Singapore GE2020: Unusual election provided opportunities to meet many more residents, says Teo Chee Hean

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean handing out fliers to residents at Punggol MRT station on July 1, 2020. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean has contested five general elections and one by-election, but none has produced the unusual phenomenon of this year's polls: being able to meet many more residents during walkabouts and home visits.

The reason is that more people are working from home and doing their marketing and shopping closer to home, as well as not holidaying abroad, said Mr Teo, 65, on Tuesday (July 7).

Attributing it to people just coming out of two months of circuit breaker curbs, he noted: "That provided an interesting opportunity because we managed to meet many more residents in a compressed period than we usually do in a general election."

The Senior Minister made the observation of happenings at the hustings during the second live e-rally held for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, which was in the format of a round-table discussion, with people posting their views and questions during the hour-long session.

Mr Teo is the anchor minister leading a team of four: Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary, 47, who led the discussion, and three newcomers to politics: Mr Desmond Tan, 50, Mr Mohamed Sharael Taha, 39, and Ms Yeo Wan Ling, 44.

For the new faces, the memorable experiences stem from their interaction with residents and the demanding pace of canvassing for votes.

Mr Tan confessed he had lost "a few kilograms", while Mr Sharael said he reaches home around midnight and as soon as his head hits the pillow, he is out like a light and "the next thing you know, it's 5am and you are up again".

Ms Yeo said there were several nights she fell asleep with the phone on her forehead as she would attend to her e-mails and text messages on reaching home late in the night.

But helping residents solve their problems regarding jobs, livelihoods and financial aid more than make up for the inevitable fatigue, they said.

Mr Tan, former chief executive of the People's Association, said issues relating to Covid-19 abound, with people largely not knowing how to get help.

A woman, whose husband was involved in an accident in Malaysia, did not know how to get back his motorcycle from across the Causeway because of the restrictive rules for travel. And he needed it for work.

"Thankfully, with my experience in public service, I was able to connect her to the agency that can help her."

Her daughter happily thanked him the next day as they felt confident of getting it back, he added, with a broad smile.

Mr Sharael recounts the pride of a cleaner in Loyang Point, who "upskilled" by learning how to operate a cleaning robot over three months. "But initially, he was worried automation would take away his job."

Ms Yeo, a social entrepreneur, helped an elderly man complete the paperwork for three different grant applications.

The PAP will face a three-cornered fight with the Peoples Voice party and the Singapore Democratic Alliance in the group representation constituency, which has 166,587 voters.

One question from a member of the public revolved around groupthink in the People's Action Party.

Mr Teo noted that besides the party's efforts to ensure diversity, "Parliament is the place where important matters of national interest are debated and discussed".

And both the Nominated MP and the Non-Constituency MP schemes provide a "diversity of views in Parliament", he added.

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