Link : Todayonline
Real democracy about voting carefully: PM
SINGAPORE – The Hougang by-election is a contest between the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) candidate Desmond Choo and the Workers’ Party’s Png Eng Huat, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed yesterday. And constituents should cast their votes based on who they think is the better candidate who can take care of their needs best.
Speaking to reporters after he visited three areas in the single-seat ward with Mr Choo in the afternoon, Mr Lee reminded voters to assess carefully who the WP’s “critical figure” is in the by-election. And that is Mr Png – not their erstwhile long-time Member of Parliament Low Thia Khiang, he pointed out.
“The Workers’ Party is very confident, and as (Deputy Prime Minister) Tharman (Shanmugaratnam) says, ‘super-confident’ about their chances here; they’ve been in this ward for a long time – Low Thia Khiang personally was here for 20 plus years, but he’s not here anymore,” said Mr Lee.
“So really, the voters in Hougang should consider carefully, not blindly but carefully, who is the best candidate, who can represent them well, who will work best for them and has a stronger backing who will look after them.”
‘MALFUNCTION’ TRIGGERED BY-ELECTION
On the WP’s call to voters to cast their ballot slips in their favour in order to keep Hougang a bastion of democracy, Mr Lee said the pursuit of democracy “was not the reason why Hougang’s by-election is being called”.
Rather, the electoral contest was triggered by “a malfunction inside the Workers’ Party and therefore they have no choice but to do this”.
The Hougang seat was vacated after former MP Yaw Shin Leong was sacked from the WP in February, after he persistently failed to account for allegations against him of marital infidelity.
“Real democracy”, said Mr Lee, is not about “voting blindly”. Rather, it means “thinking carefully and choosing each time for the party and the candidate who can serve you the best”. “And if you have to change, you have to change,” he added.
Rebutting the WP’s comment that the Hougang by-election was “serious business” for the party, he said: “If it’s serious business for them, then they should have put a good candidate here in the first place in the GE. But it turned out badly and that’s why we’re having a by-election now.”
He also pointed out that whether one extra or one less Opposition politician enters Parliament via Hougang “doesn’t change the basic picture in Parliament” because there are already eight Opposition parliamentarians and nine Nominated MPs.
RESIDENTS KNOW HIM BETTER NOW
Asked if he feels the PAP stands a better chance of winning in Hougang compared to at the General Election last May, Mr Lee said the advantage the PAP has gained is the extra one year of work Mr Choo has put in.
As a result, Mr Choo has become more familiar with residents, and residents also know him better.
“I think that slowly people are getting to know him, getting to be familiar with him – they smile, they wave, they know what he’s like,” said Mr Lee.
He added that Mr Choo is “young, energetic, has a natural warmth to people” and will serve residents well.
“He will run around, get things done, raise money, do projects, get residents to work together and he will be a voice for them in Parliament; speak up fearlessly for them – whether it’s to do with their housing problems … bus problems, transport … schools, environment, or cost of living. These are things which are very much on his mind and which he will have a very good feel for,” said Mr Lee.
AN UPHILL FIGHT FOR PAP
Still, winning in Hougang is an “uphill fight” for the PAP, he said. “But we are working hard and I think there is goodwill among quite a number of the residents here in Hougang.”
Mr Choo said the fact that the Prime Minister came to support him in Hougang shows that the ward is important to the PAP.
“It shows that we are very serious about this fight and we’re very serious about serving residents well,” he said.
He added that at tonight’s rally – which will be at 7pm at Hougang Stadium – he will touch on his contributions in the past year, his plans for the next few months, as well as national issues close to his heart.
During the walkabout yesterday, to Hougang Avenues 2, 3 and 5, Mr Lee and Mr Choo were warmly received by residents. Many walked up to them to shake their hands, and some also struck up friendly banter with them.
Mr Lee said the three-, four-room, and rental flats he visited were well looked-after. But some of the elderly residents faced personal difficulties, such as medical problems or that their children had moved out.
An elderly resident he met, Mdm Ong, for example, had difficulties squatting when she went to the toilet, but he added that Mr Choo has since helped change hers to a sitting toilet.
Said Mr Lee: “These are small gestures which we can make, but it shows that we do care and where we can, we do want to help in very practical ways to make things better.”