THE People's Action Party (PAP) candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election presented his plans for the ward yesterday, which include a new healthcare cooperative and job placement programme.
These came on the eve of Nomination Day - today - which will confirm the slate of candidates that the ward's 25,727 voters can choose from on May 7.
The PAP's Murali Pillai presented his campaign manifesto four days after the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) unveiled four social initiatives that target a broad swathe of residents, from the youth to the elderly. The SDP is fielding its chief, Chee Soon Juan.
Speaking at a press conference at the ward's PAP branch, Mr Murali highlighted three areas he would champion in Parliament if elected: jobs for Singaporeans, the elderly and improving social mobility.
To help unemployed residents find jobs more quickly, Mr Murali said he would tap on his network of community volunteers, which goes a step further than existing job placement programmes by the Government.
"We cannot just sit in our offices and think that the residents will come with their problems. We need to be out in the community talking to our residents," he added.
To help families with healthcare costs for the elderly, Mr Murali said he would set up a health cooperative, where residents can purchase items like catheters and vitamins at a lower cost.
He also said he would build a pool of volunteers who can mentor and inspire children in low-income families, to help them "get a good start in life".
The timing of Mr Murali's announcement prompted reporters to ask if the PAP was deliberately taking a more passive approach for its campaign strategy.
To this, Mr Murali said he "can understand why the SDP is in a bit of a hurry to announce their new plans".
But residents are familiar with the PAP's programmes, as the party has been running the area since 1972, he said.
He added that some of the SDP's plans already exist.
In response to the SDP's proposal for a legal clinic staffed by seven lawyers, Mr Murali said he had set up one for the ward more than 15 years ago.
His plans are in addition to a $1.9-million infrastructure programme he unveiled last week, and 22 existing programmes run by the PAP, grassroots organisations and non-profit organisations.
Responding to whether these programmes would continue if he did not get elected, he said it "depends on the MP, who decides on the programmes which could benefit residents".
Elaborating on this point later, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shamugaratnam said both the PAP and the SDP are on a "level playing field" when it comes to whether programmes by grassroots volunteers continue regardless of who is elected.
Mr Tharman said Mr Murali was not someone "merely satisfied with what the Government is doing", in what appeared to be a rebuttal to Dr Chee's earlier remarks that Mr Murali would be no different from the 82 PAP MPs.
With regard to the by-election effect, Mr Murali said: "From the start, I was aware that it would be a tough battle and I'll go and fight for each and every vote."
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