Urging residents to give his People's Action Party (PAP) candidates in opposition-held wards a chance at the upcoming polls, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a rally yesterday that his team is better than the incumbents.
Referring to the slate for Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, Mr Lee said in Mandarin: "I hope that everyone gives them a chance because they are not just six people. They have the entire party supporting them whole-heartedly."
He added that MPs not only take care of municipal issues but that those belonging to the dominant party also form the Government.
Am I affected? Yes. I'm a human being. But am I deterred? No... I rolled up my sleeves and tried my best to regain the trust of these people.
MR K. MURALIDHARAN PILLAI, on being rejected by some residents in Aljunied GRC
"So when you choose a party, you are also choosing the Government that runs your country," he said, emphasising a point he made at a party rally last Saturday.
One of his party's Aljunied GRC's candidates, Mr K. Muralidharan Pillai, said the team had been rejected, intimidated and scolded by some residents, but were not deterred from serving them.
That is because he knows many of them need help and he wants to send a signal that he is prepared to help them, he added.
The constituency was the first group representation constituency to fall into opposition hands, when the Workers' Party (WP) got 54.7 per cent of the vote share in 2011.
Mr Pillai cited examples of a man staying in a rental flat who refused to accept rice from him because he was from the PAP, and of residents who used vulgarities on him when he first became branch chairman of the Paya Lebar ward in 2012. "Am I affected? Yes. I'm a human being," he said. "But am I deterred? No... I rolled up my sleeves and tried my best to regain the trust of these people," he said.
To that end, his team implemented several social programmes - self-funded and not from the Government, he said - for residents.
The experience has humbled him and made him better at listening, and the interaction with residents has improved.
"I must give full credit to Aljunied GRC residents - they know when a person is sincere, they know when a person is trustworthy, they also know when a person is a wayang (Malay for 'putting on a show') king," he said.
His teammate Victor Lye said the loss of Aljunied GRC in 2011 also meant that residents lost "a very good PAP team led by an exceptional man" - former foreign minister George Yeo.
Another teammate, former grassroots leader in Kaki Bukit ward Shamsul Kamar, added that he saw how the estate has deteriorated ever since the WP took over, and that many residents had told him their needs were not being addressed.
He gave the assurance that his team has a plan for the constituency, which is why he wants the residents to "think hard" about what has happened since 2011, and come Polling Day, decide on whether it is time for a change. "Ask yourself the hard questions and consider the hard truths. What will you give (the WP) now? Nothing!" he said to cheers from the crowd.
Meanwhile, his colleague Chua Eng Leong said he would look at the concerns of three groups of residents if elected: more childcare services for young working parents; more enrichment programmes for young students; and more eldercare services to support caregivers in the constituency.
Rounding up the slate is four-term MP Yeo Guat Kwang, who also has three priorities if elected: "Jobs, jobs, jobs."
Mr Lee Hong Chuang, the candidate for the single-seat ward of Hougang, a WP stronghold, also spoke at the rally. He urged residents there to "get a clean start".
"Don't procrastinate. We need to develop Hougang... Make it even better," he said in Mandarin.