Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan urged Bukit Batok residents to send him to Parliament, saying he would be a more effective voice than his People's Action Party (PAP) rival.
Kicking off formal campaigning in the by-election yesterday, he promised in Mandarin and English to serve as a full-time MP, saying residents wanted someone "to sit with them... listen to their difficulties and then bring it to Parliament".
"It is not humanly possible to go to work from 9 to 5 and stay back for more meetings and then come back at 7 to 8 and tell everybody that 'I am going to serve you with all my heart'," he said referring to his PAP rival Murali Pillai's pledge.
"The clear difference here is that every morning when Mr Murali wakes up, his first destination will be his office. When I wake up every morning, my first destination is Bukit Batok. That's the difference."
Dr Chee, 53, who spoke to reporters after nominations at Keming Primary School closed, said in earlier remarks to supporters that his top priority is to take care of the housing estate and run the town council "in the most productive manner".
SDP will make Bukit Batok a model town and "the envy of Singapore", he told some 70 supporters from the first floor of the school, shortly before the microphone was turned off as he exceeded the one minute given to candidates to make a speech.
Adjourning to a press conference, he told reporters that rallies aside, he will continue to knock on doors, visit coffee shops, greet commuters at the MRT station and use social media to reach voters during the nine-day campaign period before the polls on May 7.
He also reiterated his criticism of Mr Murali and the PAP for making the planned estate upgrading in parts of Bukit Batok conditional on the PAP being voted in.
He noted, for instance, a three- generation park, part of $1.9 million worth of infrastructure plans for a neighbourhood in the constituency, came under plans by the PAP-run Jurong-Clementi Town Council which looks after Bukit Batok.
"He (Mr Murali) qualifies that it comes from Jurong-Clementi town council and if he doesn't win, that project may not go on... The whole rationale for this park is to bring families together. If he doesn't win, he's not concerned that they don't have facilities to come together?"
"What he should be saying is that 'I want to be your MP, but I will abide by the people's wishes. If I am not the MP, I will ask the successful candidate, the MP, to carry on this programme'. That is truly and genuinely caring for residents."
Dr Chee said he also wanted a PAP progress report on the promises made by former MP David Ong at last year's general election. Mr Ong had spoken of a five-year masterplan that would commit $24 million to enhance amenities such as a new hawker centre, new
eldercare centre and two new early childhood centres. "Has anything been done, and if not, then why not? Were those just promises to entice voters?" Dr Chee asked.
"Now, if things are already under way, then I say there is no problem. Because if funds have been allocated, contracts have been signed, regardless of whoever is the MP, (these programmes) will continue. But if it hasn't, then we want to ask why. This is where Mr Murali needs to address the issue and be able to tell Bukit Batok residents what has been going on."
Dr Chee began the day with breakfast at a coffee shop before heading to Keming Primary School with about 40 SDP members and volunteers. In a sign that he would not take criticisms of his supporters lightly, Dr Chee stopped at a hardcourt to thank his volunteers.
He said some PAP members had described his supporters as people who did not stay with the SDP.
To cheers from the group, he said that he would take an SDP volunteer or party member over those who volunteered and received perks for their time and efforts.