Bukit Batok by-election

Chee vows to raise job issues if elected

Dr Chee being presented with a garland after SDP's rally at a field in Bukit Batok yesterday. In his speech, the SDP chief said that if he was elected, he would also raise the plight of the elderly and CPF savings.
Dr Chee being presented with a garland after SDP's rally at a field in Bukit Batok yesterday. In his speech, the SDP chief said that if he was elected, he would also raise the plight of the elderly and CPF savings.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

He criticises Govt for not creating enough jobs; pledges push for retrenchment benefits

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 last night, without citing a source for the figure.

"That means one job per constituency," he said. "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 last year compared to a year ago. The official figure was updated in March, to 700.

Dr Chee also criticised Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call in his May Day Rally speech on Sunday 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 out 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 for 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 last 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 are 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 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. 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 they said Dr Chee would hold the Government to account 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 molestation case; and 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 the outcome of Saturday's election will not affect upgrading plans for the estate.

SDP and PAP are expected to hold their final rallies tomorrow night.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'Chee vows to raise job issues if elected'. Print Edition | Subscribe