Bukit Batok by-election

Murali, Chee out and about to garner support

SDP's Dr Chee meeting residents at a coffee shop in the constituency yesterday. Among the party supporters who accompanied him on the walkabout was his sister, Siok Chin (left, behind the photographer). PAP's Mr Murali and Ms Low chatting with reside
PAP's Mr Murali and Ms Low chatting with residents at a Bukit Batok coffee shop yesterday morning. MPs from neighbouring Jurong GRC - including DPM Tharman (background, in blue shirt) - were also present to lend their support.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
SDP's Dr Chee meeting residents at a coffee shop in the constituency yesterday. Among the party supporters who accompanied him on the walkabout was his sister, Siok Chin (left, behind the photographer). PAP's Mr Murali and Ms Low chatting with reside
SDP's Dr Chee meeting residents at a coffee shop in the constituency yesterday. Among the party supporters who accompanied him on the walkabout was his sister, Siok Chin (left, behind the photographer).ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Candidates hold walkabouts in constituency and outline their plans if they are elected

The two candidates vying for the Bukit Batok single seat continue to canvass for residents' support, as the by-election draws closer.

Both the People's Action Party (PAP) and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), the only two parties that have announced their candidates, held walkabouts in the constituency yesterday morning.

PAP's Mr Murali Pillai, 48, distributed a card with his contact details and message: "I pledge to serve you with all my heart."

He was accompanied by MPs from neighbouring Jurong GRC - Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister of State Desmond Lee and Ms Rahayu Mahzam.

Yuhua MP Grace Fu, who is Culture, Community and Youth Minister, South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling and former PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng were also there.

Mr Tharman was overheard telling residents about Mr Murali: "He does not talk much, but he has a good heart. He will serve you well."

SDP's Dr Chee Soon Juan, 53, was accompanied by his wife, Ms Huang Chih-Mei, sister Chee Siok Chin and party supporters, and handed out cards and his party newsletter New Democrat. He was overheard telling residents that the by-election could be held in a few weeks' time.

The vacant seat was triggered by the sudden resignation of MP David Ong last month over an alleged extramarital affair with a PAP member in his branch, who has also resigned from the party.

Last week, the Elections Department said it would update the electoral registers on April 14, in a sign that the by-election could be called later this month.

Yesterday, both the PAP and SDP focused their outreach around the Yong Xing Coffee Shop, which made headlines last June when it was sold for a record $31 million.

At one point, both parties were at different ends of the coffee shop, but their paths did not cross.

Mr Murali told reporters that he will focus on several areas if elected.

One is employment help.

"We have government support like the Social Service Office and e2i but, beyond that, we can galvanise community support as well," he said.

He will also push for the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) for residents, adding: "There are a number of Bukit Batok flats that have not benefited from HIP yet."

Seniors who live alone can also get panic buttons in their flats. Mr Murali said he started a panic button installation fund in Paya Lebar and hopes to start a similar fund for Bukit Batok. Paya Lebar is part of Aljunied GRC, where he contested in last year's general election.

Asked about the timing of the by-election, Mr Murali said: "It is (at) the Prime Minister's discretion."

Separately, Dr Chee said: "I don't see the PM keeping this issue much longer after the Budget (debate). In our estimation, it probably will be a few weeks from now - some time in May, if not earlier."

He said his top priority, if elected, is to take care of residents and the estate. "I will be doing this on a full-time basis. They will have my undivided attention," he added.

Besides local issues, he said he will also speak up in Parliament on national issues such as poverty, the income gap, cost of living and prices of HDB flats, and social mobility.

Retired construction worker Tan Swee Chew, 91, said how the estate is managed will determine how he votes. "This area is so old," he said, pointing to peeling paint on the pillars of a sheltered walkway. "Some places are also a bit difficult to get around," the wheelchair user said.

A freelance tuition teacher in his 30s, who gave his name only as Mr Lim, said he is undecided.

"I shook hands with both Mr Murali and Dr Chee. They both look very sincere. I will think about what they offer during the by-election campaigning," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2016, with the headline 'Murali, Chee out and about to garner support'. Print Edition | Subscribe