Singapore GE2020: PAP's Murali says it takes a team to run Bukit Batok, not just one person

Incumbent PAP MP Murali Pillai speaks to media during a walkabout on July 1, 2020. PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - It takes a whole team to run Bukit Batok SMC, incumbent Murali Pillai of the People's Action Party (PAP) said in response to Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan's criticism that the Senior Counsel is not a full-time MP.

Providing a report card of his time as MP since winning the 2016 by-election in the single-member constituency against Dr Chee, Mr Murali said he and his team have introduced a number of programmes for residents, which he described as successful and well-entrenched.

These include self-funded programmes like a food and grocery voucher scheme, which costs more than $20,000 a month, and the Dr Ong Chit Chung bursary award, which is for lower-income families in the area.

The award, named after the late five-term PAP MP for Bukit Batok who died in 2008, has been given out to hundreds of students, said Mr Murali during a walkabout in Bukit Batok Street 21 on Tuesday (July 7).

"One person working alone, working 24 hours a day, will still not be enough," he added.

"You need an entire village. You need to have leadership, you need to be able to raise money, you need to get the people. That's what community action plans are about."

Dr Chee had promised to be a full-time MP in Bukit Batok if elected, and said he will donate part of his MP allowance.

Mr Murali said he spends six days a week in the SMC listening to residents' concerns and dealing with issues on the ground.

"If there is a clash in priorities, in terms of what I need to do for my residents against what I need to do on my personal job front, I will always prioritise my residents' interests," he added.

Some issues need closer attention, like hardship cases in Bukit Batok.

"For deep issues, you just can't put a Handiplast (elastic bandage) thinking that the problem is solved," said Mr Murali.

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"You need to work together with all the relevant agencies and I chair the meeting."

He added that the SMC, which has around 160 residential blocks and more than 29,000 voters, will see more programmes introduced or enhanced.

The National Kidney Foundation will be opening a bigger dialysis centre in Bukit Batok, and children living in rental flats will receive even more support with an e-tuition programme and access to laptops.

Households struggling to care for family members with mental health issues will also receive support under Project Green Ribbon.

"So we already have a fairly ambitious programme and we want to scale up," said Mr Murali.

Responding to Dr Chee's criticism of "shortcomings" in the SMC, which include cleanliness and delayed improvement works, Mr Murali said he does not condone them.

"I would look at the issues and see whether it's a systemic issue, or is it something that is particular to the officer-in-charge, and we take appropriate measures to deal effectively with the issue," he added.

Mr Murali said there are plans to have the SMC's town council affairs managed together with Jurong GRC and Yuhua SMC.

He added that this would lead to cost savings and the opportunity to tap the "collective wisdom" of Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

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