SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party took a breather from night-time rallies on Sunday (Sept 6) as campaigning for the Sept 11 polls heads into its second week.
Four opposition parties held rallies - the Singapore People's Party (SPP) at Stadium Drive, Reform Party (RP) at Delta Hockey Pitch, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) at Jurong East Stadium, and the Workers' Party (WP) at Simei Road.
Here are our five highlights:
1. SO WHO WENT
Judging by the crowds that filled a whole field in Simei Road, the fierce battle that is expected between the WP and the PAP for the four-member East Coast GRC might well take place. Thousands chanted and cheered as each speaker spoke. In the 2011 GE, the PAP got 54.8 per cent to WP's 45.2 per cent.
The other opposition rallies saw much more modest turnouts.
2. DR CHEE HITS OUT
One of the fieriest speeches of the night came from SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan. His target: his Holland-Bukit Timah GRC rival, PAP minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
Among other things, he took Dr Balakrishnan to task for overspending on the Youth Olympic Games budget by three times. But, he said: "When I disagree with Dr Balakrishnan, I disagree with him on what he says, but I don't dislike him... I have great admiration for him."
He and fellow candidate Paul Tambyah also spent time hitting out at comments Dr Balakrishnan had made about politicians' salary.
At a forum last week, Dr Balakrishnan said that only two kinds of people can serve the people at zero cost - those who are wealthy, and those who are corrupt. He was responding to a participant who had questioned the MP allowance, which stands at $192,500 annually.
3. KEY ISSUES THAT CROPPED UP
SPP rally: Mr Bryan Long, SPP candidate for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and the first speaker, set the theme by holding Mr Chiam See Tong up as the exemplar of a good opposition parliamentarian.
He listed three ways in which the SPP team will follow Mr Chiam's example - by being respectful of opponents, by being constructive and by not giving up even if they fail. And he exhorted voters to "keep Mr Chiam's fire burning".
Other speakers elaborated on this. SPP volunteer Choo Zheng Xi pointed to Mrs Lina Chiam's active questioning in Parliament as an example of the need for opposition MPs to ask hard questions.
Mrs Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, who is contesting Mountbatten, also paid tribute to Mr Chiam's long years of service, adding that his efficiency in managing Potong Pasir proved that opposition parties can run town councils. She also lauded his "passion to serve" the people, taking on the post of MP long before MPs received generous allowances.
RP rally: There was no clear theme at the RP rally. Ang Mo Kio GRC candidate Jesse Loo kicked off the night by answering questions that he said Singaporeans have posed, and reassured that the opposition is unable to raid Singapore's reserves and that they cannot "anyhow" pass policies.
Other candidates attacked hot-button issues like the cost of living and healthcare costs. Radin Mas SMC candidate Kumar Appavoo, in particular, covered everything from the care of the elderly and the price of HDB flats to birth rates and his strategies as a minority candidate. He ended by asking his "Chinese brothers" to vote for him.
Party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam (West Coast GRC) and blogger Roy Ngerng (Ang Mo Kio GRC) used statistics to back up their arguments. The former sought to detail where the money for his party's plans - including an old-age pension of $500 a month for those above 65 - would come from. Mr Ngerng tried to prove that the PAP returns Singaporeans only a portion of what they collect.
SDP rally: Besides Dr Chee and Dr Tambyah, the other speakers worked their way through a spectrum of topics. These included the high cost of living in Singapore and the lack of government support for minority groups such as single mothers. Also raised was the lack of opposition voices in Parliament. Dr Wong Souk Yee, who is contesting Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, said that with the presence of the PAP party whip and only seven opposition seats, "laws are passed without meaningful debate or challenge".
WP rally: Foreigners were the big theme at the WP rally. Ten of its 13 speakers talked about the issue, and many attacked the 2013 Population White Paper. East Coast GRC candidate Daniel Goh said that the document's footnote on nurses being "low-skilled" workers touched a nerve as his mother is a nurse. He said: "The Singapore economy is not a machine, and Singaporeans are not screws and nuts."
Nee Soon GRC candidate Gurmit Singh said that immigration had Singapore "creaking at the seams", while East Coast GRC candidate Leon Perera said the decade before 2011, which saw a large influx of foreigners, was the "lost decade". Mr Low Thia Khiang's speech focused on WP's proposals to cap the increase of foreign worker population and grow the Singapore core.
The speakers also linked the PAP's immigration policy to the wide income gap, and brought up their proposed minimum wage policy a number of times.
4. MEMORABLE MOMENTS
* The SPP rally started about 20 minutes late but the sparse crowd did not mind since there were free snacks available. A booth with a popcorn machine and volunteers dishing out old-school biscuits attracted a hungry queue of about 20 people in under five minutes.
* The RP emcee had, at the last few rallies, made his presence felt with his fiery introductions. On Sunday, he drew a swift correction from speaker Siva Chandran when he introduced the Ang Mo Kio GRC candidate as "a former PAP man", causing the latter to say "I hate PAP" and clarifying that he had just worked for the People's Association. Earlier, the emcee told a story of leadership involving Alexandra the Great leading his army through the Afghan desert on the way to India. He also read out a list, given to him by a resident, of 20 items that Singaporeans had not "approved of", including "sending old folks to JB".
* Radin Mas candidate Kumar Appavoo already faces a three-cornered fight, but things could get even harder if he keeps asking residents to vote for him on the "nine of..." September. He mentioned this date at the start and the end of his speech, quickly correcting himself both times. Polling Day is Sept 11.
* Activist Gilbert Goh, who is contesting in Ang Mo Kio on the RP's ticket, called Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong a "trader", before carefully spelling out the word "T-R-A-D-E-R" to make sure no one thought he had said "traitor". He gave five reasons for saying so, mainly involving how foreigners have come to Singapore to work and study.
* The WP's can't-miss neon-lit campaign trailer truck, dubbed the "Optimus Prime", was spotted at the end of its rally. It was caught in the traffic jam after the rally, allowing rally-goers to snap photos and videos of it. When it moved, the crowd cheered.
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