Bukit Batok by-election

Bukit Batok by-election: Murali unveils neighbourhood renewal plans worth $1.9m

Dr Chee cycling with his team in Bukit Batok yesterday morning. The SDP chief described Bukit Batok as a seat that is "going to be like our first-born after a long absence". Mr Murali speaking to people in Bukit Batok yesterday. He was accompanied by
Mr Murali speaking to people in Bukit Batok yesterday. He was accompanied by Mrs Ong Chit Chung (left), whose husband served the ward for 20 years as MP until his death in 2008.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Dr Chee cycling with his team in Bukit Batok yesterday morning. The SDP chief described Bukit Batok as a seat that is "going to be like our first-born after a long absence". Mr Murali speaking to people in Bukit Batok yesterday. He was accompanied by
Dr Chee cycling with his team in Bukit Batok yesterday morning. The SDP chief described Bukit Batok as a seat that is "going to be like our first-born after a long absence". PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Plans based on residents' feedback; PAP candidate to reveal more plans before Nomination Day

Mr Murali Pillai, the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election, yesterday unveiled $1.9 million worth of infrastructure plans for a neighbourhood in the single-member constituency if he were to be elected on May 7.

The plans - which include covered walkways, ramps, a jogging track and a three-generational park - come under the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme for the precinct at Blocks 140 to 149, Bukit Batok West Avenue 4, where some 640 of the ward's 12,000 families live.

Mr Murali told reporters at an exhibition on these plans yesterday morning that residents were surveyed late last year on how the neighbourhood could be enhanced.

But the PAP-run Jurong-Clementi Town Council, which currently looks after Bukit Batok, will be able to carry out these plans only if he is elected, he added.

 

"This plan we are presenting is a plan by the PAP Jurong-Clementi Town Council. So it's really up to our residents. We will have the mandate to carry on only if we are returned at the by-election," he said.

"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."

Also at the exhibition were Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee and town council chairman Ang Wei Neng, all of whom are MPs for Jurong GRC.

The May 7 by-election was triggered by the abrupt resignation of PAP MP David Ong on March 12 over an alleged extramarital affair.

Mr Murali's announcement comes two days after the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, party chief Chee Soon Juan, unveiled four social programmes that he plans to roll out if he is elected.

Both Mr Murali and Dr Chee almost crossed paths on their walkabouts yesterday morning, appearing at the same coffee shop barely minutes apart from each other.

Mr Murali was accompanied by the widow of former Bukit Batok MP Ong Chit Chung, who looked after the ward for 20 years until his death in 2008.

Asked for his take on Dr Chee's initiatives, Mr Murali would say only: "I've just spoken about the plans I believe Bukit Batok residents can identify with because this came up after a very, very extensive consultation."

Even so, the SDP said later yesterday that it "sees the need to consult the residents" before committing so much money to the project. It also said linkways should "not be made into an election issue".

Mr Murali said yesterday that his other plans will be announced before Nomination Day on Wednesday. He said: "What we are dealing with today are some plans to improve the liveability, to enhance the family environment for our residents."

The SDP had said last Friday that if Dr Chee is elected, its programmes would target youth, the needy and the elderly, and added that the existing social assistance programmes have not gone far enough.

Yesterday, Dr Chee reiterated to reporters his intention to build community spirit, after cycling through the estate. "We're going to bring the community together to ensure that people here don't just live very atomised lives - when they come back from work, they don't just go into their homes, shut the door and that's it," he said.

He described Bukit Batok as a seat that is "going to be like our firstborn after a long absence".

When Bukit Batok was last a single seat in 1988 and 1991, SDP candidate Kwan Yue Keng won 44 per cent and 48 per cent of the vote respectively against the PAP's Dr Ong Chit Chung. In 1991, neighbouring Bukit Gombak SMC went to the SDP's Mr Ling How Doong, who won 51 per cent of the vote against the PAP's Dr Seet Ai Mee.

Yesterday, Dr Chee did not want to comment on a Facebook post by Singapore People's Party (SPP) chairman Lina Chiam last week, saying the SDP did not seek or receive permission to use SPP chief Chiam See Tong's image in its newsletter.

She said Mr Chiam has not endorsed any candidate for the by-election. The article's author, long-time opposition supporter Wong Wee Nam, said last Saturday that the image was in The New Democrat's June 2015 issue, and the SDP was not seeking endorsement from the Chiams.

Yesterday, Dr Chee would say only: "I just want to be able to focus on this campaign and what we can do for Bukit Batok. Everything else, believe me, is just a distraction."

Residents say they will hear both sides out in the next two weeks.

A Bukit Batok resident of more than 20 years, who gave his name only as Mr Ooi, felt issues such as town council management and help for the underprivileged were more important than upgrading benefits.

Added the 54-year-old remisier: "The concern is whether you can do a good job in the execution and the planning."

Private bus driver Pek Yew Seng, 55, who has lived in Bukit Batok for 17 years, is glad about the covered linkways and ramps as they benefit frequent cyclists like himself.

The park will also encourage people to be more active, he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2016, with the headline 'Murali unveils neighbourhood renewal plans worth $1.9m'. Print Edition | Subscribe