Just following the announcement of the two candidates contesting in the Bukit Batok by-election, the candidates’ parties, the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), found themselves in a debate over upgrading plans for the constituency.
On 24 May, the PAP’s candidate Murali Pillai talked of $1.9 million worth of infrastructure plans by the Jurong-Clementi Town Council to build covered walkways, ramps, a jogging track and a park for a neighbourhood in Bukit Batok West Avenue 4. He stated he would have the mandate to carry out such plans only if he were elected.
“If we don’t have the mandate, then we won’t have the ability to carry on because we will not form the town council. That’s the rule,” he said.
The candidate and chief of the SDP chief Chee Soon Juan took issue with Mr Murali’s comments, addressing the media immediately after the announcement of the contesting candidates.
Dr Chee called the PAP’s plans a “knee-jerk reaction every time an election comes”. The SDP had also released a statement on 26 April criticising the infrastructure plans, stating that with the non-partisan nature of government agencies, such agencies would work with whoever is elected MP of the SMC.
The SDP went on to say that Mr Murali’s suggestions could even be a breach of the law and “a contravention of the Parliamentary Elections Act (Section 59) which prohibits parties or persons from bringing undue influence on voters.”
Dr Chee and his party also called Mr Murali’s comments “unethical” and accused the PAP of not genuinely caring for Bukit Batok residents.
The PAP further responded on 27 April, stating that the SDP’s accusations of the PAP breaching the law were “absurd”. In the issued statement, the PAP noted that “if a candidate for election as Member of Parliament is not elected, his Party’s town council naturally cannot be responsible for the constituency, and cannot carry out its Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) plans for that constituency.”
They explained that while the Government funds NRP projects, it is the town council that nominates neighbourhoods which should be prioritised for the NRP.
The SDP’s Dr Chee also said that with the NRP being a part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) master plans, upgrading would be carried out regardless of who was elected the MP of Bukit Batok. The PAP put out a second statement on 28 April in response, saying that the URA does not initiate nor implement the NRP.
“The Town Councils are responsible for implementing the NRPs, from start to finish,” the PAP said. The statement also called for voters to judge whether the SDP understands its responsibilities and can carry them out efficiently.