Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai defends dinner for seniors after criticism by SDP's Chee Soon Juan

SINGAPORE – Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai on Sunday (March 16) said that extra precautionary measures were in place during a club dinner for seniors held in his ward earlier this month, following criticism by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan.

Dr Chee, who got 38.8 per cent of the vote against Mr Murali in the 2016 Bukit Batok by-election, had earlier said on Facebook that participants of the dinner were not practising social distancing and that it could have put people at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

In a Facebook post, Mr Murali shared a list of precautionary measures the Bukit Batok Active Ageing Club said it had undertaken before the dinner held on March 7 to celebrate its eighth anniversary.

This list, compiled by club chairman Ong Chai and originally shared on the club’s Facebook page, included measures such as mandatory temperature checks, travel and health advisories and having organisers look out for and advise anyone who felt unwell to see a doctor and rest at home.

The club also took additional steps like extending the dinner tables beyond the original dining space to spread dining groups out more, having serving spoons for each dish and designating volunteers to do the serving for each table, and scaling down the event, added Mr Ong.

Dr Chee, who is expected to contest the ward again at the next general election, had taken issue with the way participants of the dinner were spaced out.

He asked why Mr Murali had allowed the seniors, who were more vulnerable to infection, to gather in the hall when the spread of Covid-19 was at “its most critical”.

“Mr Murali apparently learnt nothing from the surge of new infections coming from people who attended the dinner function at Safra Jurong in Feb. The MOH had said that the organisers of the event had been ‘socially irresponsible’,” said Dr Chee, in reference to a dinner on Feb 15 that has turned into Singapore’s biggest cluster of coronavirus cases, with 47 confirmed cases associated with it.

In response to the growing number of such cases here, the Government on March 13 had announced that all ticketed cultural, sports and entertainment events with 250 participants or more are to be deferred or cancelled.

The dinner on March 7 was held before these measures kicked in, and Mr Murali noted that it would not be fair to judge the decision to proceed with the dinner based on facts that happened after it.

“In reviewing the reasonableness of AAC’s decision to proceed with the scaled down dinner, it would be unfair to take into account facts that happened subsequently as these matters would not be within their knowledge at that material time,” said Mr Murali.

The MP also said that he had spoken to Mr Ong before the dinner on March 7, who had explained to him the additional steps that would be taken.

Mr Ong said that the club understood that seniors are more vulnerable to Covid-19 and it has since stopped all activities, in line with the Government’s directions.

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