Just yesterday, Member of Parliament (MP) for Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC) Dr Chia Shi-Lu went around the Alexandra Village Food Centre in Bukit Merah to distribute masks to hawkers who are still operating their stalls in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic as Singapore Food Agency has enforced the usage of masks for all workers who sell or prepare food.
Chinese-language newspapers Lianhe Zaobao and Lianhe Wanbao both reported his walkabout.
Both papers quoted Dr Chia as saying that he will help raise the hawkers’ appeals to the related authorities so that they can support the vulnerable hawkers whose businesses are affected as a result of decreasing numbers in patrons following the closure of most of the workplaces.
On top of the three-month rental waivers, the hawkers hoped that the Government would provide allowances for utilities, gas and miscellaneous fees in the amount of nearly thousand dollars.
Dr Chia told the newspapers that he will help to raise the hawkers’ appeals to the related authorities to support the vulnerable hawkers to ride out this challenging period.
Political campaigning amidst social-distancing measures?
The first thing that comes to mind about the report is not about how warm-hearted is Dr Chia in his desire to check on the hawkers in his constituency–rather, the question of why is he out interacting with people when there is an intensified call for people to practice social distancing and to comply with the control orders passed by the Parliament last week.
While some may argue that as an MP of the GRC, he should be entitled to hand out face masks to those in his ward, given how masks are essential during this pandemic. But the fact that reporters were present at Dr Chia’s walkabout would only mean that his walkabout was all about political campaigning.
Furthermore, the individual accompanying him is not his aide or volunteer, but the Director of SGSecure Programme Office, Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Chua Swee Leong, who also serves as the Assistant Director, Operations Plans and Projects of the Singapore Civil Defence Force.
Lianhe Wanbao pointed out that Lt-Col Chua is People’s Action Party’s new candidate and has been active in grassroots activities at the Tanjong Pagar GRC. The article went on to state that Lt-Col Chua has been recently active in Queenstown, as such, it can be expected that the line up for the Tanjong Pagar GRC will see some changes.
Dr Chia’s Facebook post on his visit also does not seem to show any indication that his visit was anything more than a MP walkabout.
Strict control measures in place since 8 April
The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 has clearly stated under what circumstances can one leave his or her residence without breaching the control order.
Among the listed exceptions, there does not seem to be a category that states political campaigning.
Note that National Environment Agency (NEA) has instructed the suspension of all Meet-the-People sessions (MPS) between 7 Apr 2020 and 4 May 2020. This would mean there is no acceptable excuse even if we were to consider Dr Chia’s visit to the hawker centre is just a MP visiting his residents.
To show just how strict the measures are implemented, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced yesterday that it has revoked the work pass of a work pass holder for breaching the circuit breaker measures and has also banned the person permanently from working in Singapore.
According to MOM, its investigations revealed that the person who is from an essential firm continued to loiter at various places for an extended period of time before returning to his place of residence.
“This is a blatant breach of circuit breaker measures”, said MOM.
Using the above as a guideline, how is Dr Chia and Lt-Col Chua’s visit to the food centre not a violation? Will Dr Chia and his PAP comrade be fined $300 for breaching the circuit breaker measures?