Bukit Batok residents know that they can trust the People's Action Party (PAP) and its record in the constituency, said candidate Murali Pillai last night at his first rally in the by-election campaign.
In a half-hour speech, he recounted Bukit Batok's transformation from a rural area in 1965 to a "beautiful housing estate" today with a close-knit community .
This progress was possible because residents worked with the PAP to overcome problems, he said.
In the 1980s, for instance, there was resentment among residents who were resettled into new public flats. In the 1990s, residents were unhappy that St Luke's Hospital would be sited in the constituency, worrying about the spread of disease and the effect on home resale values.
But the party engaged residents and convinced them to think long term. Now, residents reap the rewards of these plans.
Mr Murali concluded: "Bukit Batok residents know that the PAP is a trusted party, is a party that always looks out for the interests of our Bukit Batok residents."
And as the PAP's candidate for the single seat, Mr Murali said he will have the support of his fellow MPs if elected: "(Residents) also know they can rely on the Jurong family."
He was referring to the Members of Parliament for Jurong GRC, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
Mr Murali urged the residents to bear in mind three questions when they go to the polls on May 7. These are: Which party is better able to meet their needs, to address their problems, and to take care of the living environment?
Apart from highlighting the PAP's track record, he laid out his own plans and personal values.
Some residents whom he has met are concerned about the gloomy economic climate, he said.
Though national unemployment is still low at around 3 per cent, "to a Bukit Batok resident who has lost his job, the effect is 100 per cent".
He noted that his manifesto includes national-level ideas like preserving a Singaporean's job over a foreigner's, all things being equal.
"But as a community we can also do better," he told the audience of residents.
"That is why I want to start, with your blessings, a community job- placement programme."
Under the programme, he will work with community leaders and the "Jurong family", leveraging on their contacts to help Bukit Batok residents who are out of a job.
As for his values, Mr Murali cited three mentors: his late father P.K. Pillai, the late Bukit Batok MP Ong Chit Chung, and former PAP minister Lim Boon Heng.
From his late father, a unionist and Barisan Sosialis member, Mr Murali learnt: "Whatever I do, it must be for the good of the people."
His father also taught him respect for everyone irrespective of background, and "truthful living" - practising what one preaches.
From Dr Ong, he learnt the practice of completing projects swiftly.
Mr Lim, Jurong GRC's team leader when Dr Ong died in 2008, showed how to actively listen to residents.
Mr Murali also acknowledged his friends from Hwa Chong Junior College, where he was a student councillor and hockey player.
He recalled how the principal allowed him and four others to stay on campus to have time to do more council work. They stayed not in the hostel, which cost too much, but in a "storeroom", he recalled with a laugh.
"By staying in Hwa Chong, we could do more council work for our fellow students, like tar pau-ing (buying takeout) dinner for them during exam time."
He concluded: "I come with a lifetime of experience and lessons, learnt from my mentors and my friends."
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who spoke after Mr Murali, pointed to his 16 years of volunteer work in the constituency as proof of his sincerity, humbleness and commitment.
Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob vouched for Mr Murali's personal character and noted various community programmes he hopes to introduce.
This article was first published on April 30, 2016.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.