Helping low-income families on SDP duo's agenda

Mr John Tan Liang Joo (left), who feels troubled when he sees poor families struggle to climb up the social ladder, says he wants to raise the issue of a minimum wage. He was introduced as the SDP's candidate yesterday, along with Mr Sidek Mallek, wh
Mr John Tan Liang Joo (left), who feels troubled when he sees poor families struggle to climb up the social ladder, says he wants to raise the issue of a minimum wage. He was introduced as the SDP's candidate yesterday, along with Mr Sidek Mallek, who will be contesting in an election for the first time.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Social psychologist and compliance auditor are latest among six candidates party has unveiled

Growing up in a poor household has made Mr John Tan Liang Joo more aware of the challenges facing low- income families today.

The social psychologist feels troubled when he sees poor families struggle to climb up the social ladder, even though Singapore as a nation has grown wealthier over the years.

Yesterday, as he was introduced as a candidate for the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) at the coming polls, he said that he wants to raise the issue of a minimum wage.

"Our little kampung has become this big city, but a lot of low-income people can hardly survive, living from hand to mouth," he said.

"If there is a minimum wage, they would not need to seek another job. Right now, as it is, you see so many people having to hold two jobs just to make ends meet," added the SDP vice-chairman.

  • Focus on socioeconomic problems and cutting red tape

  • Sidek Mallek, 55

    Occupation: Compliance auditor in a security company

    Family: Married with four children, aged 13, 16, 18 and 24

    Education: Professional certificate from the Institute of Administrative Management

    Hobbies: Cooking, baking, bowling, and relaxing with his family

    Why politics?

    I joined the SDP in 2011 because I believe it is a credible party that has researched and put forth many alternative policies that can benefit Singaporeans.

    I have contributed a fair share of my thoughts on various issues on social media, and I am convinced it is now time to raise these issues in Parliament.

    Why you?

    I've looked at how the SDP has been led by Dr Chee Soon Juan. He had the tenacity to go through all the troubles he had, and yet, he is compassionate and determined to address issues Singaporeans face.

    These are our issues. I feel that if I do not step up, then who else? I'm a true-blue Singaporean, I'm a patriot. I should step up.

    What issues will you focus on?

    I want to highlight socioeconomic problems faced by low-income families, focus on cutting red tape, help provide assistance for needy citizens in a timely manner, and improve job security.

    I also wish to enhance educational opportunities for the children of low-income families, and ensure single parents are treated equally in matters that are a basic need, like housing, and education for their children.

    Favourite spot in Singapore?

    East Coast Park, where I can spend time with my children.

Helping low-income families is also on the agenda for Mr Sidek Mallek - the second SDP candidate for the coming polls to be unveiled yesterday.

"It is unflattering and irresponsible for ministers to say people who earn a mere $1,000 a month can buy and own a Housing Board flat," said the 55-year-old compliance auditor at a security firm.

"Many people cannot even afford basic necessities," he added.

The two men are the fifth and sixth candidates out of a slate of 11 whom the SDP said it will field at the Sept 11 polls.

This would be the first time Mr Sidek is contesting in an election, while Mr Tan is a returning candidate, having contested Sembawang GRC at the 2011 polls with the SDP.

But the party, which won 36.1 per cent of the vote then, will not be returning to Sembawang GRC this time.

The SDP has not indicated where its candidates will be fielded, choosing instead to announce it closer to Nomination Day on Sept 1.

But the party has said it plans to contest neighbouring Marsiling- Yew Tee GRC, a new constituency carved out in the recent electoral boundaries review, as well as Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and the single-seat wards of Bukit Panjang, Bukit Batok and Yuhua.

Four other candidates who have been introduced are: healthcare administrator Chong Wai Fung, 45; accounts manager and former navy staff sergeant Khung Wai Yeen, 34; sales director Jaslyn Go, 43; and National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine professor Paul Tambyah, 50.

SDP chief Chee Soon Juan said yesterday: "It's building up, you're seeing a very credible slate of candidates already.

"We have a couple more whom I'm sure Singaporeans will take to and give a serious thought about seeing them becoming their next Members of Parliament."

Something Mr Tan and Mr Sidek have in common is that both are not conversant in their mother tongues, but former SDP chairman and seasoned opposition hand Jufrie Mahmood said this will not interfere with their work, if they are elected.

He said of Mr Sidek: "Nowadays, people don't speak a lot of Malay, although it is the national language. He can speak Malay, but on an occasion like that he may not be able to express himself as he should. Don't fault him for that."

He added that Mr Sidek will brush up on his Malay.

Mr Tan said his poor Mandarin "does not mean I have a disconnect between myself and my fellow Chinese citizens".

"People appreciate that I try, and even though I find it hard to speak fluently, if I need to explain policies, I have some colleagues around who can speak really good Mandarin."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2015, with the headline 'Helping low-income families on SDP duo's agenda'. Print Edition | Subscribe