Jewel Philemon /
The crowd was in the hundreds when we arrived and it was pushing over 15,000 as the rally ended. People spilt into the sidewalks and the roads opposite the field as they hoped to get a glimpse of the opposition candidates. There were even reports coming in that people dressed in orange were not allowed to use the Community Centre’s restrooms.
Nevertheless, the residents of Mountbatten were in visibly high spirits as the star of the evening entered the field. Jubilant cheers and excited cries filled the air as she made her way up the stage and the crowd went positively wild as she gave her best speech yet. The evening truly and rightfully belonged to the National Solidarity Party’s (NSP) Mountbatten Single Member Constituency (SMC) candidate, Ms Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss.
Ms Aruldoss stole the show and made her party and supporters proud as she touched on issues, from High HDB prices to her opponent, the incumbent Mr Lim Biow Chuan, as well as providing solutions that she plans to implement if she is elected.
Introduction of casinos
Ms Aruldoss raised the issue of the casinos in Singapore. She says, “I am a happily married mother of four. It is the concern of mothers that their children grow up in a safe and nurturing environment...I ask the PAP, is it worth risking Singapore’s safe environment for a casino? We don’t want the crime and sleaze that comes hand-in-hand with a casino.”
She asks, “The PAP boasts about its top class talents. Has the PAP no other solution than to propose a casino? Do you think there was proper debate in parliament? Of course not, what kind of debate can there be when 82 out of 84 seats in parliament are from one side?”
“Even though the PAP government knew that there were strong, public feelings against having a casino, they still went through with it. Not just one, but two! This is an example of a policy that has been forced down our throats despite the fact that we are unhappy about it,” Ms Aruldoss elaborates.
Ms Aruldoss also brought up the lack of transparency and accountability within the ruling party. She quoted Mr Mah Bow Tan who said that lowering the land cost to help reducing the high HDB prices would be like “raiding the reserves”. She also cited the loss of about $50 billion that the GIC lost during the financial crisis of 2008. “Come to think about it, how much is our national reserves? What is $50 billion? Is it a lot of money or small change? The only way to compare is to know the size of the reserves, but do we know the figures?” she questions.
She adds, “Ladies and Gentlemen, do you know where the money in the reserves come from? It comes from you, it comes from me. It is ours! But up till today, neither I nor you know how much is in the reserves! Where is the transparency? Where is the accountability?”
High HDB Prices
Rising HDB prices, which cause heartaches for many ordinary Singaporeans was also addressed in Mrs Aruldoss’ speech. She says, “Public Housing in Singapore has become anything but affordable. Today we see prices are reaching more than $500,000 for a HDB flat. How high are prices going to go?”
She also pointed out that almost 80,000 foreigners became Permanent Residents in 2008 and the fact that Mr Mah Bow Tan allows PRs to buy HDB flats. She said that this has driven up HDB resale prices.
“And who suffers for this?” she asks, “To pay for their high priced homes, buyers have to take out 30-year mortgages. In the end, all your CPF will be depleted. How much CPF would be left for your retirement?”
Ms Aruldoss also rebuts Mr Mah’s statement that he is proud of Singapore’s Asset Enhancement policy. “If you sell high, you also will have to buy high. So obviously, the AE policy makes you poor because you cannot afford to buy your own home.”
Ms Aruldoss not only talks about the problems that have arisen in Singapore but also proposes some solutions that can be used to curb them. She said, “I am proud to tell you that we at NSP have got very many good solutions.” They include:
- Discounts to be given to first time buyers of new HDB flats. In order to help young couples who wish to start families;
- Reducing the GST from 7% back to 5% and to exempt GST on basic necessities, to help Singaporeans cope with the rising costs of living; and
- Imposing a quota on the employment of foreigners earning less than $4,000 a month, in order to protect Singaporeans’ employment prospects, among others.
Ms Aruldoss urged voters to vote more opposition in in this GE. “With more opposition in Parliament,” she said, “citizens can check and balance the ruling party’s decisions and can call for more transparency, accountability and information.”
“The PAP likes to say: ‘Opposition got no credible candidates.’ Well standing before you is a credible candidate.” She adds, “In fact, my credentials are even better than my counterpart, Mr Lim Biow Chuan. How dare the PAP say that Singapore does not have enough talent? Maybe PAP doesn’t have enough talent. I think I am talent. I am more than a match for Mr Lim Biow Chuan.”
“Did the people of Mountbatten choose Mr Chuan to be their MP?” she asks. “No! It was Mr Goh Chok Tong who chose Mr Chuan to be the MP for Mountbatten. The GRC scheme has robbed the voters of Mountbatten of their constitutional right to choose their MP.”
“But NOW people of Mountbatten,” she told the crowd, “now you have a choice. Now Mr Lim Biow Chuan has to do walkabouts, he has to go door to door, he has to stand at the MRT station to distribute his flyers. Mr Lim Biow Chuan never had to do that in GE 2006. But he has to do so because I have come forward to contest in Mountbatten.”
Ms Aruldoss concluded her speech saying, “Mr Lee Kuan Yew told reporters that if the PAP loses Aljunied, the people of Aljunied will have 5 years to live and repent. I say that if the PAP loses Mountbatten, the people of Mountbatten will not repent, they will rejoice!”
In an exclusive with TOC, Ms Aruldoss cleared a few misconceptions about the opposition and gave us more perspective on her campaign.
TOC: Is there truth that the opposition will raid the reserves if they are elected?
JCA: How can the opposition raid the reserves? You have the institution of the elected president precisely to make sure that reserves are not raided. This is pure fear mongering by PAP.
TOC: In your rally speech, you said that the people of Mountbatten will rejoice if they elect you in parliament. Why do you say rejoice?
JCA: Well, firstly, for the past 20 years, residents did not get to choose their MP under the GRC system. Now they have a choice. I also believe that I can do a better job to serve the community than the incumbent. Moreover, Mr Lim Biow Chuan will remain as a grassroots leader, so residents of Mountbatten do not have one, but two community leaders, to work the ground.
For more pictures of the rally, visit TOC's Flickr page here.