Party leaders pitch to Punggol East voters

Punggol East voters yesterday heard two conflicting messages from the top leaders of the major parties fighting for their votes.

On his first walkabout in the north-eastern ward since he called for the by-election earlier this month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday urged voters to support the People's Action Party (PAP) if they endorsed its programmes.

They should vote for what they believe in, and not tactically, he said. He made the call in response to a question on the so-called by-election effect of voters rooting for the opposition, secure in the knowledge that the PAP is already in power in the country.

Seeking to make capital out of the by-election effect, Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang urged voters to do precisely that, as the Government is already strong enough.

By holding it to account, the Government would not take voters for granted. By helping to grow the WP's presence, they can ensure the Government will work harder to improve the lives of Singaporeans, he said, pointing to a slew of policy changes that have helped Singaporeans, from housing to transport to health care, since the general election in 2011.

"The PAP has already formed the Government. They have the majority of the MPs in Parliament. It is already a very strong party. Do you need to make it even stronger?" said WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang in Mandarin to a crowd gathered on an open field.

"There are still a lot of policies that need to be improved to make people's lives better. The cost of living is too high, public transport, housing, eldercare... Do you want the PAP to do more and do better? Then use your vote to make the PAP work harder," he added.

The calls from the party in blue last night ended a fourth day of campaigning.

The WP's appeal was countered immediately by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean who said last night that the best way to show support for the new policies was to vote for the PAP, not against it.

"Am glad WP agrees that PAP's new policies are good," he wrote on his Facebook page.

"If voters support the PAP's new policies, for example in education or making flats more affordable and available, the best way to show their support is by voting for the PAP and these policies, not voting against them."

Yesterday, on the rain-soaked field, the WP MPs also defended criticism of their performance in Parliament, and hit back at doubts that they would be able to run a larger town council since winning Aljunied GRC.

They also praised their candidate, Ms Lee Li Lian, for her energy, enthusiasm and empathy for people.

Earlier in the day, on a visit to Punggol East's Rivervale Plaza, PM Lee asked voters to show his party support for what it has been doing and is planning to get done, a day after the PAP's first rally in which DPM Teo and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat defended the PAP's record since 2011 from housing to transport to health care.

He said that the opposition MPs elected in 2011 have neither objected to the Government's agenda, nor offered alternative proposals of their own.

Asked about a "by-election effect" which may work against the PAP, he said: "You have to vote not tactically, to calculate which way you'll gain advantage, but really sincerely, to judge - what do you support, what do you believe in and if you believe in that, support that.

"If you say 'I like the PAP's programme, but it's already there, let me vote against it, because then I get two people to look after me' - if everybody does that, we have a problem.

"Vote according to what you believe in," he concluded. "If you think we are doing a good job, vote for us. If you don't think we are doing a good job, it's your prerogative to decide who you want to give your trust to."

Additional reporting by Rachel Chang

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