Bukit Batok by-election

SDP unveils four social initiatives for Bukit Batok residents

(From left) Allied educator Rajakumari Ashukumar, who will coordinate SDP's Pathfinder programme; SDP secretary- general Chee Soon Juan; SDP vice-chairman John Tan; Mr Tan Kin Lian, who will facilitate the Dollars And Sense financial clinic; and priv
(From left) Allied educator Rajakumari Ashukumar, who will coordinate SDP's Pathfinder programme; SDP secretary- general Chee Soon Juan; SDP vice-chairman John Tan; Mr Tan Kin Lian, who will facilitate the Dollars And Sense financial clinic; and private tutor Wong Hwee Lin, who will run the Hearts for Bukit Batok scheme.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
PAP candidate Murali Pillai has earlier said he will unveil plans for Bukit Batok by Nomination Day, which falls on April 27. The lawyer has been uploading videos of his interactions with residents on his Facebook page, showing him doing push-ups wit
PAP candidate Murali Pillai has earlier said he will unveil plans for Bukit Batok by Nomination Day, which falls on April 27. The lawyer has been uploading videos of his interactions with residents on his Facebook page, showing him doing push-ups with a resident and playing the piano in a family's home.PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE OF MURALI PILLAI

Programmes target those who have fallen through the cracks, says Chee Soon Juan

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) yesterday promised to roll out four social initiatives for Bukit Batok residents should its candidate Chee Soon Juan be elected in the May 7 by-election.

The programmes, which target a broad swathe of residents from youth to the elderly, will help those who have fallen through the cracks, Dr Chee said, adding that existing social assistance programmes had not gone far enough.

Speaking at a news conference at the SDP's Ang Mo Kio headquarters, Dr Chee, 53, who is the party's secretary-general, acknowledged it might be normal for some to be left behind in a "big bureaucracy".

"But this is where the MPs have a big responsibility," he said.

 

He said he would be a full-time MP if elected, and that he would contribute a portion of the MP's monthly allowance to help fund the initiatives.

The SDP's plans came ahead of those which People's Action Party (PAP) candidate, lawyer Murali Pillai, 48, has said he would also unveil for the constituency.

He said previously that he would do so by Nomination Day, which falls on April 27.

Mr Murali has been uploading videos of his interactions with residents on his Facebook page.

In a recent video, he was shown doing push-ups with a resident identified only as Mr Razali.

"I am amazed with Mr Razali! At his age of 66, he can do more push-ups than I do. I certainly need to learn how to keep up with him," Mr Murali wrote.

Another clip shows him playing the piano in the Ho family's home.

"It's been some time since I played," he said.

Some 25,727 Bukit Batok residents will vote in the by-election that was triggered by the resignation last month of former PAP MP David Ong over an alleged extramarital affair.

Dr Chee said yesterday he hoped the by-election will be "a contest of ideas, of the vision where we want to take Singapore, and by that, to be able to build Bukit Batok as this constituency that Singaporeans can look up to".

The programmes the SDP unveiled yesterday are part of this vision, he said.

They are:

• Hearts for Bukit Batok: Led by private tutor Wong Hwee Lin, 42. Under it, households will be encouraged to "adopt" a needy family and contribute their time and resources to help them. The SDP will set up a trust fund, and Dr Chee said he will use part of the MP's allowance to help 10 families.

• Pathfinder: Book clubs, science fairs and youth sports clubs will be organised under this initiative led by allied educator Rajakumari Ashukumar, 23. Subsidised private tuition will also be given to students of low-income families.

• Dollars And Sense: A financial clinic facilitated by business consultant and former presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian, 68.

• Legal Lifeline: A legal clinic providing advice run by "at least seven lawyers", who SDP vice-chairman John Tan said cannot be named due to "ethical guidelines".

Dr Chee said his groundwork in Bukit Batok showed the need for such initiatives. He cited, as an example, a family he met who have been trying to get the town council to build a ramp for wheelchair users like their mother.

"These are people we can help. It's not rocket science. It's just where your priorities are," he said.

Bukit Batok resident Tan Siew Bee, 65, said yesterday that she felt the Government had done a lot for the elderly, including those from the Pioneer Generation.

But Madam Tan, who is single, said she has not worked since she was retrenched six years ago. The former factory worker also has to look after her 96-year-old mother, who has diabetes and dementia.

"It will be better if there are more communal areas where old people can gather," she told The Straits Times.

"I'm not able to go out because I need to watch my mother.

"But if there are areas where I can chat with people, maybe they can help me watch my mother if I need to run some errands."

Although the contest looks to be a straight fight between Dr Chee and Mr Murali, former opposition candidate Abdul Rahim Osman collected nomination forms from the Elections Department yesterday.

Shin Min Daily News quoted him as saying that he will run as an independent candidate.

He has contested in previous general elections with the Workers' Party and also the Singapore Democratic Alliance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2016, with the headline 'SDP unveils four social initiatives for Bukit Batok residents'. Print Edition | Subscribe