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GE2020: Opposition parties make one last push to reach out to voters

SINGAPORE — Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock said that if his party were in the PAP Government's shoes, it would “lock down dormitories first” at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak as part of its strategy to tackle the pandemic.

Residents and onlookers at Block 964, Jurong West Street 91 where Progress Singapore Party was doing its walkabout on July 8, 2020.

Residents and onlookers at Block 964, Jurong West Street 91 where Progress Singapore Party was doing its walkabout on July 8, 2020.

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  • Progress Singapore Party said that it would have “locked down dorms” at start of Covid-19 outbreak
  • The Workers’ Party reiterated the downsides to NCMP scheme
  • Red Dot United wants public sector to allow Muslim women to wear hijab
  • Jose Raymond of Singapore People’s Party pledges to donate half of MP allowance if elected


SINGAPORE — Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock said that if his party were in the PAP Government's shoes, it would “lock down dormitories first” at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak as part of its strategy to tackle the pandemic.

His comments on Wednesday (July 8) came as opposition parties made one last push, either through walkabouts or online rallies, to reach out to voters as the clock ticked down to Cooling-Off Day on Thursday.

On Cooling-Off Day, no campaigning is allowed so that voters may reflect on issues raised during the campaign before casting their vote on Friday.

Speaking to reporters during a walkabout in Clementi, Dr Tan, who is contesting in West Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC), said that there would be “no confidence” if Singapore does not properly manage the pandemic.

He noted that the number of Covid-19 cases in the community was already rising.

The Ministry of Health reported nine new cases of Covid-19 in the community on Wednesday.

“Once the community spread starts, I think we will be in big trouble. So if you don't create that confidence, don't create that trust, who is going to come? Your tourists want to come?” the 80-year-old asked.

When pressed for more details on how his party would have tackled the crisis, Dr Tan said that he would “close down the dormitories straightaway, a lockdown straightaway”.

“Don’t assume that you can do this minimal controlling. You’ve got to really lock it down — lock the dormitories down first. Instead of locking us down, lock the dorms down first. Find out and do community tracing,” he added.

Reflecting on the past nine days of campaigning, Dr Tan said that the biggest difference from his last outing at the polls in 2001 has been the campaigning in the online space.

He was previously a Member of Parliament (MP) in the now-defunct Ayer Rajah Single Member Constituency (SMC) with the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) for 26 years.

“I am beginning to accept (new technology) and at my age now, I’m beginning to learn new things like this,” he said, while doing a heart-shaped finger sign.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock (right) doing a heart-shaped finger sign during his door-to-door walkabout at Block 723, Clementi West Street 2 on July 8, 2020. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong/TODAY

This gesture has become popular among some youth and Dr Tan’s personal Instagram account has racked up more than 40,000 followers through this campaign period.

On his chances of snatching West Coast GRC from the incumbents, Dr Tan said: “We feel we have a good chance if you judge by the ground reception and the vibe we get from the residents, so I hope we’ll do well.”

He added: “I think the West Coast voters should consider my team very favourably because we're going to bring in new, fresh ideas. We are not constrained by groupthink.”


Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh handing out a flyer to a resident in Hougang. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY

Over at Aljunied GRC, Workers’ Party (WP) chief Mr Pritam Singh said that the party has done its best.

“I think we have put our best foot forward, focused very hard on campaigning and telling the public why this election is so important,” Mr Singh said to reporters at Kovan Market And Food Centre in Hougang.

The 43-year-old admitted that while this election was not easy for the party, he was satisfied that the campaign went the way it had planned.

“We’ve done our best to try to put the best slate of candidates together and fought a campaign the way we wanted to… clean, on the issues (that matter to Singaporeans) and on the facts.”

For example, he said that the party was able to highlight some key messages such as the looming retrenchments caused by the coronavirus outbreak, as well as the need to review the ratio of residents and foreigners in the economy since resident labour force participation will “peak in this decade”.

Another important issue that the party was able to raise is the downsides of the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme.

The merits of the NCMP scheme have come under the spotlight this election, with the ruling PAP arguing that Singaporeans do not need to vote the opposition in because the scheme guarantees that up to 12 opposition members will be in Parliament.

While the scheme will give NCMPs full voting rights, Mr Singh reiterated that it does not allow opposition members to embed themselves within a constituency to get feedback directly from the residents, among others.

Responding to a question about whether online support will translate to actual votes, he said that it would be “dangerous” to think it will.

“In the online world… there are echo chambers, and it can give you a false sense of comfort of what the position is on a particular issue,” he said.

“As far as the Workers’ Party is concerned, our focus has been to work hard on the ground, because that is where it really matters.”


During newcomers Red Dot United’s final e-rally on Facebook on Wednesday evening, Ms Liyana Dhamirah, one of the party's new faces, raised the issue of allowing Muslim women to wear the hijab or religious headgear in public sector jobs.

The three-week-old party is up against a five-men PAP team led by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam in Jurong GRC.

The public debate on whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear headgear in certain public sector professions was first sparked during a forum on race in 2013.

Ms Liyana called on the Government to commission a public survey to gauge how other communities feel about Muslim women wearing the hijab in public service occupations that now prohibit it.

While she acknowledged the Government’s position that wearing the Muslim headscarf in the workplace can be “very problematic” for some professions that require employees to be in uniform, Ms Liyana said that it is important to have “empirical evidence to support any decision on this issue”.

She added that the prohibition has impacted many Malay-Muslim families economically, as it restricts the pool of job opportunities available for Muslim women who choose to wear the headscarf.

In his speech, Mr Nicholas Tang, who is Red Dot United's youngest candidate, said that Singapore should move towards becoming a “colour-blind society”.

Referring to the recent spate of racial disputes that occurred during the hustings, the 28-year-old legal engineer said that Singapore appears to be “more divided than ever as a nation” as Polling Day draws nearer.

He called for the country to “remove race in the consciousness of our society” that, he said, exists in policies such as the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) ethnic integration policy.


In his final e-rally on Wednesday night, Mr Jose Raymond, 48, Singapore People’s Party’s (SPP) candidate for Potong Pasir, promised to donate 50 per cent of his MP allowance towards a Potong Pasir neighbourhood fund, if he is elected.

It will help the less fortunate, as well as those who fall through the cracks in relation to government grants, he said. “Sometimes, we do have such instances where residents have their request rejected because of technicalities.”

The fund, he said, will be administered by a special board that will be made up of residents from Potong Pasir SMC and he will tap his personal fundraising experience to manage it.

"No one will be left behind, not on my watch…” he vowed, stating this as his way of building a resilient and compassionate community. “With me, you will never walk alone. My team and I will be there to help lift you up when you are down.”

Mr Raymond also shared plans to give the SMC's residents first priority for jobs at Potong Pasir Town Council.

“My hope is to empower all of you so you have a stake in how your neighbourhood is run… If we look out for our neighbours, then soon, we will have an entire community that looks out for one another,” he said.

Related topics

Singapore General Election SGVotes2020 Tan Cheng Bock Opposition

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