Actress Neo Swee Lin speaks up for Chee Soon Juan at rally
Actress Neo Swee Lin, not an SDP member, spoke at the party's rally yesterday
Veteran actress Neo Swee Lin, known for her role as Ah Ma in TV series Phua Chu Kang, made a surprise appearance at the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) rally yesterday.
In an emotionally-charged speech at a field near Bukit Batok Industrial Park A, Neo, 53, said that she was neither an SDP member nor a politician.
She said she was first introduced to politics when she played former political detainee Teo Soh Lung in a 2011 play, Cooling-Off Day.
She said in English: "(Teo) is my hero. She reminded me that politics is and should be part of our life."
Neo's speech, peppered with jokes and jibes - including one at Mediacorp actress Rui En's recent mishap with a motorcycle - was warmly received by the crowd, which almost covered the entire field.
Neo also poked fun at herself while addressing the comment made by Ms Grace Fu, Minister of Culture, Community and Youth, on the unemployment status of SDP chief Chee Soon Juan.
The freelance actress said that she was often asked if she was still an actress by passers-by who recognised her on the street.
She said: "You don't see me on TV any more, but it doesn't mean I'm not acting. I've not held many full-time jobs in my life. But trust me, I've been working."
Neo, the only speaker last night who was not an SDP member, also read out an open letter, expressing sadness at the state of the campaign, which the letter described as "marred primarily by the vilification" of Dr Chee.
"As an artist, I was so ashamed when I saw that my own Minister of Culture attacked Dr Chee personally. Then my own Prime Minister did the same," said Neo.
The letter was penned by a group that included academics, lawyers and artists.
Ms Fu had said Dr Chee had not "held a steady job for many years", while PM Lee Hsien Loong had called Dr Chee "hypocritical" for allowing his party members to make fun of former Bukit Batok MP David Ong's alleged extra-marital affair and had urged the public to refrain from mounting personal attacks on Mr Ong.
Neo and her husband, actor Lim Kay Siu, 56, are known supporters of SDP. Lim was also spotted among the SDP members last night.
Neo, who first met Dr Chee during the 2011 General Election, said she was surprised to find that he was "a nice man and a gentleman".
She said: "I'm moved by his passion and impressed by his dedication. I'm here today because I believe he will stand up for the people who have no one to represent them.
"And through the hardship he had to endure, I think he has become a wise statesman."
As an artist, I was so ashamed when I saw that my own Minister of Culture attacked Dr Chee personally. Then my own Prime Minister did the same.
- Veteran actress Neo Swee Lin
SDP: OUR PLANS ARE BETTER
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) highlighted how some of its plans for Bukit Batok were "better" than the programmes proposed by the People's Action Party's candidate Mr Murali Pillai.
HELP ONE ANOTHER
Households in Bukit Batok are encouraged to adopt a low-income or needy household.
SDP chief Chee Soon Juan said: "I'm a strong believer in the adage 'it is better to give than to receive' and I am sure there are many of you who feel the same way. When we give, we reinforce that idea that we are one in this world."
SDP's Prof Paul Tambyah said: "Mr Murali's other proposals on care for students and the elderly are somewhat similar to our social programmes.
"The difference is that we do not want to depend on government handouts to fund them, we want to mobilise you, the residents of Bukit Batok, to activate out 'gotong royong' (Malay for community spirit) so we can help each other out, empower one another and make Bukit Batok a model town."
Dr Chee yesterday outlined how the plan would work: The scheme pays a retrenched worker 75 per cent of his last drawn salary for the first six months, 50 per cent for the second six months and 25 per cent for the final six months.
The payout stops once the individual is re-employed or 18 months after retrenchment.
The payout is capped at the prevailing median wage (about $4,000 a month).
Employees will pay a small amount each month which will be deducted from their CPF and the Government should foot the remainder of the bill.
The Ministry of Manpower will assist the retrenched individual to seek re-employment.
The individual can reject only up to three job offers.
Such a scheme is meant to provide temporary and limited assistance to retrenched workers to help them through the difficult time until they find another job.
Dr Chee argued that Mr Murali's job placement programme will not be effective because the People's Action Party is "not creating jobs for Singaporeans".
HELP MENTOR, INSPIRE STUDENTS
The People's Action Party (PAP) candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election is on the lookout for volunteers to run a youth mentoring programme that he wants to start if he is elected.
Lawyer Murali Pillai, 48, told reporters yesterday that he hopes to have a pool of volunteers to mentor and inspire students.
"The programme is to make sure our children remain on the path to maximise their opportunities and potential.
"Sometimes, they get negative influences and unfortunately, they don't carry on in the way that they should. Alternatively, they are not given the support to do well," he said.
For the programme to succeed, it requires the help of volunteers and voluntary welfare organisations, he added.
They can even help guide parents if the children are still young, to "strengthen their parenting skills", said Mr Murali.
While the mentorship programme will focus on reaching out to children from low-income backgrounds first, he said he hopes to open it to as many residents as possible.
- The Straits Times.