his opponent is

Dr Chee (centre) on a walkabout at Bukit Batok MRT on May 3.
Dr Chee (centre) on a walkabout at Bukit Batok MRT on May 3.ST PHOTO: CHONG ZI LIANG

SINGAPORE - Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan says that recent remarks by People's Action Party (PAP) leaders have left him wondering just who his opponent is in the Bukit Batok by-election.

"All I know is that I'm getting very confused who my opponent is," he said on Tuesday (May 3).

"I thought it is Mr Murali. It is turning out to be everybody else except him," he said, referring to the PAP's Murali Pillai, while speaking to reporters after a morning walkabout in Bukit Batok.

Dr Chee declined to comment on recent social media remarks by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin relating to the May 7 Bukit Batok by-election.

ESM Goh, in a Facebook post on Monday on Dr Chee, had used an analogy of a fox trying to persuade a farmer to let it tend to the hen house.

Mr Tan, in response to Dr Chee's comments that an MP needs to do more than just greet residents "ho bo" (how are you in Hokkien), had listed the various duties his grassroots activists carried out.

"Don't see any hobos here," he wrote as a play on Dr Chee's words.

On Tuesday, Dr Chee, referring to Mr Tan's comments, said: "I don't even want to dignify that with a response."

Turning to the SDP's policy proposals, he said the retrenchment insurance scheme - which he has been pushing - was gaining traction. He said that even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had to address the issue of unemployment insurance during his May Day rally.

Mr Lee said on Sunday (May 1) that MPs might raise the subject of unemployment insurance when searching for a topic to speak on because it is an "evergreen" one.

Mr Lee added: "I tell them: Actually, we have something even better than unemployment insurance, because (for) unemployment insurance the worker has to pay out of his salary. And then when he gets unemployed, you are subsidising him, helping him to stay unemployed while he looks for a job."

 
 

Mr Lee added that in Singapore, the Government funds programmes to support workers who are making an effort to get back into a job and who upgrade their skills to make themselves more valuable.

"The scheme is not paid (for) by the workers or the employers. It's paid (for) by the Government. And the scheme is used not to help you stay unemployed, but to help you get employed," he said.

But Dr Chee argued that his proposed retrenchment insurance scheme is still needed as it is not enough to help workers retrain and upgrade their skills.

"When people get retrenched what happens? You keep telling them, 'Oh we'll think of how to upgrade your skills, retrain'. Now that's important yes, but they've been doing this for years," Dr Chee said on Tuesday.

He added that upgrading efforts are undermined by the influx of foreign workers who can accept salaries that Singaporeans cannot survive on.

"So there must be some consistency in what this Government does and it's a shame that they continue to try to pay lip service to this problem and not really address the situation Singaporeans find themselves in," he said.

Dr Chee added said that the SDP will respond to the healthcare programmes mooted by Mr Murali and elaborate on its own proposals at the party's rally on Tuesday night.