By The Way

Durian parties, gearing up for back to school: What politicians are up to this week

The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series. PHOTOS: LIM WEE KIAK/FACEBOOK, HAZEL POA/FACEBOOK, JAMUS LIM/FACEBOOK, CHENG LI HUI/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series.

In this edition, the durian season is back and MPs, residents and volunteers alike are savouring the golden treat; one politician laments the end of the "best June holidays ever" while others gear up for the return to school; and #TeamSengkang heads to Johor Baru.

Look out for the latest edition of the series every Friday, and check out past ones here.

All hail the king...of fruits

In food-crazy Singapore, nothing brings people together like tearing into some Mao Shan Wang or Musang King.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong was among MPs who have organised constituency durian parties in recent days, taking advantage of this year's bumper harvest of the pungent fruit.

Mr Tong tucked into all types of durian - D13, Mao Shan Wang, Golden Phoenix and Red Prawn - while attending not one but several durian parties with his residents over the weekend.

Senior Minister of State for National Development and Communications and Information Tan Kiat How enjoyed the fruit at the end of his Meet-the-People session on Monday, while Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng was counting down to a one-day durian trip to Malaysia with residents even while out dragon-boating.

Meanwhile, Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) not only posted pictures of grinning Canberra Zone 1 Residents' Network (RN) volunteers with durian seeds in hand, but a gratuitous close-up of the plump, yellow flesh.

The Canberra ward of Sembawang was the first in Singapore to get an RN in March 2019. The grassroots organisation erases the distinction between residents' committees (RCs) that serve HDB estates and neighbourhood committees (NCs) that cater to private estates, a move to promote social mixing among people from different income groups.

Existing RCs and NCs had the choice of renaming themselves or merging into RNs, or to continue as they were.

Meanwhile, the Progress Singapore Party organised a barbeque session and mini-retreat at West Coast Park for its members last weekend, with favourites like chicken wings, fried bee hoon and satay on the menu.

Non-Constituency MP Hazel Poa said on Facebook: "We work hard and we play hard! After many weekends of door-to-door activities, we finally got a chance to have a small BBQ at West Coast Park with the rest of the Progress Singapore Party members."

The park got a rave review from PSP chairman Tan Cheng Bock: "I highly recommend spending time with friends and family here."

Back to school

For many students, June came and went too quickly as they once again could pack the school holidays with activities - whether going out with family or friends - with Singapore having eased its Covid-19 restrictions.

Tampines GRC MP Cheng Li Hui felt the same way, saying in a Facebook post: "Best June holidays ever! The freedom, the travel, the maskless outdoor activities."

She even brought out her badminton racquet from her primary school days to play with the children during an organised event in her ward.

Marsiling-Yew Tee MP Alex Yam snapped a quick photo of himself sending his son to school on the first day back, and let slip an endearing nickname for his tykes.

"I love the school runs as it's an opportunity to spend time with the Yamlets amidst the bustle of work and community engagements," he said.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing welcomed students back with a video of Meridian Primary School pupils returning to school: "The pitter patter of footsteps, the buzz in the school hall, the cheery 'good mornings' in our classrooms… The familiar sounds of school have returned."

He cautioned students, teachers and parents alike that social responsibility remains key as Singapore continues its transition towards living with Covid-19.

"With everyone playing our part and doing the right thing if we or our children feel unwell, our students can continue to enjoy different school experiences as much as possible," said Mr Chan.

"Term 3 is an exciting one, with many activities planned. I hope that the June holidays were restful, and here's wishing students and teachers a fulfilling term ahead!"

#TeamSengkang heads overseas

Over the weekend, Workers' Party MP Jamus Lim and the rest of the Sengkang GRC team headed to Johor Baru with residents and party supporters, their first grassroots tour since they were elected in June 2020.

He said: "The trip was a reminder not just of the pre-pandemic freedoms that we often took for granted, but also of how far we've come as a country and a nation, since our separation from Malaya."

During the trip, the group took in street art, tucked into scrumptious meals, and were also treated to a short performance by Prof Lim himself, who strummed the guitar and crooned to Qing Fei De Yi, an oldie-but-goodie by Taiwanese singer Harlem Yu.

Making sure to use the GRC's #TeamSengkang social media branding, Prof Lim said he enjoyed connecting in a more informal way with residents and other Singaporeans, who shared with him their thoughts on a wide range of issues from suggestions on municipal improvements to the local political climate and policies of national concern.

He said that as WP's grassroots activities generally do not receive any external funding, such events also serve to help the party organise future grassroots events.

"We work off a nonprofit model, where whatever mild surpluses we make are plowed right back into the community, as financing for future events," he said, and thanked party volunteers for making the trip possible.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.