Bukit Batok by-election: It will be a straight fight

The two candidates contesting the by-election in Bukit Batok - Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party (left) and the People's Action Party's Murali Pillai - met briefly on Nomination Day (April 27, 2016) as they filed their papers.
PHOTO: Elections Department

One jogged into the venue, shaking hands and exchanging high-fives with his cheering and whistling supporters.

The other strolled in with his wife, smiling as he waved at supporters.

In the end, it will be a straight fight between the People's Action Party (PAP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), and both candidates appeared relaxed even as they prepare to battle for the Bukit Batok single-member constituency (SMC).

Lawyer Murali Pillai, 48, who was in jogging shoes, was all smiles as he greeted PAP supporters.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee, both MPs in Jurong GRC, were also present to show their support.

Following them was a long train of supporters dressed in PAP white.

SDP chief Chee Soon Juan, 53, appeared just as relaxed as he strolled in with his wife, Dr Huang Chih-Mei.

A small but vocal group of "red" supporters were close by, armed with clappers, umbrellas and flags.

Some prominent figures were spotted among the supporters who turned up at the nomination centre.

Former PAP MP Lim Boon Heng, who was there to show his support for Mr Murali, said: "If I were a resident in Bukit Batok and I have to vote in this by-election, I'll be looking for somebody whom I feel is sincere and genuinely wants to serve the people."

Former independent candidate Han Hui Hui, dressed in her trademark attire of polo shirt and jeans, was standing with SDP supporters. The blogger said she was there to listen to the candidates' speeches.

"Hopefully their speeches will include that they will fight for issues like justice, transparency and accountability," she added.

Dr Huang was popular among the SDP supporters and many wanted to have their photos taken with her.

But the housewife said the Nomination Day was just another ordinary day for her family.

Dressed in a red tank top, she said with a smile: "I just make sure our household remains as normal as possible. I don't think the kids are aware that today is Nomination Day."

As Dr Chee later commented at a press conference at Keming Primary School's canteen, the nomination process had been "uneventful".

Two other hopefuls, Mr Shirwin Eu, 32, and veteran opposition member Kwan Yue Keng, 66, hardly caused a stir with their appearance.

STAND-IN

Mr Kwan, an SDP candidate for Bukit Batok in 1988 and 1991, said he was a "stand-in candidate" in the event that Dr Chee is disqualified.

"I'm here to prevent a walkover," said Mr Kwan, who was carrying a briefcase with a stack of papers.

He added that he still has a core group of supporters in Bukit Batok.

Mr Eu and Mr Kwan eventually left without filing any nomination papers after election officials explained to them the requirements and procedure under the law for nomination as an election candidate.

A drizzle began when Mr Murali and Dr Chee started to give their speeches.

Mr Murali addressed his supporters amid chants of "Ah Mu", a nickname he earned in the constituency.

He spoke in four languages and called on them to help make Bukit Batok "a beautiful place for all of us".

Dr Chee's speech was cut after a minute - the time allocated for each speech - but he managed to end with a promise to residents that he would make Bukit Batok the envy of Singapore.

The 25,727 voters of Bukit Batok SMC will go to the polls on May 7. Their previous MP, Mr David Ong, resigned in March over an alleged affair.

Over the next nine days, the two candidates are expected to canvass the ground and speak at rallies.

Police have announced two rally sites: Bukit Batok Industrial Park and Bukit Gombak Stadium.

There will be no rallies today.

Murali wants to meet everyone in 9 days

He plans to meet as many residents as he can.

This is what People's Action Party (PAP) candidate for Bukit Batok, Mr Murali Pillai, plans to do during the nine-day campaigning period.

There will be walkabouts, meeting residents and explaining to them his plans for the constituency.

[[{"fid":"568515","view_mode":"original_image","type":"media","link_text":null,"attributes":{"height":2081,"width":2400,"border":"0","style":"border: 0;","class":"media-element file-original-image"}}]]Mr Murali Pillai meeting supporters after filing his nomination papers. Photo: The New Paper

When asked if residents had asked about Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) statement on Tuesday, which said it was "unethical" of him to say that major improvements will come only if a PAP candidate is elected, Mr Murali said the PAP had responded with a "comprehensive statement".

SDP's statement referred to last Sunday's launch of a Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) exhibition in Bukit Batok where Mr Murali announced plans for $1.9 million worth of infrastructure upgrades for a portion of the precinct.

He had said that the PAP Jurong-Clementi Town Council had drawn up the plans after extensive consultations with residents.

MANDATE

Mr Murali had also said: "We will have the mandate to carry on only if we are returned at the by-election.

"If we don't have the mandate, then we won't have the ability to carry on because we will not form the Town Council. That are the rules."

The PAP statement released yesterday elaborated on his comments.

It said: "If a candidate for MP is not elected, his Party's Town Council naturally cannot be responsible for the constituency and cannot carry out its NRP for that constituency."

It also said that the SDP's statement was "misconceived" as the Government funds NRP projects for "all Town Councils" and that the number of NRP projects approved for each Town Council factors in characteristics like age profile of the HDB units.

"It is the Town Council that nominates the neighbourhoods which should be prioritised for NRP when it applies for Government funding," the statement added.

Mr Murali told the press yesterday: "As I've mentioned, the NRP is a fund-neutral programme, so whoever Bukit Batok residents choose will lead the Town Council in implementing the NRP."

Dr Chee: Care for residents must be 'unconditional'

To show that he is genuinely concerned for the residents, the People's Action Party's (PAP) Murali Pillai should have said that amenities like the three-generation park would proceed even if he is not elected, said Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan yesterday.

[[{"fid":"568519","view_mode":"original_image","type":"media","link_text":null,"attributes":{"height":1616,"width":2600,"border":"0","style":"border: 0;","class":"media-element file-original-image"}}]](from left) Ms Lim Li Li and Mr Michael Hwang greet Dr Chee Soon Juan after the press conference. Photo: The New Paper

He added: "It's like he's saying I will serve Bukit Batok with all my heart, but only if I win...

"The whole rationale for the park is to bring families together... If (Mr Murali) doesn't win, is he not concerned that they won't have facilities to come together?"

He was referring to Mr Murali's announcements that plans drawn up by the Jurong-Clementi Town Council for $1.9 million worth of infrastructure upgrades, including the three-generation park, might not continue if he is not elected.

Dr Chee also accused the PAP of using HDB lift upgrades to encourage people to vote for them in the past.

He said: "You won't hear a mother saying I will love you only if you give me money, or a father saying I will provide for you, only if you make me happy.

"When we care for Singaporeans, we care for them unconditionally."

Dr Chee also asked for updates of former Bukit Batok MP David Ong's $24 million upgrading plans, which were mentioned during the 2015 General Election.

Dr Chee said the SDP hopes to continue serving the community even if he was not elected, adding that they faced "obstacles".

He claimed that the SDP's recent application to conduct health screenings for Bukit Batok residents was rejected by the Town Council.

Private-hire car driver admits self-publicity

He made headlines during the last General Election for offering a $50 food voucher to those willing to sign for him to support his nomination as an independent candidate in Bukit Panjang SMC.

Yesterday, private-hire car driver Shirwin Eu, 32, turned up at the nomination centre in Keming Primary School alone, without any signatures to support his nomination.

[[{"fid":"568522","view_mode":"original_image","type":"media","link_text":null,"attributes":{"height":2369,"width":2200,"border":"0","style":"border: 0;","class":"media-element file-original-image"}}]]Private hire car driver Shirwin Eu arrives at the Nomination centre. Photo: The New Paper

When asked by The New Paper if he was showing up for self-publicity, Mr Eu said, before entering the nomination centre: "I can't deny that. I'm also asking myself this question.

"It could be for fame, it could be for wealth or it could be for justice."

Mr Eu said he hoped that "someone would be willing to help me in the paperwork process" and "might appeal to the Elections Department for a waiver" regarding the signatures.

He added that he had a "very, very high" chance of winning and was "more attractive" than the other candidates because he is "young and honest".

He was later seen leaving the nomination centre - 35 minutes after entering it. The Elections Department said he had left without filing nomination papers.

'OFFENSIVE'

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said Mr Eu is not the first person to use the elections for self-publicity, and he won't be the last.

Prof Tan told TNP: "This phenomenon of individuals using elections for their five minutes of fame is not new and should not surprise us.

"What is particularly offensive is the blatant and unabashed declaration of self-promotion while using a public process."

He added that while Mr Eu's actions do not infringe election laws, they are an "abuse of the electoral process and debase the fundamental premise of seeking election as a Member of Parliament (MP)".

Former presidential hopeful and opposition politician Tan Jee Say said candidates should take elections seriously and run only for the purpose of "articulating and proposing an agenda for the people".

To deal with such publicity-seeking individuals, former MP Inderjit Singh stressed the importance of ignoring them.

He said: "The election is a serious issue and he (Mr Eu) should stop wasting everybody's time. But more importantly, the key is for the media and public to ignore him."


This article was first published on April 28, 2016.
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