Bukit Batok by-election: Murali on lookout for volunteers for planned youth mentorship programme

PAP's Murali Pillai shaking a resident's hand at Bukit Batok Central.
PAP's Murali Pillai shaking a resident's hand at Bukit Batok Central. ST PHOTO: PEARL LEE
Mr Murali greeting residents and joggers at Bukit Batok Central.
Mr Murali greeting residents and joggers at Bukit Batok Central. ST PHOTO: PEARL LEE

SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party (PAP) candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election is on the lookout for volunteers to run a youth mentorship programme that he wants to start if he is elected.

Lawyer Murali Pillai, 48, told reporters on Tuesday (May 3) morning that he hopes to have a pool of volunteers to mentor and inspire students, and help them reach their maximum potential. He has already started the process - taking down names of potential volunteers during his walkabouts, and asking them about their interests.

"The mentoring programme is to make sure our children remain on the path to maximise their opportunities and potential. Sometimes, they get negative influences and unfortunately, they don't carry on in the way that they should. Alternatively, they are not given the support to do well in school," he said.

But for the programme to succeed, it requires the help of volunteers and voluntary welfare organisations, he added.

They can even help guide parents if the children are still young, to "strengthen their parenting skills", he said.

While the mentorship programme will focus on reaching out to children from low-income backgrounds first, Mr Murali said he hopes to open it to as many residents as possible.

Asked if he would still launch the programme if he is not elected as an MP, he would only say that "I'm not thinking so far ahead".

For older students in secondary schools, Mr Murali, who is head of commercial litigation at law firm Rajah and Tann, said he hopes to attract volunteers "from the school of hard knocks" to inspire the younger ones.

 
 

Mr Murali has spent the past few days elaborating on several programmes that are part of his manifesto. He spoke about his healthcare plans for the constituency on Monday, and provided more details about a job placement programme for retrenched residents on Sunday.

The proposed mentorship programme will complement the Dr Ong Chit Chung Bursary Fund, which Bukit Batok residents can apply for, said Mr Murali.

He helped set up the bursary fund, named after Dr Ong , the late former Bukit Batok MP, who died of a heart attack in 2008. It targets children from low-income homes who are not eligible for the Edusave awards so as to "enlarge the net" of those who receive help.

At the nearby Jurong GRC, non-profit welfare organisation Loving Heart already reaches out to students studying in the area through sports, tuition, and a mentorship programme.

Mr Murali is hoping to extend Loving Heart's programme to schools in Bukit Batok too.

He told reporters that he is in contact with the executive director of the Society of Sheng Hong Welfare Services Sara Tan, and she has agreed to advise him, in her personal capacity, on ways to adapt what is being offered in Jurong for Bukit Batok.

On Tuesday, Mr Murali was asked for comments about a post that has been circulating online about a PAP volunteer who told a commuter at the Bukit Batok bus interchange not to support Singapore Democratic Party candidate Chee Soon Juan as Dr Chee is unemployed and worthless.

Mr Murali asked reporters to check the source of the post, saying: "As far as I'm concerned, it is certainly something I don't subscribe to. Let me make it clear. Whatever I do, I put the residents in the centre of it."

Later on Tuesday (May 3), a PAP spokesman confirmed that no such incident took place, and the alleged remarks made to the commuter named Mr Ridhuan Abdullah were fictitious. 

"We have checked with the volunteers present and confirm that no such incident took place, and the alleged remarks are fictitious.  What is telling is that the FB post claimed that the volunteer had asked Mr Ridhuan Abdullah to attend the PAP rally to show support. There was no PAP rally that day, and neither had any upcoming rally been announced," PAP Executive Director Alex Yam said.