Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, in wooing Bukit Batok residents yesterday to vote for the People's Action Party, set out the significant advantage of being part of a big town council.
He noted the ageing estate, that the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) is eyeing, got five of the 15 neighbourhood renewal projects of the Jurong-Clementi Town Council because the town council has the resources to prioritise upgrading programmes across its seven wards.
"If the SDP wins the elections, it will have a town council for a single constituency, and it would hope to develop plans and implement those plans. Residents will have to judge who will be able to do this most effectively," he said.
Mr Murali Pillai, the PAP's candidate, said the PAP-run town council also has the "competence, capability, track record and wherewithal" to implement well the government-funded projects, "because it had implemented 15 neighbourhood renewal projects in the past".
They were speaking at a media conference to introduce the PAP's manifesto for Bukit Batok single-member constituency (SMC).
CROSSING THE LANGUAGE BARRIER TO REACH OUT
Volunteers and activists know that he has the real interest of residents at heart. They are there to support him willingly and are fully committed.
This has been very helpful because, whenever he needs to cross the language boundary to reach out to the Chinese voters particularly, they have been always there to help him, and that is one of his biggest assets... I've full confidence that he's able to win the trust and the support of the constituents in Bukit Batok.
He has done very well in Aljunied, particularly in Paya Lebar division (where) 84 per cent are Chinese. So for him to have a very good result... is a very good testament of his ability to cross the language barrier to reach out to the Chinese constituents.
MINISTER FOR CULTURE, COMMUNITY AND YOUTH GRACE FU, on whether Mr Murali's race will be an issue in Bukit Batok.
Projects under the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) are fully funded by the Government. Last Sunday, Mr Murali unveiled plans for $1.9 million worth of such infrastructure projects for a neighbourhood in Bukit Batok.
These include a park for three generations and covered walkways.
But some people have taken issue with the plans, saying the PAP is politicising government-funded programmes. Yesterday, the SDP, which is fielding its chief Chee Soon Juan, said it too would work with government agencies to ensure projects are completed.
Its statement also pointed out that government agencies are non-partisan and will work with whoever is elected MP for the SMC.
"To say that major improvements will come only if the PAP candidate is elected is unethical," it added.
Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh, weighing in, said in a Facebook post on Monday he has "no doubt HDB will not withdraw NRP funds committed" regardless of who wins.
"It would be opening itself up to a judicial review of administrative action in Court if it did," he wrote.
Mr Murali, asked if residents may see the NRP announcement as the PAP's "carrot-and -stick" approach, said "whoever runs the town council would have access to the funds".
"If Bukit Batok residents were to choose the PAP, then the PAP would be vested with the responsibility of running this neighbourhood renewal project," he said.
Mr Tharman said the Jurong-Clementi Town Council has the advantage of a "decent track record of implementing NRPs and all our upgrading programmes".
Another advantage is that it has an overview of the needs of all seven wards and is able to "give higher priority to areas where the greatest needs are at any point in time".
Bukit Batok got the lion's share of the NRP projects because it is "a more mature estate".
Mr Tharman, who heads the PAP's Jurong GRC team, also said he was puzzled by SDP's response to Mr Murali's plans. It had said PAP needed to consult residents before committing to the NRP plans.
He noted the SDP is not new to Bukit Batok, having contested it in last year's general election. "If you need more time, say so... There is no need for all this bluster. There's no need to begrudge the PAP for having done its consultations already, having developed plans and having now announced them for further consultations," he said.