SINGAPORE - PAP candidate Tin Pei Ling has refuted MacPherson rival Cheo Chai Chen's comments that her new role as a mother is a weakness.
In a Facebook post on Friday (Sept 4) morning, Ms Tin, 31, said that she disagreed with the National Solidarity Party (NSP) candidate.
She said she is committed to MacPherson, and returned to work two weeks after delivery because she wanted to continue to serve.
"I am confident that even as a mum I can continue to focus on my work in MacPherson," she wrote.
The Today newspaper reported Mr Cheo's comments. The 64-year-old former Nee Soon Central MP had said: "The PAP's Tin Pei Ling has been working very hard. But she has just given birth, so voters should let her go home and rest, and take care of her child.
"In general, mothers love their children, so they spend a lot of time with them. If voters choose her, she might focus more on her child than on her voters. This is her weakness."
In her post, Ms Tin noted that women today are well educated and capable of contributing in the work place and society.
"Many mums face pressures to choose between motherhood and career. They should not have to," she said, adding that she thus wants to build a Singapore "in which more women can successfully manage family and work responsibilities at the same time".
At a walkabout on Friday, she said that the general election concerns the future of Singapore as well as, on a personal level for her, MacPherson.
"MacPherson means a lot to me. I feel a sense of responsibility. But I understand that not all women have the kind of support that I may have at this moment," she said.
"It won't be easy for women, especially working mothers, out there. This further strengthens my sense of mission in wanting to help women get the kind of support they need in order to multitask and fulfil their different roles," she added.
When asked about his comments on Ms Tin being a new mother on Friday, Mr Cheo said: "It was a joke. I did not mean it to be taken seriously."
Ms Tin is in a three-cornered fight for the single-seat ward with Mr Cheo and Mr Bernard Chen, 29, from the Workers' Party.
She gave birth to a son, Kee Hau, on Aug 5 - her first child with Law Ministry Permanent Secretary Ng How Yue.
Defence minister Ng Eng Hen backed also Ms Tin with a Facebook post. The medical doctor noted that a short stint with the obstetrician and gynaecology department as a medical officer showed him how strong mothers are.
He added that he had advised Ms Tin to do less house-to-house and market visits while still in confinement. Dr Ng also added: "Mothers are strong, very strong when motivated... Those who dare to challenge mothers - beware!"
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu weighed in on the issue, saying she found Mr Cheo’s comments on Ms Tin “unjustified and outdated”.
In a post on Facebook, she wrote: “The work of an MP is demanding but many women MPs have proven that they can be as effective as their male counterparts.
“MOS Sim Ann, Ms Low Yen Ling, Dr Intan are exemplary of the modern Singaporean women who have done well managing the demands of public service, the political work of an MP and the mother of their children.
She added that Mr Cheo’s comment that “voters should let her go home and rest” is a reminder that the work to change societal attitude is “far from done”.
NSP's Sembawang GRC candidate Kevryn Lim also gave her take on this issue.
In a Facebook post on Friday, the 26-year-old single mother said: "We value all mothers and parents! I believe, Miss Tin, like all mothers and myself can also be a career woman of their own and manage their time respectively without neglecting anyone in the family."
In his comments on Thursday, Mr Cheo also took aim at the youth of his two opponents in MacPherson.
In response, Ms Tin said on Facebook that youth should not be seen as a disadvantage. "It is good to encourage and enable youths to serve. It is good that young Singaporeans are paying attention and getting involved in the GE.
"It shows that young Singaporeans are willing to stand up for their beliefs and work hard to achieve a better future for our country."
MacPherson resident Madam Susan Tan, 66, met Mr Cheo on his walkabout on Friday morning at Pipit Road. "I've seen him (Cheo) around before, I recognise him," she said. "But government here by Ms Tin is very smooth and I don't know if he can do the same."