It was reported that the People’s Action Party (PAP) made an announcement on its Facebook page yesterday evening (13 April) that it will suspend its usual ground engagements such as market visits and home visits, and Meet-the-People Sessions (‘People’s Action Party posts on its Facebook page, announcing for the first time that it will suspend its ground engagement‘).
While it did not mention any reason for this announcement, it has been speculated that the announcement was likely linked to the barrage of criticism the party has received over a “walkabout” conducted by its MP Chia Shi Lu at the Alexander Village Food Centre on Sunday (12 April).
Dr Chia is a Member of Parliament of Tanjong Pagar GRC, led by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing. He is also the Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health.
Dr Chia’s “walkabout” was first reported in the Chinese media on Sunday evening, which said that he was visiting the hawkers at the food centre, handing out face masks and mingling with the hawkers at work. Along with him, was Colonel Eric Chua Swee Leong who is touted as a potential new PAP candidate for Tanjong Pagar GRC.
Col Chua is the director of the SGSecure Programme Office at the Ministry of Home Affairs. He is also a grassroots leader and a PBM holder (2019), chairing the Cairnhill Community Club management committee (CCMC) under Tanjong Pagar GRC.
MP Chia: We are at hawker centre to tell people to wear masks
Responding to media enquiries yesterday, Dr Chia told Straits Times that he was at the food centre at about 10am on Sunday to “encourage hawkers to wear masks”. He added that the group accompanying him was kept small – fewer than five people.
The hawker centre was quite deserted and the group did not interact with customers, he said. “We were not doing a walkabout, we were there to tell people to wear masks when serving and please wear masks, it was more an education thing.”
As for Col Chua, Dr Chia said he was “not there to campaign”, noting that the former was an active volunteer in the GRC. “He’s been helping out in quite a few areas, in fact he’s been helping with some of our food distribution programmes,” Dr Chia said.
Former Workers’ Party (WP) non-constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong shared the Chinese media report on Facebook and said he hoped leaders from the ruling party could set a “good example” in the fight against the coronavirus, noting that the WP had suspended outreach activities.
Perhaps, the only ones who can clarify on the matter, are the reporter and photographer who reported on Dr Chia’s visit. They can come out to explain why they were there in the first place and how did they know Dr Chia would be at the hawker centre at that particular time, handing out masks.
If they were there, from instructions of their editor in Singapore Press Holdings. Then clearly, Dr Chia’s explanation of “there to tell people to wear masks when serving and please wear masks”, cannot stand.
No warnings for offenders of circuit breaker measures
It was earlier reported that Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli announced that those caught breaking circuit breaker measures will all be fined S$300 instead of getting a written warning.
“Enforcement Officers reported that there are still too many people not taking the circuit breaker measures seriously … stiffer penalties are clearly needed,” he said in a Facebook post on Saturday (11 April). “From tomorrow, we will no longer issue written warnings. Any offender encountered by our Enforcement Officers will be asked for particulars immediately.”
Given that walkabout isn’t a reason to be out of one’s residence, it is unsure if Dr Chia and Col Chua would be fined $300 for breaching circuit-breaker and social-distancing measures as what Minister Masagos had promised.