Singapore

Murali unveils $1.9m worth of renewal plans

Candidates Murali Pillai from the People's Action Party (PAP) and Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) went on walkabouts yesterday ahead of the May 7 Bukit Batok SMC by-election

Lawyer Murali Pillai, the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate for Bukit Batok, yesterday unveiled $1.9 million worth of infrastructure plans for a neighbourhood in the single-member constituency if he were to be elected at the May 7 by-election.

The plans, which include covered walkways, ramps, a jogging track and a small park, come under the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme for the precinct at Blocks 140 to 149, Bukit Batok West Avenue 4.

Some 640 of the 12,000 households in the seat live in these blocks.

Mr Murali told reporters at an exhibition on these plans yesterday morning that residents were surveyed late last year on how the neighbourhood could be enhanced.

'UP TO RESIDENTS'

But the PAP-run Jurong-Clementi Town Council, which currently looks after Bukit Batok, will only be able to carry out these plans should he be elected, he said.

"Let me just say that this plan we are presenting is a plan by the PAP Jurong-Clementi Town Council. So it's really up to our residents," he said.

"We will only have the mandate to carry on if we are returned at the next 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's the rules."

Also at the exhibition were Jurong GRC MPs: Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee, and town council chairman Ang Wei Neng.

Mr Murali's announcement comes two days after his opponent, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, unveiled four social programmes he planned to roll out if he is elected.

The by-election was triggered by the abrupt resignation of PAP MP David Ong on March 12 over an alleged extramarital affair with a grassroots leader.

Both Mr Murali and Dr Chee almost crossed paths during their walkabouts yesterday morning, appearing at the same coffee shop barely minutes apart from each other.

When asked for his take on Dr Chee's programmes, Mr Murali would only say: "I've just spoken about the plans I believe Bukit Batok residents can identify with because this came up after a very, very extensive consultation."

Chee: We'll give attention to estate like 'doting parents and grandparents'

OUT & ABOUT: Dr Chee Soon Juan and his team cycling through Bukit Batok.

Dr Chee Soon Juan yesterday declined to be drawn into commenting on Singapore People's Party (SPP) chairman Lina Chiam's comments that the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) did not seek nor receive permission to include SPP chief Chiam See Tong's image in a newsletter.

She had said that Mr Chiam had not endorsed any candidate in the by-election.

On Saturday, the SDP issued a statement by Dr Wong Wee Nam, who had written the article beside the photo, clarifying that the image referred to was in The New Democrat's June 2015 issue. The article was on Dr Wong's failed effort to bring Mr Chiam back to the SDP in 2010.

"The SDP was not seeking any endorsement from Mr or Mrs Chiam," said Dr Wong.

FOCUS ON CAMPAIGN

On the issue, Dr Chee, the SDP's secretary-general, said yesterday: "I just want to be able to focus on this campaign and what we can do for Bukit Batok. Everything else, believe me, is just a distraction."

Yesterday, he touched on the four social initiatives his party has promised for Bukit Batok, should he win.

The programmes, which target a broad swathe of residents from the youth to the elderly, will help those who have fallen through the cracks, Dr Chee said, adding that existing social assistance programmes had not gone far enough.

He told reporters: "The whole idea is that we are going to bring the community together to ensure that people here don't just live very atomised lives - when they come back from work they don't just go into their homes, shut the door and that's it."

He vowed that, with Bukit Batok "going to be like our firstborn after a long absence", the SDP will devote the attention of that of "doting parents and grandparents and uncles and aunties" to the estate.

The SDP has had a presence in the area - its candidate, Mr Kwan Yue Keng, won 44 per cent of the vote in Bukit Batok in 1988. At the next polls just three years later, he lost to the incumbent PAP MP, Dr Ong Chit Chung, by just 858 votes.

That year, the SDP's Ling How Doong captured neighbouring Bukit Gombak SMC, winning 51 per cent of the vote against the PAP.

Responding to PAP candidate Murali Pillai's proposal for a new park, the SDP said in a news release e-mailed to the media yesterday that it takes a "different approach".

If elected, its first move would be to hold void-deck forums to consult residents about improvement projects instead of taking the decision away from them.

- The Straits Times Online, with additional reporting by SHAFFIQ ALKHATIB

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