Opposition takes aim again at foreigner influx, CPF rules

Singapore Democratic Alliance chief Desmond Lim.
Singapore Democratic Alliance chief Desmond Lim.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

The influx of foreigners and the CPF withdrawal age took centrestage at a host of opposition rallies once again last night as parties closed their campaigns by returning to their most-used points of attack against the Government


The sharpest message came from Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) chief Desmond Lim, who urged Singaporeans to use tomorrow's polls as a referendum on those policies.


Everyone should be given a chance to vote on national issues like the Population White Paper and mega-investments like the High Speed Rail from Singapore

to Kuala Lumpur as these will change our lives forever. Much clarity is needed on economic and social justifications for such a huge project.


"Your vote is a strong signal to whoever the ruling party is that we want our CPF money back at age 55 and we strongly say no to the 6.9 million Population White Paper," said Mr Lim at the party's rally in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC last night.

Throughout the campaign, the party pushed hard on the two issues, even breaking tradition of putting election posters featuring the faces of candidates by having their publicity material target policies.


The referendum idea was also on the minds of speakers at the Singaporeans First (SingFirst) rally in Tanjong Pagar GRC. The party's candidate, Mr Chirag Desai, said that the party, if elected, would push for new laws requiring major government decisions to be subjected to a public vote.

"Everyone should be given a chance to vote on national issues like the Population White Paper and mega-investments like the High Speed Rail from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, as these will change our lives forever.

"Much clarity is needed on economic and social justifications for such a huge project," he said.


Over at the National Solidarity Party (NSP), party leaders focused on the CPF, proposing a solution that would allow Singaporeans to withdraw their money at 55 while preventing abuse.

Responding to concerns that some might squander their CPF money if allowed to withdraw them lump sum, NSP secretary-general Lim Tean suggested applying a measure already used to control problem gambling: a blacklist.

"Our proposal is simple. If you have a next-of-kin who you think is going to squander his money, you put up the case to the authorities that he should not be allowed to withdraw his entire CPF sum and that the Government pay him monthly," said Mr Lim at a rally in Tampines GRC.

Immigration and CPF aside, parties also reiterated many of the messages they had brought up in rallies over the past nine days.


The People's Power Party (PPP) had focused much of its campaign attacking healthcare policies, especially since it is coming up against Health Minister Gan Kim Yong's team in Chua Chu Kang GRC.

Last night, party chief Goh Meng Seng stuck to the same strategy, criticising the new Medishield Life insurance scheme.

Mr Goh said Singaporeans were not getting enough help to pay the insurance premiums for Medishield Life as they were only receiving transitional subsidies for the first four years.

After that, the subsidies would only remain for low- and middle-income households.

He argued that the Government should instead adopt a model where it co-pays the premiums with employers and patients.

"You are made to pay all the premiums by yourself. What is the role of the Government and the employer? That is something unacceptable by international standards.

When such a comprehensive healthcare policy is implemented, the Government must be responsive and must co-pay, the employer must also co-pay."


One party that took a slightly different tack last night was the Singapore People's Party (SPP), with candidate for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Benjamin Pwee seeking to establish the team's foreign policy chops by bringing up issues like Asean economic integration and the Trans Pacific Partnership deal, a free trade agreement that includes 12 Pacific Rim countries.

On the TPP, Mr Pwee raised the possibility of the deal leading to higher drug and surgery prices here if intellectual property protection is expanded and asked why it has not been debated in Parliament here.

He raised those issues to show that the opposition could deal with big international issues as well.

"If you want somebody on the international stage, I've got a full team that has lived overseas, that understands the issues," said Mr Pwee.

"The opposition isn't what you think it is, and the opposition certainly isn't what they (the PAP) think it is."

As with the SPP's other rallies in this campaign, veteran opposition leader Chiam See Tong once again made his appearance and gave a brief speech to lend his support to the candidates.


At the Reform Party rally in Ang Mo Kio GRC, the absence from the podium of the party's team leader for the constituency, lawyer M. Ravi, raised eyebrows.

Mr Ravi did not speak at the party's rally on Sunday and did not sit on stage with the party's 10 other candidates yesterday.

RP chairman Andy Zhu said the lawyer sat out the rally in the constituency he is contesting because he had a sore throat.

"We told him since you can't speak just go up and show your face, you have us behind you. But he was just very upset about himself and didn't want to talk to us also," said Mr Zhu. " I heard some rumours that it has something to do with his condition but it is not. Before this, he has all the certifications from his psychiatrist. "

RP candidates yesterday spoke on CPF and immigration issues, with party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam defending their proposal for monthly payouts to pensioners and children, saying that they will be able to fund the programme using returns from investment the reserves.

• Report by Lim Yan Liang, Rennie Whang, Janice Tai, Kok Xing Hui, Olivia Ho, Priscilla Goy, Idayu Suparto, Samantha Boh, Lim Yi Han and Aw Cheng Wei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2015, with the headline 'Opposition takes aim again at foreigner influx, CPF rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe