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Money for upgrading Potong Pasir ‘could have been better used’

SINGAPORE — The money that her opponent and incumbent Potong Pasir Member of Parliament Sitoh Yih Pin has spent in the last four years to replace the facilities and amenities built by his predecessor Chiam See Tong could have been put to better use, said Mrs Lina Chiam.

Money for upgrading Potong Pasir ‘could have been better used’

SPP's Lina Chiam visiting residents at their homes in Toa Payoh yesterday. Photo: Jaslin Goh

SINGAPORE — The money that her opponent and incumbent Potong Pasir Member of Parliament Sitoh Yih Pin has spent in the last four years to replace the facilities and amenities built by his predecessor Chiam See Tong could have been put to better use, said Mrs Lina Chiam.

Pointing to an ageing covered walkway along Lorong 8 Toa Payoh where she conducted a walkabout yesterday as an example, Mrs Chiam, who is mounting a second bid to reclaim the ward held by her husband for 27 years until 2011, said: “You don’t have to take it down. Maybe you can re-tile and re-paint it. It’s so sinful to take it down and put it up again. It’s a waste of money.”

The Singapore People’s Party chairman added: “(Mr Sitoh) should have done other things, rather than (improve the) facade. Save some money for other things. With that extra money, I’d rather set up a committee (to look into) medical fees for old people who have no money.”

After reclaiming the Potong Pasir Single Member Constituency for the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) in the 2011 General Election, Mr Sitoh embarked on a sweeping renovation project. A futsal court and carparks, among other infrastructure, have been or are slated to be replaced.

But such upgrading works, said Mrs Chiam, are “the only carrot that (the PAP) can give” during election time. She cited the home improvement works and lift upgrading projects that the PAP had promised the town but which Potong Pasir residents rejected during Mr Chiam’s tenure.

“We don’t want residents to be held ransom by all these upgrading projects. But having said that, how many of them are strong enough to resist this temptation?” she said.

Mrs Chiam ran in the ward in her husband’s place in the 2011 polls, but lost by 114 votes. Mr Chiam had ventured out to lead an SPP team in Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency, but was also unsuccessful. He is not contesting in this election.

Speaking to TODAY after a walkabout at Block 219, Lorong 8 Toa Payoh, Mrs Chiam continued to express her frustration with the mounting of PAP secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong’s posters in constituencies across the island. After several opposition candidates cried foul over the use of the Prime Minister’s posters last week, the Elections Department (ELD) had explained that political parties are free to put up posters with their leaders’ photos in whichever constituencies they are contesting, as is the practice in previous elections.

The candidates’ handbook, issued by the ELD, spells out this provision under the electioneering rules. Still, Mrs Chiam felt the ELD should have informed candidates explicitly instead. “We would have loved to put Mr Chiam’s poster there,” said Mrs Chiam.

But the SPP had printed 500 of her posters — the maximum allowed for a candidate in the single-seat ward. “So if I were to put up Mr Chiam’s posters, where would I place my posters? It’s all wasted. It’s very expensive,” she added.

Another grouse brought up by Mrs Chiam was the prohibition on candidates to enter condominiums to campaign. Candidates must get explicit permission from each development’s management committee to enter the compound to canvass support.

Mrs Chiam said most of her requests to enter condominiums around Potong Pasir have been ignored or rejected. “I’ve tried to write to them and call them, or visit them personally. I was very lucky to get One Leicester and Avon Park to let us go door to door. 8@Woodleigh allowed us to put our brochures,” she said. “I think it’s not fair. Since it’s election time, the government should make some kind of law to allow candidates to reach (voters in) condominiums ... you should allow any candidates — PAP or opposition — to have access to the residents during (that) time.”

After seven days of campaigning, Mrs Chiam said she is drinking more water and taking more supplements to keep her energy levels high in the final stretch. “Every candidate feels tired, even the volunteers. It’s only human. I’m lucky if I get five hours’ sleep each night,” she said.

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