Bukit Batok by-election

Murali thanks voters, says he is humbled by win, not triumphant

Mr Murali being congratulated at a coffee shop in Bukit Batok after his by-election win yesterday.
Mr Murali being congratulated at a coffee shop in Bukit Batok after his by-election win yesterday.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

He says he will get started on schemes proposed in campaign

In the end, there was no jubilant acceptance speech, no grand celebration by the winner of the Bukit Batok by-election.

Instead, People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Murali Pillai, in the face of his 61.2 per cent victory, said: "I am humbled by the results. I'm encouraged by the results but certainly not feeling triumphant."

Mr Murali, who was speaking at PAP's traditional press conference held after the result was announced at 11.30pm, was also quick to thank his rival, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan, who got 38.8 per cent of the vote.

Said Mr Murali of Dr Chee and the SDP: "They ran a well-organised campaign. I want to thank them for the contest because it helped me articulate my plans for our Bukit Batok residents much better."

Residents, whom he thanked for giving him the mandate to serve, were front and centre of his speech.

"I will serve everybody, irrespective of their political affiliation," he stressed.

His press conference was a low-key one, held not at PAP headquarters or a stadium but at the party branch in Bukit Batok.

Also, Mr Murali was flanked, not by ministers but by four members of his campaign team, whom he said he was "eternally grateful to" for their time and hard work.

The quartet were: Madam Angelina Lim, branch assistant treasurer, Mr Lim Boon Lye, branch activist, Ms Noor Fatimah and Mr Tan Han Sen, branch activist.

Much of his brief speech focused on his immediate plans, which are to roll out the programmes he had proposed in his nine-day campaign.

These include a job placement programme, healthcare plans, and a mentorship scheme for children from low-income homes.

Mr Murali said the schemes would be ready in the next few months. "I'll start work tomorrow," he added, even as he said that his agenda was "ambitious".

"So I'll be out there looking for people to join me. And I would like to work with a number of civic organisations as well," he said.

"We really need lots of help and I welcome anyone to join me, and we'll take it from there."

Mr Murali, when asked, did not dwell on his margin of victory.

It was 11.8 percentage points lower than what the PAP's David Ong, who stepped down over an alleged affair, scored at the general election last year.

Instead, he quipped that he was "used to razor-thin margins", coming from Aljunied GRC where he contested in a team against the Workers' Party and lost with 49 per cent of the vote.

"I said from the start that this will be a tough by-election. And I'm really grateful for the results that have been announced," he said.

"It gives me encouragement, but certainly there's lots of work to be done."

Tomorrow will likely be a busy day for Mr Murali, as Parliament will sit in the afternoon.

Asked if he would be sworn in then, Mr Murali said: "If the Speaker permits, then I will attend."

He will hold his first Meet-the-People Session tomorrow evening.

Speaking to reporters after the press conference ended, several PAP leaders said they had expected a tough fight and were very happy with the result.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said: "It's never easy to win a by-election."

These local elections are always a tough fight for the incumbent party, he added. "We never, never take for granted a by-election. It's not something that you can compare with a general election result."

Mr Chan added: "So of course we're very pleased that the residents of Bukit Batok have renewed their faith in the party."

His colleagues were also full of praise for Mr Murali.

Said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam: "He came out stronger than I expected. I think he did exceptionally well."

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said: "It was a good fight. It is a good win."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 08, 2016, with the headline 'Murali thanks voters, says he is humbled by win, not triumphant'. Print Edition | Subscribe