GE2015: Party bigwigs kick off rallies at strongholds

In Tanjong Pagar, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) outlined the People's Action Party's plan to transform the area, including building a Southern Waterfront City that is "three times the size of Marina Bay, and three times as beautiful". In Houg
In Tanjong Pagar, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) outlined the People's Action Party's plan to transform the area, including building a Southern Waterfront City that is "three times the size of Marina Bay, and three times as beautiful". In Hougang, Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang (right) maintained that there had been no wrongdoing at Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council, arguing that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau would have got involved otherwise. ST PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG AND YEO KAI WEN

PM Lee delivers keynote speech in Tanjong Pagar, while WP chief Low goes to Hougang

For the first election rallies of the campaign, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and its chief challenger, the Workers' Party (WP), both returned to their spiritual homes and political strongholds last night.

The PAP went to Tanjong Pagar GRC, where its candidates are facing an electoral challenge for the first time since 1991 - and the first polls since 1955 without founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on the slate.

The WP went to Hougang, which its chief Low Thia Khiang referred to as his "niangjia" - "parents' home" in Mandarin - as it is the place where he was first elected to Parliament.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered the keynote rally speech for the PAP, calling Tanjong Pagar a "special place" for the ruling party. Mr Lee Kuan Yew chose to stand in the area in 1955 because it was where poor workers lived in slums.

He promised to transform their lives, and did, said PM Lee, emphasising that the PAP is a party that takes action and fulfils promises.

This was possible because the pioneer generation of Singaporeans trusted Mr Lee and his team, and "showed him and showed themselves what Singapore could do".

The development of Tanjong Pagar embodies the Singapore story, PM Lee said, and declared that the PAP's efforts to transform the area were not over.

After port operations move to Tuas starting from 2027, a Southern Waterfront City will be built in the group representation constituency that is "three times the size of Marina Bay, and three times as beautiful", he said.

The PAP has planned several such visionary projects, said PM Lee, from Changi Airport's Terminal 5 to the Jurong Lake District.

He also announced, to the delight of residents at the rally, a "15- to 20-year" plan to upgrade and expand the Singapore General Hospital.

"So we are going to make Singapore different. But to do that, we have to do it together," he said, asking voters for their support for the PAP and its ideas, not just for new infrastructure but for ways to realise the people's hopes and dreams.

At the WP's Hougang rally, party leaders focused on defending their management of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

They argued that the PAP had used "double standards and unfair business practices" to hobble the opposition town council.

WP's Hougang candidate Png Eng Huat said lapses had also been found at the People's Association by the Auditor-General, but government grants continued to be handed out to grassroots bodies.

The Ministry of National Development has withheld about $14 million of grants from AHPETC because it does not trust that the money will be used properly without court-appointed independent accountants, it said.

WP chairman Sylvia Lim said it was a "myth" that the town council had been overcharged by its managing agent, and that the PAP has latched onto financial management as a target of attack since the GRC has remained clean and well-run since it changed political hands.

Mr Low maintained that there had been no wrongdoing at AHPETC, arguing that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau would have got involved otherwise.

This drew a swift rejoinder from PM Lee, who was delivering his Tanjong Pagar speech at the same time as Mr Low's in Hougang.

"If your standard for politics is that the people who are in politics should not be in jail, then I think Singapore is in very serious trouble," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2015, with the headline 'Party bigwigs kick off rallies at strongholds'. Print Edition | Subscribe