Bukit Batok by-elec

PAP, SDP spar over renewal plans

Singapore Democratic Party's Chee Soon Juan (left) and the People's Action Party's Murali Pillai met briefly on Nomination Day (April 27) as they filed their papers.
Singapore Democratic Party's Chee Soon Juan (left) and the People's Action Party's Murali Pillai met briefly on Nomination Day (April 27) as they filed their papers.PHOTO: ELECTIONS DEPARTMENT

The renewal plans for the ageing town of Bukit Batok have sparked an exchange between the two political parties vying for the seat of the single-member constituency.

Yesterday, moments after he was confirmed as a candidate, Dr Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) criticised the upgrading promises of People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Murali Pillai.

They are a "knee-jerk reaction every time an election comes", he said.

Separately, Mr Murali told reporters his proposed plans come under the "neutral" Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP). But their implementation was incumbent on "whoever Bukit Batok residents choose... to lead the town council", he said.

He was reiterating a point made on Sunday when he unveiled $1.9 million worth of infrastructure plans by the PAP's Jurong-Clementi Town Council, which will build, among other things, covered walkways and a park for a neighbourhood in Bukit Batok West Avenue 6.

Mr Murali had pledged to see the plans through if he was elected.

He said: "We will have the mandate to carry on only if we are returned at the by-election.

"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."

The SDP responded with statements on Sunday and Tuesday, saying government agencies are non-partisan and will work with whoever is elected MP for the SMC.

"To say that major improvements will come only if the PAP candidate is elected is unethical and could even be a contravention of the Parliamentary Elections Act (Section 59) which prohibits parties or persons from bringing undue influence on voters," it said.

This drew a rebuttal from the PAP, which said early yesterday morning that the SDP's statement is "misconceived" and called "its speculation that the PAP candidate in Bukit Batok may have made a statement in breach of the law absurd".

The PAP added: "If a candidate for election as MP is not elected, his party's town council naturally cannot be responsible for the constituency, and cannot carry out its NRP plans for that constituency." The new town council formed will then "decide on its plans and what it should proceed with", it said.

The PAP also said Mr Murali had stated this "simple fact" in response to a media query on Sunday.

It pointed out that it is the town council that nominates the neighbourhoods that should be given priority for the NRP when it applies for government funding. The Government funds NRP projects for all town councils, it added.

More than three-quarters of Housing Board flats in Bukit Batok were built about 30 years ago. Former Bukit Batok MP David Ong, who resigned last month, had pushed for upgrading programmes for the SMC.

Yesterday, Dr Chee called for an update on a $24 million upgrading plan Mr Ong announced in last year's general election.

"If funds have been allocated, contracts have been signed, regardless of whoever is the MP, (these programmes) will continue. But if it hasn't, then we want to ask why."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2016, with the headline 'PAP, SDP spar over renewal plans'. Print Edition | Subscribe