During the first day of parliamentary debates on Monday (31 August), Workers’ Party (WP) MP of Hougang SMC Dennis Tan got into a heated exchange with People’s Action Party (PAP) MP of Bukit Batok Muralli Pillai regarding “petty and bad politics”.
Mr Tan had condemned the PAP for its conduct in the last General Election, highlighting how the ruling party had made complaints about WP’s placement of posters in Hougang Single Member Constituency (SMC).
He said, “I myself had some experience with petty and bad politics in this election, which makes me wonder whether the ruling party had gone backwards in time in the way its campaign has been conducted in Hougang.”
Specifically, Mr Tan highlighted two complaints made to the Elections Department (ELD) during the campaign period. The first was about 13 allegations of the alternative party’s election posters being below the required 2.2m height, which “puzzled” Mr Tan.
Another was a similar allegation two days later despite the issue having been rectified.
He went on to note that a resident had informed him that PAP representatives were seen pulling WP’s posters to ensure that they fall below its original height. Additional, he said PAP had also placed its own flags in front of WP’s banner in the constituency, “blocking a clean sighting of the content” of his banners.
Now, this isn’t the only election rule violation that we’ve seen during the recent GE. In fact, TOC listed in an earlier article at least 10 violations which the ELD had not directly addressed.
This includes PAP’s Sun Xueling’s campaign video featuring school children, PAP campaign posters being put up with no ELD approval stickers, foreign interference by the Critical Spectator Facebook page, Cooling Off Day violations by former ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan, PAP flags going up before the campaign period and grassroots leaders loitering near polling stations on Polling Day.
We also noted in that article that these are just some of the violations—the tip of the iceberg—and that polling agents across the island have also noted various issues they’ve faced during their shift on Polling Day.
TOC had reached out to the ELD for a response on these issues. We have yet to receive a reply.
Now, following Mr Tan’s debate with Mr Pillai on Monday, the ELD responded to media queries and said that it had received over 220 feedback and complaints from the public and political parties about posters and banners put up by candidates and political parties in GE2020.
Some of the breaches include posters and banners planted within 50m of a polling station, not in possession of the Returning Officer’s stamp and below the 2.2m height requirement, as it will block the line of sight for motorists.
ELD said that regardless of political party, the Department will ask election agent to rectify the posters in breach of the rules within three hours, when such complaints are made.
“If this is done, no further action will be taken. In most cases, rectifications were done within the three-hour time frame and no further action was taken,” it said, adding that the same happened in the case of complaints relating to Mr Tan’s posters.
However, the Department also said that Mr Tan’s comment about his posters being pulled down from its original height is a “serious allegation”, noting that it had not received any reports on this specific matter.
Again, we have reached out to the ELD recently on Mr Tan’s comments and have yet to receive a reply.