By: Ng Yi Shu
Since the 14th of January the Workers’ Party candidate Ms Lee Li Lian has been working tirelessly the ground of Punggol East in her campaign. In an effort to win the votes of the demographic, Ms Lee has addressed issues that relate to residents. Her party has also assured residents of their track record both in Parliament as well as town council management.
From the outset, Li Lian has portrayed herself as a young woman planning to start a family. In her introduction speech she said, “… I can empathise with the considerations and concerns that young couples and young families have… such as raising children in a time where the cost of living is going up, and the environment is becoming increasingly competitive, especially in schools.” She has also used her experience as a ground activist of WP to her advantage, having worked the ground longer than the PAP’s Dr Koh Poh Koon or the RP’s Kenneth Jeyaratnam. In the last General Election, she had the second-highest number of votes in Punggol East, securing 41% of the vote.
She has also proven herself to be a credible opposition politician, calling for and supporting issues of her party, such as investigating why childcare fees are going up despite the duopoly between NTUC and PCF as anchor operators in childcare. This meets demand from the ground to see opposition parties raising issues of national concern.
In fact on resident, Ms Fong, 30, told TOC at a WP rally on Tuesday ( Jan 22) that she would like to see more policy-level recommendations,, “such as for retirement”.Ms Lee did not let up even as paternity leave schemes were introduced and announced on Monday – instead, she lauded it as a success on the WP’s role in parliament and a success of the people in voting for an opposition candidate. “Together with you, we will push hard on issues that matter to you, until we see policy changes that will serve you better,” she declared in her speech on the 22nd.
She dealt with transport as both a local and national issue, lamenting on traffic jams that hold up buses and the escalating transportation costs., “SMRT made huge profits, should we pay more for bus fares?” , was something that she asked often in the campaign.
In summary, Ms Lee dealt with local issues of public amenities and the renovation of Rivervale Plaza whilst nationally raising paternity leave, lower childcare cost, lower healthcare cost, and an integrated primary-secondary school program.
Two communities, in particular, have received special focus from her.
Ms Lee has called for free public transport for elders who are 80 years and above. She also asked for deeper subsidy rates at specialist clinics and at public hospitals for patients who walk in, with or without referrals from the polyclinics.
For parents, her other community that she focused on, Ms Lee called for Workfare bonuses for stay-at-home parents who do not have an income and better incentives for flexi-work arrangements.
With regard to single parents she called for discriminatory policies towards them to be lifted. These policies include exclusion from working mothers’ child relief, grandparents’ caregiver tax relief, foreign maid-levy tax relief, Baby Bonuses, and the fact that single parents can only buy a HDB BTO flat at 35 years old.
Ms Lee has tried to connect with residents by portraying herself as being one of them. She spoke about her background, her upbringing during her school years, having to do part-time work when she was 15 years old, and her eventual graduation from Curtin University.
“I am running for this by-election because I want a better Singapore not only for us, but also for our children,” she said, often.
She has also, with her party, assured residents repeatedly that they as an experienced opposition party can manage the Town Council well. On the topic of Town Council management, her party has continued to press the PAP on the issue of the People’s Action Party forming a company to manage the software to manage the town councils.
In general, her campaign has framed the issues pertaining to the by-election rather well. In choosing to frame their own issues they have gone on a campaign direction different from what the ruling party has expected. It is however hard to predict whether residents have found that appealing, or indeed if residents have even heard their message.
“I don’t know what [the WP] fought for in Parliament,” Punggol East resident Mr Lee said to TOC at one of the rallies.
It appears that the WP has their work cut out for them. We can only see on Polling Day whether their campaign has worked and/or if residents in Punggol East will walk with them till the next GE due for 2016.