Quiet start to Bukit Batok contest

Bukit Batok, where both the PAP's Mr Murali and the SDP's Dr Chee have become a familiar sight to residents. They have been walking the ground since last month.
Bukit Batok, where both the PAP's Mr Murali and the SDP's Dr Chee have become a familiar sight to residents. They have been walking the ground since last month.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Both candidates keep to routine of walking the ground; Chee says SDP's plans will be outlined today

The Bukit Batok by-election contest was off to a quiet start a day after the Writ setting May 7 as the election date was issued.

There was no flurry of candidate introductions or fevered speculation about possible candidates.

This was in large part because the People's Action Party (PAP) and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) introduced candidates a month ago. Both have become a familiar sight to residents.

With other major opposition parties staying away, it is likely a straight fight between the PAP's Mr Murali Pillai, 48, and the SDP's Dr Chee Soon Juan, 53. Both spent yesterday morning walking the ground, keeping to a near daily routine that began shortly after news on March 12 that former MP David Ong was resigning over an alleged affair with a grassroots activist, and a by-election would be called.

Dr Chee, the SDP secretary-general, said after his walkabout yesterday that the party's plans for Bukit Batok will be outlined today.

He did not elaborate on what the plans entailed, but said the SDP had the resources to take over the town council if needed. He reiterated his call for a retrenchment insurance scheme, and said workers were affected by a slowing economy.

His message continued to be that he would make a bigger impact in Parliament than Mr Murali: "With 82 seats that the PAP has, what is the difference that Mr Murali is going to make in Parliament?"

Two Bukit Batok residents told The Straits Times they were still assessing the candidates. Housewife Ong Boon Kin, 65, voted for the PAP in last year's general election. But as she does not know enough about the candidates this time, she said: "I'll take my time to find out more."

IT firm managing director Jerian Yong, 37, who has also lived in the area for 30 years, said he will wait for a fuller picture of their election platform, especially their plans "for younger people and children".

Both Mr Murali and Dr Chee continued to use social media to reach out to residents.

But a Facebook post on Monday by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, in which he recalled an encounter with Dr Chee in the run-up to the 2001 General Election, had some netizens asking him why he was raising it again now.

Mr Goh had commented on a newspaper article about his first general election as prime minister and recounted that Dr Chee heckled him when their paths crossed in a wet market. Replying to a netizen on Tuesday on why he cited the episode, Mr Goh said: "That jarring incident stuck in my mind."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2016, with the headline 'Quiet start to Bukit Batok contest'. Print Edition | Subscribe