Opposition party rallies: Singapore People's Party

We're more in touch with the ground: Pwee

Veteran opposition leader Chiam See Tong and his wife Lina, the SPP's candidate for Potong Pasir SMC. Though visibly frail, he made a short speech at the rally. Sections of the crowd chanted his name.
Veteran opposition leader Chiam See Tong and his wife Lina, the SPP's candidate for Potong Pasir SMC. Though visibly frail, he made a short speech at the rally. Sections of the crowd chanted his name.PHOTOS: CHONG JUN LIANG
A common thread that ran across the SPP candidates' speeches at the rally last night was the charge that the ruling PAP was elitist and out of touch. SPP's Bishan-Toa Payoh candidate Law Kim Hwee cited transport as an example.
A common thread that ran across the SPP candidates' speeches at the rally last night was the charge that the ruling PAP was elitist and out of touch. SPP's Bishan-Toa Payoh candidate Law Kim Hwee cited transport as an example.

Chiam, who makes surprise appearance, calls on voters to press Govt on CPF

Opposition stalwart Chiam See Tong returned to the scene of his last electoral battle last night, as he made a surprise appearance at the first rally of his Singapore People's Party (SPP) campaign.

While visibly frail, the six-term former MP rose to his feet near the end of the night to deliver a short speech, as sections of the crowd chanted his name.

He rallied his supporters by recounting how Potong Pasir SMC residents had rejected an $80 million upgrading package in 2006, and stuck with him as their MP.

"Two days before the election, the PAP promised $80 million to the residents of Bishan Toa-Payoh and Potong Pasir, provided they vote in their candidate," he said.

"Of course, you know the result: The residents of Potong Pasir said to the PAP, 'you can go to hell'."

Mr Chiam, 80, who apologised for his "start and stop" delivery due to his illness, spoke for more than seven minutes flanked by his wife, NCMP Lina Chiam and the SPP's Bishan-Toa Payoh team.

The man who was Potong Pasir MP for 27 years, before he stepped out to lead a team in Bishan-Toa Payoh at the last election, called on Singaporeans to keep pressing the Government to return their life savings.

Noting that he had raised the CPF issue all the way back in 1984 when he first became an MP, he said: "You may not get back your CPF money. This is no joke: I say in all seriousness, you wait for 40 years and nothing happens.

"The PAP is waiting for insurance premiums to be paid to them before they can pay out any money. So you better pray for all your money to be paid back to you."

A common thread that ran across the other speeches of SPP's candidates yesterday was the charge that the PAP was elitist and out of touch. And they trotted out that argument as they tackled issues like immigration and transport.

Waving his EZ-Link card, Bishan-Toa Payoh candidate Law Kim Hwee said he often rode the bus and took the train, but could not say the same for his opponents.

"You see this EZ-Link card? I can bet you, the other team, PAP team competing against us, none of them has this in their pocket," he said.

He added that unlike the Government, Singaporeans are realistic, willing to lower their wage expectations to "take the shrimp or sotong" if there was no fish.

The 55-year-old, who said he was retrenched nearly four years ago, also claimed that PMET salaries have gone down while costs of living continued to rise.

SPP's candidate for Hong Kah North SMC Ravi Philemon, in turn, said the current government lacked foresight by planning to cram as many as 6.9 million people into infrastructure meant for five million.

Tech entrepreneur Bryan Long added that the PAP Government had put in place an education system that is a "pressure cooker (with) no safety valve", and called for the Primary School Leaving Exam (PSLE) to be scrapped.

"The PAP MPs hear you, but they want you to listen to them," he said.

"They hear you talk, but they speak down to you. The PAP Government has for so long restricted ideas from the ground, restricted our growth."

Another member of the Bishan-Toa Payoh team, training company owner Abdillah Zamzuri, also sought to make the point that the SPP candidates were more relatable than the ones from the PAP.

Describing himself as a "heartland guy", he said: "I'm just like you. I play soccer at the void decks, I lepak (hang out) at coffeeshops, I attended neighbourhood schools but most importantly, I share your ambitions, and your sporting aspirations."

Wrapping up for the evening, business consultant Benjamin Pwee asked residents of the five-member ward to vote for his team as they are in touch with the ground.

"My teammates are very real people: polytechnic graduates, people who have lost their jobs," he said.

Mr Pwee also urged more ordinary Singaporeans to step forward and support the opposition cause.

"If you are afraid, then you will never put other credible people into government to represent your voice. I ask you... to not be afraid to hold your head up high. Give us a 50.001 per cent to cross that line and send us into Parliament."

• Additional reporting by Joanna Seow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'We're more in touch with the ground: Pwee'. Print Edition | Subscribe