Carissa Chua, who is a resident in Bukit Batok single-member constituency (SMC), had publicly called out People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP), Murali Pillai, on his qualification to be the continued MP for her constituency.
Murali won the by-elections in 2016 following the step-down of former PAP MP, David Ong and has been the part-time MP since.
On her Facebook post on Saturday (27 June), she claimed Murali Pillai was “unempathetic” towards her plight in purchasing a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat to stay with her elderly unmarried parents (in their 60s and 70s) and her elderly aunt (in her 80s). They have been residing in rental flats. In Singapore, if one is unmarried, they can only purchase a house when they are 35 years old and under the Joint Singles Scheme, must be co-owned by another Singaporean if they are financially unable to pay for it by themselves.
Ms Chua was in her early twenties and was not qualified; she stated that her parents were old and did not have “sufficient income or sufficient Central Provident Funds to co-own the flat with her as well”.
When she went to Meet-the-People sessions to seek assistance from Mr Pillai, she alleged that he probed into personal questions that seemed to have no relation to her issue (questioning why her parents were not married) before going on to say “that she can only blame her parents for not planning properly”.
The only solution he could offer, according to Ms Chua, was “to get married”. She said she was “close to tears as she tried to justify her situation”. Instead, she said that Mr Pillai asked the grassroots volunteer to escort her out because “this young lady was clearly emotional”.
She has given up on trying to purchase a flat because requests to HDB for assistance were futile too.
She voiced another community issue that she claimed has not been resolved yet since the fire on 1 November 2019, and how it still affects her flat and her neighbours’. Due to the fire taking place in the flat directly above hers, it had “burnt through her drain cover and caused her pipe to leak”. The exteriors of the units on the same floor as the fire are still sooty and can’t be washed out. She recounted that Mr Pillai said he would “have people look into it” but as nothing had been done, they had to repeatedly reach out to the town council but to no avail as well.
In her concluding paragraph, she asked “how she should feel as a resident in an SMC where Mr Pillai is her representative, (as he) doesn’t seem to empathise with (them) and only delivers empty promises”.
On Sunday (28 June), Mr Pillai posted a response to Ms Chua’s post to her experience with him “some years back”.
He stated that “the purpose of (his) call was to understand her present situation and to find out how (he) can help her and her family”, and not the experience Ms Chua claimed she had with Mr Pillai. He also assured her that the talk was not for her to “change her opinion of (him)”.
Mr Pillai ended the post with the appreciation of the “opportunity” (she has afforded him) to assist her”, and stated that “they have also mutually agreed to keep the details of her case confidential”. Thus, since this would be settled privately, Mr Pillai implored “everyone to respect her privacy”. Her post has since been taken down.
This was not the only issue that has been raised in the wake of the imminent General Elections (GE).
Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), questioned the lack of fulfillment and delays in Mr Pillai’s SMC projects. He and Mr Pillai are contesting in Bukit Batok SMC in the GE 2020 as they did in the 2016 by-elections as well.
On Thursday (25 June), Mr Chee took to Facebook and posted a series of photos of signboards carrying notices and announcements about projects such as the “Neighbourhood Renewal Programme” and “Revitalisation of Shops”.
He compared timelines and deadlines of these projects with the stages of completion that are actually taking place in the SMC, two of which he said have carried a delay of three years.
He also talked about uncompleted construction works that are unsafe and hazardous. “They are left unfenced and uncovered; not only are these safety lapses an eyesore, (but) more importantly, it also poses a safety hazard (and) should be quickly rectified”.
Four days after Mr Chee’s post, the areas in question were properly cordoned off when he went back, even though it has always been in the “most crowded spot in Bukit Batok with a wet market and a huge hawker centre”, Mr Chee added.
“The people elect you to run the estate, you collect the $16k/month salary, (but) out-source the work to a managing agent and then make the people pay for it. Someone please explain the logic to me,” the secretary-general of SDP commented.
“This is what I mean when I say that MPs must go full-time. It’s impossible to give your 100% if you spend all your time on your day job”, he added.
He ended the post stating that many “responsibilities will be entrusted to (an elected MP) – running the Town Council, looking after the estate especially the residents’ safety and wellbeing, representing them in Parliament, fostering a strong community and protecting the vulnerable”, and that it is something he can do as Bukit Batok’s MP.