Singapore GE2020: Candidates for Bukit Panjang make final pitch to voters

SINGAPORE – The last day of the campaign saw both candidates for Bukit Panjang SMC pulling out the stops to make a last-ditch impression on voters.

People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate Liang Eng Hwa pledged to continue pushing for more improvements to the estate he grew up in.

The 56-year-old managing director of DBS Bank’s Institutional Banking Group, who was moved from the PAP’s Holland Bukit-Timah GRC team, had during his three terms as MP for Zhenghua lobbied for new bus services and upgrades to the LRT.

“I will continue to be that persistent to get the job done,” he said.

“I want to fast track certain programmes, and there are a lot of feedback requests we want to act on as soon as possible. The kampung spirit (in Bukit Panjang) is very good and there is a strong sense of community on the ground. I used to live around here so I want to be part of it,” he said.

Both he and his opponent for the single seat – Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Paul Tambyah – were in Fajar one after the other on Wednesday (July 8) to sway undecided voters to back them on Polling Day on Friday.

Professor Tambyah, on his part, said that a victory would be a miracle for him, citing the safe distancing restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have had to talk to people through a mask and when you talk to elderly people, they cannot understand what you are saying because they are used to lip reading,” he said.

“We have put out a lot of online content. It is compulsory to vote in Singapore, so the majority of voters have probably never seen any of our online materials. I am not very optimistic at all.”

Both candidates said they had done their best to engage and reach out to the 35,497 voters in the single-member constituency – the largest SMC – over the nine-day campaign.

Mr Liang began his day early at 7.30am at a bus stop in Bangkit Road, wishing early commuters well and asking if there was anything more he could do to improve their travel experience.

“I actually feel very energised now that it’s day nine,” he said during a pit-stop on his final round at Fajar Market.

He also intends to provide his residents with advice on how best to tap government schemes that create “meaningful jobs” – a particularly important issue amid Covid-19 and an economic contraction.

“There are many things in (government schemes) that are useful to our residents. I want to connect the dots for residents, bring this programme to them on the ground.”

Prof Tambyah, who was campaigning at Fajar Market with all 10 other SDP candidates, said he was disappointed that the People’s Action Party had failed to engage the SDP substantially on issues, citing its refusal to debate with him and Progress Singapore Party chief Tan Cheng Bock on the pandemic.

The infectious diseases expert has run on a platform of suspending goods and services tax until 2021, the provision of retirement income to at least 80 per cent of seniors, as well as giving retrenchment benefits to those who lost their jobs due to Covid-19.

The SDP has said its policies would not affect the principal amount in Singapore’s reserves.

Prof Tambyah, who is contesting for the first time in an SMC, also said the reception from Bukit Panjang residents has been warm.

“I really appreciate what the voters in Bukit Panjang have done in the last nine days. They have gone beyond what we have experienced in the last 10 years in terms of opening their hearts, opening their homes to us.

“Whatever the outcome on Friday, I’m going to enjoy working with them.”

He stood in the SDP’s Holland-Bukit Timah GRC team in the 2015 General Election, where it lost to the PAP’s team anchored by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

Prof Tambyah added: “From noise to lift upgrading, there are numerous municipal issues. In the best case scenario, the Holland-Bukit Timah and Bukit Panjang (SDP) team will be able to work together.”

During his walkabout, Mr Liang also visited a senior activity centre, where he helped a 72-year-old gardener support her banana tree so she could prune it. He then posed with her while holding a banana leaf.

Summing up his campaign, he said it was about “going to the people, the household, the bus stop, the neighbourhood locations to hear first-hand what people are saying and to deal with their issues”.

“I have done my best. Within nine days, I have presented my programmes, my plans, and I hope they will consider and then give me a chance to serve them.”

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