GE2015: 5 things about the first night of election rallies on Sept 2

The crowd at the WP rally at Hougang Central on Sept 2, 2015.
The crowd at the WP rally at Hougang Central on Sept 2, 2015. ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

SINGAPORE - Two rallies on Wednesday (Sept 2) night wrapped up the first full day of campaigning for the Sept 11 general election.

The People's Action Party held a Tanjong Pagar GRC and Radin Mas rally at Delta Sports Complex, and the Workers' Party turned up for a Hougang rally in the area.

Here are 5 things about the two rallies.

1. Big turnout at the Workers' Party rally

The crowd at the WP rally at Hougang Central on Sept 2, 2015. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The crowd at the WP rally at Hougang Central on Sept 2, 2015. ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

As expected and as seen in the last few general elections, the WP rally in a field in Central Hougang attracted people in the thousands. They started gathering at about 6.15pm and by the end of the evening, the field was packed to overflowing.

After the rally was over, access to Hougang MRT station nearby was closed for a short while to control the human traffic on the platforms.

But the crowd was generally well-behaved. In fact, people were spotted picking up litter from the field after the rally was over.

2. Turnout at PAP rally smaller

Over in Tiong Bahru, the crowds were smaller and more measured, but things perked up when a vocal section of supporters for former senior police officer Melvin Yong - a Tanjong Pagar GRC candidate - turned up.

Outgoing Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew and former Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua were also spotted among the crowd.

Mr Chan Chun Sing greeting supporters at a PAP rally on Sept 2, 2015. ST PHOTO: JOANNA SEOW

Asked by reporters later if he felt discouraged that the turnout was smaller than that of the WP rally, anchor GRC candidate Chan Chun Sing had this reply: "No, no, we don't let such things get into the way we serve our residents. Our focus is very simple. We take care of the residents and I think the residents will take care of the results."

3. Speeches - who spoke at the PAP rally?

PM Lee (third right) and eight others spoke at the rally. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Nine people including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who wrapped up the event.

Mr Chan was a lively presence, speaking fluidly in Malay and Chinese before launching into an impassioned English speech. Mentioning how he was laughed and mocked at times, he said in Mandarin: "I can't bear to give up on my country or Tanjong Pagar!"

The other GRC candidates spoke about the causes they were passionate about. For instance, Ms Indranee Rajah on education (she also spoke briefly in Cantonese), Ms Joan Pereira on care for the elderly, and Dr Chia Shi-Lu on healthcare. Guest speaker Sidek Saniff touched on how the Malay community was never left behind while paying tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Two issues - housing and healthcare - were on PM Lee's agenda.

But he also spoke about the standard of the opposition towards the end of his speech, emphasising how politicians cannot afford to "cover up" or "play taiji" and delay problems, in a veiled reference to the ongoing Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) saga.

4. And at the WP rally?

Mr Low was joined by 13 other speakers at the WP rally. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The slate of 14 speakers was designed to show off both the WP's new faces and put the spotlight on familiar ones.

Newcomers such as Cheryl Denise Loh (Nee Soon GRC) and Dr Daniel Goh (East Coast GRC) got airtime to talk about the causes they believe in as well. They also reiterated the party line about the opposition as a necessary check to the PAP and empowering Singaporeans in Parliament.

WP veterans Png Eng Huat and Low Thia Khiang were the big guns, coming on only towards the end after the younger ones had paved the way. They came out blazing with their speeches in Hokkien (Mr Png) and Teochew (Mr Low). While English speeches from the candidates in general tended to be more circumspect, the dialect speeches were earthier and more direct.

Rounding off the night was chairman Sylvia Lim, who, like the other WP seniors, addressed the AHPETC issue. She debunked four myths that she said the PAP had been spreading about the town council.

5. Memorable quotes?

PM Lee speaking at a PAP rally on Sept 2, 2015. ONG WEE JIN

"If people do something wrong but don't fix it, and say 'well, I haven't been sent to jail', then standards for politics is too low."

- PM Lee Hsien Loong, wrapping up his speech

"In politics, your heart must be right. You cannot afford to be selfish, you cannot afford to cover up or play taiji, delaying problems."

- PM Lee Hsien Loong

"Please don't insult my residents. Do you think they are here to be bribed? Is this an election or an auction?"

- Mr Chan Chun Sing on opposition parties promising residents $300 a month

"If there are any residents of Aljunied here, 'kee chiew'!"

- Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, WP candidate for Aljunied GRC, at the start of his rally speech. Kee chiew means raise your hand in Hokkien and was a reference to how Mr Chan Chun Sing had tried to rally a crowd using this phrase when he first entered politics

"You are the shareholders of this country. You tell the government what to do. Not the other way around."

- Mr Dennis Tan, WP candidate for Fengshan

"The PAP government is not a government of the future but a ghost from the past."

- Mr Png Eng Huat, WP candidate for Hougang, in Hokkien