By Timothy Lai
More than 20 members and volunteers from the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) conducted their walkabout in four areas in three constituencies on Sunday morning in preparation for the upcoming General Election.
These were in Potong Pasir, Toa Payoh, and Mountbatten.
The party met Sitoh Yih Pin, Member of Parliament (MP) of Potong Pasir single- member constituency (SMC), and Hri Kumar Nair, MP of Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency (GRC) along the way. Relationship was cordial as members of each party spoke well of each other.
From the walkabout, it was clear that Chiam See Tong, former MP of Potong Pasir SMC, still receives respect and admiration on the ground. When the SPP contingent walked past Mr Sitoh, who was giving a media interview, the residents at a coffeeshop cheered Mr Chiam’s name. Residents rushed to shake Mr Chiam’s hands and one woman was even touched to the point of tears.
When asked about the competition between her and Mr Sitoh in Potong Pasir, Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Lina Chiam conceded that “Mr Sitoh has done some of the things he promised in the last election.” Both candidates want a modern kampong in Potong Pasir. However, Mrs Chiam thinks that the current changes are just a façade. In addition, major issues such as housing, transport, medical expenses, and the 6.9 million population White Paper, were still concerns among residents in the constituency. In dealing with such issues, Mrs Chiam noted that the residents’ representative has to be “sincere, passionate and… have a ear on the ground”.
However, major obstacles still remain for opposition parliamentarians. Mrs Chiam noted that it will be vital for her to receive the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) funding that the current MP has. According to the Ministry of National Development, CIPC “provides funding support for infrastructural and recreational facilities” and are “disbursed through the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs)”. While Mrs Chiam noted that it would be difficult for her as an opposition member, she promised to fight for a funding of $5 million.
Succession still remains a major question for the SPP. While Mrs Chiam, learning from the previous election, has kept her cards close to her heart, it is clear younger blood needs to start being the face of SPP during the electoral campaign. Thus far, Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss, who will be standing in Mountbatten SMC, and social worker Ravi Philemon, seem to be taking a more active role in engaging the residents. Nevertheless, Mrs Chiam told the press to anticipate the release of SPP’s manifesto and news conference for the unveiling of new candidates.
In an impassioned note on her Facebook page on Saturday, Mrs Chiam responded to some who questioned her candidacy based on the fact that she is a woman and one “with lesser academic qualifications” than others.
Because of this, she said her critics feel that she ‘ should not contest in a multi cornered fight with better qualified candidates.”
“This is wrong perception,” said Mrs Chiam, who contested in the last elections in the SMC.
“I will never feel unequal to any challenges,” she added.
“I have been walking the ground for the past 4 years since becoming an NCMP, been an active parliamentarian and helping Mr Chiam in Potong Pasir when he was an MP for 27 years.
“I have already sunk my roots and bonded with Potong Pasir residents long before any candidates.
“Potong Pasir was and is still is “My kind Of Town”
“I will never forsake Potong Pasir to stand as a candidate in another constituency.”