MP Chia Shi-Lu responds to criticism of Sunday walkabout

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Chia Shi-Lu distributing reusable face masks to a hawker at Alexandra Village Food Centre on Sunday. With him is Colonel Eric Chua (in striped T-shirt).
Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Chia Shi-Lu distributing reusable face masks to a hawker at Alexandra Village Food Centre on Sunday. With him is Colonel Eric Chua (in striped T-shirt).PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

People's Action Party (PAP) MP Chia Shi-Lu is facing a barrage of criticism after he was spotted on Sunday distributing masks to hawkers at Alexandra Village Food Centre with a potential candidate for the upcoming general election.

A picture accompanying a report in the Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao on Sunday showed the Tanjong Pagar GRC MP giving out masks, accompanied by Colonel Eric Chua, director of the SGSecure Programme Office.

Col Chua, 40, is a grassroots leader active in the GRC. He chairs the Cairnhill Community Club management committee, and is seen as a potential PAP candidate.

Pictures of the two men wearing masks while speaking to hawkers had led some to question why Dr Chia was meeting his constituents with a potential candidate, when many other activities such as Meet-the-People Sessions have been suspended because of Covid-19.

Former Workers' Party (WP) non-constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong shared the Wanbao report on Facebook and said he hoped leaders from the ruling party could set a "good example" in the fight against the coronavirus, noting that the WP had suspended outreach activities.

Responding to the criticism yesterday, Dr Chia told The Straits Times he was at the hawker centre at about 10am on Sunday to encourage hawkers to wear masks, and the group accompanying him was kept small - fewer than five.

The hawker centre was quite deserted and the group did not interact with customers, he said.

"We were not doing a walkabout, we were there to tell people to wear masks when serving and please wear masks, it was more an education thing."

As for Col Chua, Dr Chia said he was "not there to campaign", noting that the former was an active volunteer in the GRC.

"He's been helping out in quite a few areas, in fact he's been helping with some of our food distribution programmes," Dr Chia added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2020, with the headline 'MP Chia Shi-Lu responds to criticism of Sunday walkabout'. Subscribe