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Singapore GE2020: Climate change, social inequality, and BTO flat prices tackled in WP's third e-rally

SINGAPORE -Addressing climate change would not only make the future more liveable for today’s young voters, it would also provide opportunities for job creation and economic growth, said the Workers’ Party (WP) in its third e-rally on Friday (July 3).

The 35 minute-long talk show, broadcast on Facebook at 8pm, tackled other issues of concern for young voters, including social inequality, and the affordability of Build-To-Order (BTO) Housing Board flats.

“Climate change is not an isolated issue and is connected to social and economic development,” said Ms Raeesah Khan, part of the WP’s slate for Sengkang GRC.

Developing a green economy in Singapore, for example, could create jobs while ensuring the economy grows in a more robust and ethical way, she said.

“We need to include a variety of stakeholders in this conversation: not only consumers but also industries,” said Ms Khan, who at 26 is the youngest candidate being fielded by the WP this general election.

“This would allow for implementation of policies surrounding the use of green energy on an industrial level… ultimately, creating a green economy.”

Ms Khan, a social activist, was one of four WP candidates who were quizzed on issues that concern young voters by moderator Nicole Seah – who is part of the team contesting East Coast GRC – on the third Hammer Show.

The others included chief technology officer Gerald Giam, who is being fielded in Aljunied GRC, as well as lawyer Fadli Fawzi and digital product owner Nathaniel Koh, both of whom are part of the WP’s Marine Parade team.

Mr Koh touched on the issue of inequality, and how institutional structures disadvantaged families in the lower-income groups.

For example, he said he has met families on house visits who have children placed in primary schools far from home.

“Every cent matters. Public transport or school buses cost money,” said Mr Koh, 36. “So, how can we improve this situation? Can we have the children from low-income families placed in a school near their home, so they can reduce the cost of travelling to school?”

Mr Fadli also noted that the mandatory home-based learning for students because of the Covid-19 pandemic had shone a light on the inequities that have an impact on learning outside of school.

He said: “We should also think about the informal social ecology which affects young kids.” For example, a child from a big family may not have a room in which to study or do his homework, he said.

On the cost of  BTO flats, Mr Koh noted that they are currently priced on two criteria. One, they are priced lower than resale flats in the vicinity. Two, prices are determined by the attributes of the new flat, such as its size, and floor level.

But Mr Koh said that these criteria could be subjective.

Instead, BTO flat prices, especially in non-mature estates, should be based on the median monthly household income of Singaporeans, said Mr Koh. “I think that objective criteria will make affordability more sustainable in the long term.”

Mr Giam said that expensive flats could have knock-on effects for Singapore’s fertility rate.

He said: “The problem with expensive flats is that couples will end up delaying their marriage because… they can’t afford to find a flat right away. So they delay marriage and that has a knock-on effect on things like childbearing.”

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Singapore GE2020: Peoples Voice begins introducing its candidates online

SINGAPORE – The Peoples Voice (PV) party has started to introduce its slate of candidates online, through videos posted on its Facebook page.

On Wednesday (July 1), it posted videos of two of its 10 candidates, with the rest to follow in the days ahead, said the party, which is contesting two group representation constituencies and one SMC.

The duo are blogger and financial adviser Leong Sze Hian, 66, one of its four candidates running for Jalan Besar GRC, and pre-school teacher Vigneswari V. Ramachandran, 38, who is in a five-member team contesting Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

The party had been tight-lipped about its line-up and where it would be contesting until Nomination Day on Tuesday, when it disclosed that it was contesting single-seat Mountbatten as well.

Party members had previously done outreach activities in various constituencies, including Pioneer and Punggol West single-member constituencies.

On Wednesday, the candidates were campaigning in their respective constituencies.

At Jalan Besar GRC, Mr Leong was campaigning at Bendemeer Market and Food Centre with fellow team member Nor Azlan Sulaiman, 48, who runs a halal certification consultancy business.

The duo said they had been frequenting the area and speaking to residents since last year. They told The Straits Times that their focus is on bread-and-butter issues, such as the growing unemployment rate among Singaporeans, and the high cost of living.

“It’s about getting the voices of the people heard,” Mr Nor Azlan added.

The other two members of the team are: party chief and lawyer Lim Tean, 55, and Mr Michael Fang Amin, 43, a medical administrator and entrepreneur.

LEONG SZE HIAN, 66, FINANCIAL ADVISER


PHOTO: PEOPLES VOICE

Mr Leong told The Straits Times that he had spent the last 20 years analysing Singapore’s policies and data points, and writing about them on his personal blog.

He said he agreed to join the PV party readily when he was approached by party chief Lim Tean, who had defended him when he was sued by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for defamation in 2018.

In his introductory video, Mr Leong said that he had seen many people in Singapore struggling to make ends meet. He also criticised the Government for calling the election amid the coronavirus pandemic, and wanted it to give figures daily of the number of people who were tested.

He added that he had been chairman and president of four professional bodies, including a non-governmental organisation.

“My experience, I hope, can help to bring more transparency and accountability in Parliament.”

VIGNESWARI V. RAMACHANDRAN, 38, PRE-SCHOOL TEACHER


PHOTO: PEOPLES VOICE

Having been a pre-school teacher for 12 years, Ms Vigneswari, 38, said she has witnessed how stressful the Singapore education system is.

If elected, she will fight for change for Singaporeans, she said in her video.

“I will speak up on the costly childcare fees, and the rising cost of living. I will help you with your issues to the best of my abilities,” she added.

She said the challenges and difficulties faced by ordinary Singaporeans often go unnoticed by an “elitist” People’s Action Party.

But the Peoples Voice party “puts you, your family and your generations to come first”, she added.

“When we have alternative voices in Parliament, we will have more social justice and accountability,” she said.

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Singapore GE2020: Political broadcasts to air daily from July 2-9

SINGAPORE – The two party political broadcasts (PPBs) for the upcoming general election will begin on Thursday (July 2) while those for constituency political broadcasts (CPBs) will roll out from Friday.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on Wednesday announced that the PPBs will be aired across 19 TV and radio channels from 8pm on July 2 and July 9.

Since the 1980 election, parties that field at least six candidates under a recognised party symbol are eligible for airtime on free-to-air radio and television.

Independents and political parties fielding fewer than six candidates under the same recognised party symbol are not eligible for the PPBs. This means the People’s Power Party, Singapore Democratic Alliance, Singapore People’s Party and Red Dot United are not eligible to put out a PPB.

The broadcast of the party fielding the least number of candidates will be aired first, and vice versa. The amount of airtime allocated to each party is determined by the number of candidates it fields. The time allocation is:

Reform Party (six candidates): 2½ minutes

National Solidarity Party (10): 3 minutes

Peoples Voice (10): 3 minutes

Singapore Democratic Party (11): 3 minutes

Workers’ Party (21): 4½ minutes

Progress Singapore Party (24): 5 minutes

People’s Action Party (93): 13 minutes

Meanwhile, in between the two PPBs, Singaporeans will also be able to watch candidates speak in the constituency political broadcasts on Mediacorp’s Channel 5 from 7pm, from Friday to Wednesday.

CPBs are one-off arrangements to give parties and candidates more airtime to put their messages out to voters in view of the Covid-19 situation, which has meant that traditional election rallies, which typically attract thousands, are off the table.

Each candidate will get three minutes to speak, which means the broadcast for a single-member constituency (SMC) will last three minutes. That for a group representation constituency (GRC) will be 12 or 15 minutes, depending on whether it is a four- or five-member GRC, and regardless of how many candidates speak.

Candidates can choose to speak in any of the four official languages of English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, said the Elections Department on June 24, which rules out dialects, which were sometimes used by candidates at previous election rallies.

The CPBs will be broadcast based on the alphabetical order of the constituency, and the broadcasts for each constituency will start with the incumbent, which means Aljunied GRC’s Workers’ Party slate will kick off the CPBs and Yuhua SMC’s Singapore Democratic Party candidate Robin Low will wrap things up.

Details of the PPBs and CPBs will be released on Mediacorp’s website.

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Singapore GE2020: Uphill battle but WP candidates are no pushovers, says Pritam

The election will be an uphill battle for the Workers’ Party (WP) but its candidates will prove that they are no pushovers, said party secretary-general Pritam Singh yesterday, after the party completed the nomination process for its 21 candidates.

Asked about his expectations for the general election, he said the party expects it to be difficult – with Covid-19 making campaigning even more challenging – and again raised the possibility of a clean sweep by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

“The WP is always up against an opponent which is much more well resourced, and which always fights hard in every election,” he said.

“So, obviously I want our candidates to do well and to fight equally hard.”

The WP is fielding 21 candidates in six constituencies for this general election.

It sprang no surprises on Nomination Day, having earlier announced the number of candidates and constituencies it was contesting.

It is contesting Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, where it is the incumbent, as well as East Coast, Marine Parade and Sengkang GRCs and Punggol West SMC.

The list of WP candidates includes several who are taking part in the election for the first time.

In Sengkang GRC, for example, three of its four candidates are new faces. Only lawyer He Tingru, 37, has stood for election previously, as part of the WP team contesting in Marine Parade GRC in 2015.

The other members of its Sengkang team are economist Jamus Lim, 44; equity research analyst Louis Chua, 33; and social activist Raeesah Khan, 26.

But Mr Singh, 43, said the party has full confidence in the younger candidates.

CHALLENGING SITUATION

It’s always an uphill battle but now, I think, in the situation of Covid-19, it will probably be more challenging for us. We have to devote resources not just on the ground, which is still the main thrust of our campaign, but also… on social media.

WORKERS’ PARTY CHIEF PRITAM SINGH

“I think they will do well for the Workers’ Party and I think they will prove to voters that they’re no pushovers,” he said.

“They will be prepared to fight for the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans, not just in Parliament, but in the constituency and in their town councils as well.”

During the interview in Hougang – which Mr Singh said was chosen as the venue because it was where the “new spirit of the Workers’ Party bloomed” – the WP chief said that restrictions on campaigning due to the coronavirus crisis will make this general election more difficult for opposition parties.

“It’s always an uphill battle but now, I think, in the situation of Covid-19, it will probably be more challenging for us,” he told reporters.

“We have to devote resources not just on the ground, which is still the main thrust of our campaign, but also… on social media.”

His comments came after the WP rolled out a number of slickly produced campaign videos on social media that introduced party members and highlighted its achievements in some of the constituencies where it is contesting the upcoming polls.

On the PAP’s move to field Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in East Coast GRC, Mr Singh said it is “an important signal that (they) are sending, that they take our challenge in East Coast very seriously”.

He added: “I would say we take their challenge equally seriously, and that’s why we’ve put together a strong slate of candidates in the East Coast team.”

Meanwhile, Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Dennis Tan, 49, the party’s candidate for Hougang SMC, addressed the argument that the opposition did not need to fear a wipeout as the enhanced NCMP scheme guarantees at least 12 opposition MPs in Parliament.

The PAP’s Ms Indranee Rajah made this point on Monday during an interview, saying that NCMPs had the same voting rights as MPs.

While Mr Tan acknowledged that NCMPs have the same speaking rights as elected MPs, he said the NCMP scheme is not a solution for having a vibrant opposition.

“It will create a problem for all opposition party members. It will prevent us from sinking roots into the constituency, because… we are not allowed to hold events, for example.”

If people keep thinking that the NCMP scheme is a solution, he said, there is a strong chance that opposition parties will never be in sync with the constituencies.

Mr Tan added: “So one day, whether in the near or further future, if the PAP were to fail, if the PAP were to do very badly, how is another party going to take over as government?”

Last night, in a message to voters uploaded on its website, the opposition party said it was pro-Singapore – and was rational, responsible and respectable.

Signed by Mr Singh, it also stressed the value of having an opposition in Parliament. For example, it cited how the victory of the WP in the 2011 General Election forced PAP MPs and ministers to walk the ground more frequently.

Mr Singh added: “An elected opposition is necessary to keep the ruling party on its toes and to challenge the PAP for the betterment of Singapore.”

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GE2020: PAP to battle it out with Peoples Voice in Jalan Besar GRC

SINGAPORE – A Peoples Voice (PV) team led by party chief Lim Tean will contest Jalan Besar GRC, going against a refreshed PAP team led by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

Mrs Teo’s team will include Mr Heng Chee How, 58, Ms Denise Phua, 59 and PAP new face Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah, 42.

PV, which has carried out its outreach in the area largely under the radar, revealed its full slate for the GRC for the first time on Nomination Day (June 30).

The PV team includes blogger Leong Sze Hian, 66, Mr Nor Azlan Bin Sulaiman, 49, and Mr Michael Fang Amin, 43.

Mrs Teo, after spending three terms in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, will be taking over the Kreta Ayer – Kim Seng ward from five-term MP Lily Neo.

Polytechnic lecturer Wan Rizal is replacing former communications and information minister Yaacob Ibrahim in Kolam Ayer. Both Dr Neo and Dr Yaacob are retiring from politics.

The People’s Action Party team, led by Dr Yaacob clinched 67.7 per cent of the votes against the Workers’ Party in the 2015 general elections.

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Singapore GE2020: PAP led by Tharman and new party Red Dot United face off in Jurong GRC

SINGAPORE – Jurong GRC is set for a straight fight between incumbents People’s Action Party and new political party on the block Red Dot United (RDU).

The PAP will be seeking to defend the ward, where it had garnered the best result during the 2015 General Election with more than 79 per cent of the vote.

The PAP team is led by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 63, and includes senior parliamentary secretary for trade and industry and foreign Affairs Tan Wu Meng, 45, and backbencher and lawyer Ms Rahayu Mahzam, 39 – who were all part of the team in the previous election.

Joining them are newcomers Mr Xie Yao Quan, 35, who is the head of healthcare redesign at Alexandra Hospital and Mr Shawn Huang, 37, a director for enterprise development at Temasek International.

The RDU candidates form the only team that the party is fielding this election.

It will see the return of three candidates who had stood in the 2015 election: lawyer Mr Ravi Philemon, 52, and educator and counsellor Ms Michelle Lee, 43, as well as theatre director Alec Tok Kim Yam, 55. The first two were previously Progress Singapore Party members, while Mr Tok was from the Singapore Democratic Party.

They will be campaigning with entrepreneur and author Liyana Dhamirah, 33, and legal engineer Nicholas Tang, 28, who are both competing in an election for the first time.

RDU was registered as a political party on June 15 after submitting its application on May 26.

The PAP slate for Jurong GRC has been the subject of much attention over the past week, after a candidate that the party had intended to field, Mr Ivan Lim, withdrew his candidacy. Mr Tharman introduced Mr Xie on Monday to replace him.

PAP and RDU will be fighting for the support of 131,234 voters in Jurong GRC when voters go tothe polls on July 10.

Thee nine-day campaign period starts immediately.

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Singapore GE2020: ELD, IMDA issue advisory on party political films, use of paid online election advertising

SINGAPORE – In the lead-up to the polls, there has been a rise in the number of online videos with political themes produced by political parties, socio-political entities and individuals.

This has prompted the Elections Department (ELD) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to issue an advisory on Monday (June 29) reminding political parties, candidates and voters that they must not make, reproduce, import, exhibit or distribute party political films.

The joint statement also noted that socio-political entities and individuals who are not political parties or prospective candidates have been engaging in paid Internet election advertising.

Under the Films Act, party political films include those made by any person and directed towards any political end in Singapore, like those intended or likely to affect voting in an election here.

Certain types of films, however, are exempted from the law.

These include:

a) Live recordings of events held in accordance with the law such as live-streamed rallies and campaigning activities;

b) Anniversary and commemorative videos of political parties; and

c) Factual documentaries, biographies or autobiographies.

“This ensures that political debate in Singapore is conducted in a responsible and dignified manner, and not by using the film medium to sensationalise serious issues in a biased or emotional manner,” said the joint statement.

Those who make or publish non-exempted party political films may be investigated and prosecuted under the Films Act.

The statement also reminded people that any Singapore citizen can put up unpaid Internet election advertising on their own accord, except on Cooling-off Day on July 9 and Polling Day on July 10.

But the publishing of paid online election advertising could be deemed an election activity, it added. This would require authorisation by a candidate or an election agent from Nomination Day, under the Parliamentary Elections Act.

“This ensures accountability and that paid advertisements will not be used as a conduit for foreign interference in the elections process, or to bypass the election expense limits for political parties and candidates,” said the statement.

The same requirements apply to the conduct of election activity in traditional offline campaigning, it added.

All election advertising must contain the name of the publisher and every person for whom or at whose direction the election advertising is published.

For paid advertising, additional particulars that indicate it was paid for need to accompany the advertisement. This can be done by using words like “sponsored by” or “paid for by” on the material.

Neither paid nor unpaid online election advertising is allowed on Cooling-off Day and Polling Day.

“This is unless the election advertising was already lawfully displayed or published before the start of Cooling-off Day, and remains unchanged after its publication or display,” the statement said.

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Singapore GE2020: Clear mandate very important to tackle challenges ahead, says Heng Swee Keat

SINGAPORE – Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has cautioned voters against taking risks with their vote in the general election, alluding to the possibility of the PAP losing power given that the opposition is likely to contest all 93 seats.

“It is very important for us to have a clear mandate from our people, so that we can tackle these many challenges ahead,” Mr Heng told reporters after a walkabout in Sengkang GRC on Sunday (June 28).

He was responding to a question from a reporter on a point made by Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh on the importance of having balance in Parliament. Mr Singh had said on Saturday that the PAP could potentially have 72 seats in its hands, not including the 21 seats that the WP is contesting, and that would still be a strong mandate.

Mr Heng said: “As you can see, it’s not just the WP who is contesting. It is likely that all seats will be contested… And therefore the risk of everybody thinking the same way… ‘it’s ok, let us just take a risk with this’ – that’s not something I would recommend.

“Because I think it is very important for us to have a clear mandate, to have a clear support.”

Mr Heng added that the PAP is “not just here overnight to suddenly come up with some slogans”.

The party has been working on the ground, day in, day out, over the years, to help residents at the front line, he said.

The Cabinet meets every week to discuss the challenges facing Singapore, and how to respond to them, he added.

“We could not have put up four Budgets within a hundred days if we had not focused our minds on taking Singapore forward,” he said, referring to the nearly $93 billion in support packages rolled out between February and June to help cushion the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Said Mr Heng: “I hope that our people will trust that this is the party that can take Singapore and Singaporeans through this very, very challenging crisis, and come out of it stronger. Because it is not just about winning votes. It is really about our future, and our children’s future.”

After Sunday’s walkabout in Compassvale, which is part of the new Sengkang GRC, Mr Heng also said he had spoken to residents, and was glad to see that Covid-19 support measures, like the Jobs Support Scheme, had been of “significant help” to them.

Many continue to retain their workers even though business is down, he said.

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Singapore GE2020: WP's Low Thia Khiang joins NCMP Dennis Tan on walkabout in Hougang

SINGAPORE – Former Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang on Sunday (June 28) returned to his old stomping ground in Hougang to meet residents, in his first public appearance since he suffered a bad fall in April.

Mr Low was joined by Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan, 49, who the WP has said it will be fielding as its candidate for Hougang SMC in the July 10 polls.

In a video posted on Facebook by Mr Tan, the duo were seen greeting residents at a bus stop in Hougang.

Mr Low, 63, injured his head in a fall on April 30. He was admitted to the intensive care unit of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, and discharged after 21 days.

Mr Low, who won the Hougang single-member seat in 1991, became the first opposition leader to win a GRC after he led the WP team to victory in Aljunied GRC in 2011.

But on Thursday, current WP chief Pritam Singh said at a press conference that Mr Low, and fellow MPs Chen Show Mao and Png Eng Huat will not be standing as candidates in the general election, paving the way for the party’s younger members to take their place as the opposition party pushes ahead with renewal.

Replacing Mr Low and Mr Chen in the Aljunied GRC slate will be Mr Gerald Giam and Mr Leon Perera, while Mr Png will be replaced in Hougang by Mr Tan, the party said.

On Sunday in Aljunied GRC, the WP’s five-men team also went on a walkabout at Serangoon Garden Market & Food Centre.

The three incumbent Aljunied GRC MPs – Mr Singh, party chairman Sylvia Lim and Mr Faisal Manap – were joined by NCMP Leon Perera and former NCMP Gerald Giam to meet and greet residents, and to distribute fliers.

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Singapore GE2020: We welcome others to come and stand, says Chan Chun Sing on prospect of Lee Hsien Yang contesting Tanjong Pagar

SINGAPORE – The PAP team in Tanjong Pagar GRC welcomes others to contest the seat as it will give residents a choice but it is not focused on “who is coming or going”, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Friday (June 26).

The ruling party’s focus, said Mr Chan, is the same as it has been for many years – working closely with residents to continue solving their issues, taking care of them, and also collectively taking care of Singapore.

Mr Chan, who is the PAP second assistant secretary-general, said: “For Tanjong Pagar, we welcome other people to come and stand. It offers Tanjong Pagar residents a choice. We are not particularly focused on who is coming or going.”

He was responding to a question on the prospect of Mr Lee Hsien Yang, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s estranged brother, contesting Tanjong Pagar GRC in the July 10 polls.

Mr Chan was speaking to reporters after wrapping up the last of the PAP candidate introductions in a virtual press conference at the party headquarters in New Upper Changi Road on Friday.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang has joined the opposition Progress Singapore Party (PSP), which announced his membership on Wednesday (June 24) at a breakfast meeting in Tiong Bahru Food Centre. The centre sits in Tanjong Pagar GRC.

However, he was not among the PSP’s slate of 24 candidates, the last of whom were announced on Friday. PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock said his party’s line-up will not be firmed up until Nomination Day on Tuesday (June 30).

Tanjong Pagar GRC is a PAP stronghold, and the bastion of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew – PM Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s father. Mr Lee Kuan Yew held the Tanjong Pagar seat from 1955 – when it was a single seat – until his death in 2015, by which time it had become a part of Tanjong Pagar GRC.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his sister Lee Wei Ling have been embroiled in a long-running feud with PM Lee over the fate of their father’s house in Oxley Road.

When asked if he would be standing for election, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said: “When I’m ready to disclose that, you will find out.”

On Friday, Mr Chan said: “From the PAP team’s perspective, we are focused on serving our residents day in, day out, and we have been doing that for the last many years.

“I’m sure Tanjong Pagar residents know us well, they know what we stand for, they know how we care for them. And I look forward to working closely with the residents to continue solving their issues, taking care of them, and also collectively taking care of Singapore.”

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