Coronavirus pandemic

MPs, parties make plans to resume physical outreach

They will follow safety rules during walkabouts and also continue to engage residents online

A customer paying for her meal cashlessly by scanning a QR code at Tong Fong Fatt Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice at Bedok Food Centre on Monday. Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng plans to encourage market and coffee-shop stallholders in Jurong to adopt e-p
A customer paying for her meal cashlessly by scanning a QR code at Tong Fong Fatt Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice at Bedok Food Centre on Monday. Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng plans to encourage market and coffee-shop stallholders in Jurong to adopt e-payment solutions. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

MPs and political parties have begun making plans to resume physical outreach to residents from Friday, when Singapore enters phase two of its reopening, after such efforts were suspended for about two months due to restrictions.

People's Action Party (PAP) MPs said they will adhere to the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force's guidelines when conducting their outreach. They also took pains to stress that such activities are part of regular engagement efforts with the community, and not campaigning ahead of the upcoming general election.

Opposition parties are planning to resume outreach efforts in small groups, or with minimal or no contact, such as through door-to-door flier distribution.

They were reacting yesterday to the task force's announcement on moving into phase two, which will see social gatherings of up to five people allowed, among other things. This rule indicates that walkabouts in small groups should be allowed, though the Elections Department (ELD) has yet to release campaigning guidelines.

Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng said he plans to start visiting market and coffee-shop stallholders in Jurong from Saturday, and encourage them to adopt e-payment solutions as well as join the Community Development Council Vouchers Scheme. Launched last week, the scheme gives lower-income households $50 in vouchers that can be spent at local businesses.

"Along the way, I will meet residents and will assist them where necessary," he said, adding that his grassroots team will strictly follow safe distancing rules, wear masks, and be capped at five people.

Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan said he will wait for clearer guidelines from the authorities on whether ground outreach efforts can be resumed in phase two.

If given the green light to do so, his priority is to resume house visits to vulnerable families and individuals in his ward. Such visits had been suspended since April 7, when the circuit breaker began, except for essential services like meal delivery.

Like other PAP MPs interviewed yesterday, Mr Lim declined to comment on his plans for campaigning, saying he will wait for clearer rules from the ELD.

"Making sure that my residents are taken care of supersedes campaigning... If you've done your work, people will know," he added.

A PAP spokesman did not directly address a query on what format the ruling party's election campaign could take. On the resumption of outreach efforts, she said: "The party will adhere strictly to the multi-ministry task force advisory for phase two of the post-circuit measures in the conduct of any activities with public interaction."

PAP MPs also said they will continue to engage their residents online during this period, through events such as webinars.

Singapore People's Party chairman Jose Raymond said his party will be "back out on the ground" this weekend in Potong Pasir SMC and Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, which it intends to contest.

"Our outreach, within what is allowed through measures announced, will have us resume some of our activities, which will be limited to either meeting small groups of people or organising planning meetings in very small groups."

He added that online activities for his outreach in Potong Pasir are, and will continue to be, an integral part of his campaigning playbook.

The National Solidarity Party said it is meeting later this week and will announce more details on its outreach later.

Mr Goh Meng Seng, secretary-general of the People's Power Party, said he had no plans to conduct outreach activities in person yet. He added that the party is monitoring the situation, and will continue its virtual outreach and online engagement efforts.

The Workers' Party and the Progress Singapore Party did not respond to requests for comment. The Singapore Democratic Party and other opposition parties had not replied to queries as of press time.

It also remains unclear if Meet-the-People Sessions (MPS) can resume, after being suspended during the circuit breaker and phase one of the country's reopening.

For now, Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Sun Xueling have been keeping in touch with residents via e-mail. Ms Sun said she will be focusing on requests via e-mails and calls from residents first.

Said Ms Lee: "I am eager to restart face-to-face MPS as soon as it is safe. My branch is awaiting guidance on this."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2020, with the headline MPs, parties make plans to resume physical outreach. Subscribe