By Howard Lee
Cost of living, high cost of healthcare, immigration and retirement funds remain key issues that matter to Singaporeans this general election, and the Singapore Democratic Alliance intends to bring these issue up for debate in Parliament should they be elected as Members of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, promised party member at an election rally last night at Buangkok.
Nevertheless, while party members were able to identify the problems, they did not elaborate on the solutions, noting that the party’s think tank consultants would help with the formulation of policies should the team be elected into Parliament.
Candidate Ong Teik Seng criticised the government for the tripartite relationship that demonstrated that the People’s Action party government does not know what people want.
Mr Ong said that the main union in Singapore is headed by a Minister, who would likely “abide by the interests of employers” and would not be able to take care of workers.
Candidate Wong Way Weng highlighted the high cost of living in Singapore, which also affects parents who need to send their children to school.
Noting that the bulk of the land in Singapore is owned by the government, and the high cost of land is subsequently passed on to developers and business owners, Mr Wong said that “land suppliers have the opportunity to make things less stressful for us”.
Mr Wong also criticised the government for withholding funds in the Central Provident Fund from citizens, as the Minimum Sum is constantly being raised to catch up with rate of inflation.
He dismissed the reason given by the government for withholding retirement funds – “Because (the government says) we don’t know how to manage our funds at 55. At the age of 55, we all become idiots.”
Apart from the costs involved, Mr Wong also highlighted that the education system that streams students at an early age was “adding enormous stress to your children”.
He said that “children are intelligent in their own ways, so this screening is limiting their potential” and constitutes “a form of discrimination” which is unfair as some children are late developers.
Mr Wong also criticised the PAP’s view that it is its own check and balance in asking citizens to trust the incumbent. “I have no more blank cheque left”, he said, urging the ruling party to “listen to the heartbeat of the people.”
The speaker who was by far the most eloquent and best able to garner the support of the crowd was Harminder Pal Singh.
He pointed out that the PAP government has not mentioned the Population White Paper in the last few days. “We (the SDA) are not against immigration, but the policy… that brings in people who replace Singaporeans in their jobs.”
He also dismissed the PAP’s highlighting of the town council fracas. “The government is just playing a badminton game to distract everybody,” adding that the SDA has created a shadow town council that has been preparing for one year to take over smoothly from the PAP.
Apart from the immigration issue, Mr Singh also pointed out how the PAP, in focusing on the town council issue, as neglected other important issues, such as overcrowding and public transport failures.
He also shared that the SDA has a group of volunteers that include professionals and academia to form its policy think tank.
While many chose to remain anonymous to keep their jobs, Mr Singh said that they are ready to help SDA formulate policy proposals so that the SDA MPs “can be an effective voice in Parliament when you put us in government.”
Mr Singh also highlighted the SDA’s 19-point plan for local municipal issues, which includes proposals bring forward MRT plans, and to build additional facilities like a regional hospital, childcare centres, and a link road between Pasir Ris and Punggol.
He also promised to appoint a block representative for all estates to ensure prompt communication between residents and their MPs, who will serve full-time for their residents.
Another crowd-puller was candidate Arthuro Lim, who spoke fluently in Mandarin and dialects. Mr Lim also wrote a song for SDA to parody the CPF.
“Do you know what is the most depressing? Instead of praying to Kuan Yin (goddess of mercy), they pray to Kuan Yew! And see what happened the past 50 years!” he said to a laughing crowd of more than 1,000 people.
Sharing his reason for joining SDA, Mr Lim said that he was impressed with the work that the party has done on the ground, such as distributing rice to the needy.
“We want an opposition with heart, not those who just give lip service,” said Mr Lim, referring to earlier examples where PAP MPs were not able to help their constituents.
The rally nearly over ran as each speaker made their speeches, leaving secretary-general Desmond Lim will barely ten minutes to make his speech, where he criticised the government for “retaining our CPF to build up fantastic GDP figures”.
Mr Lim also added that two former Ministers from transport and national development have been allowed to retire without any reason given, pointing to a lack of accountability on the government’s part.
“This election is about our rights, we need to claim back our future!” he said, adding that “Singaporeans would soon be the minorities in our own country” unless something is done about the Population White Paper.