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Gan Kim Yong: No need for public debate with PPP on healthcare

PPP chief says he is only interested in policy debates, not smearing
Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 05:50
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Mr Gan (left) was invited by Mr Goh to a townhall debate on healthcare matters once last month during his walkabout near Teck Whye in Chua Chu Kang and twice on Tuesday

Singapore

HEALTH Minister Gan Kim Yong on Tuesday responded to People's Power Party (PPP) chief Goh Meng Seng's challenge to a public debate on healthcare issues, saying he does not see a need for one.

Speaking to reporters, he said: "We have already had many opportunities to debate many of the policies in parliament as well as externally, and we have also conducted extensive public consultations, including Our Singapore Conversation."

There were also separate consultations to gather input for MediShield Life and ageing programmes, he added. He continues to welcome any contribution of ideas that the government can take into account when crafting its policies. Many of Singa-pore's healthcare infrastructure and social policies are currently work in progress, and implementation is on schedule.

"Whether there is a need for the debate depends on the issues. At this moment, I don't see a particular need to have an open debate because many of the issues have already been addressed," he said.

Mr Goh, PPP's secretary-general, has on several counts invited Mr Gan to a townhall debate on healthcare matters, once in August during his walkabout near Teck Whye in Chua Chu Kang, and twice on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters at the nomination centre at Chua Chu Kang Primary School, he cited the shortage of hospital beds, the need to look into the welfare of healthcare workers in order to groom local talent, and the timing for withdrawal of Central Provident Fund savings as topics he wanted to discuss.

Asked what proposals he has in these areas, he replied in Mandarin: "Wait until he accepts the challenge and we can talk. . . As a minister, he has an enormous team - the entire Ministry of Health - behind him to prepare him. He shouldn't retreat. After all, we are a small party. But just because we're small doesn't mean we don't have opinions."

Mr Goh added that he is only interested in policy debates this election, not smearing, and pointed out that there have been several attacks and cases of unfair treatment towards opposition candidates - for instance, the over-emphasis on and grilling over the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council's accounts.

Chua Chu Kang is the only constituency the PPP is contesting in. Also in Mr Goh's team are finance manager Low Wai Choo, 55; property consultant Lee Tze Shih, 42; and managing consultant Syafarin Sarif, 39.

Mr Goh himself is an opposition veteran, having contested in Tampines GRC on the National Solidarity Party ticket in 2011, and in Aljunied GRC on the Workers' Party ticket in 2006.

On the incumbents' side, the People's Action Party (PAP) is fielding Mr Gan; Parliamentary Secretary Low Yen Ling, 41; director, Asean accounts & business development at Ernst & Young Zaqy Mohamad, 40; and head of Catalist at CIMB Bank Singapore Yee Chia Hsing, 44.

As for the two single member constituencies, it will see technical personnel Elvin Ong, 37, compete with the incumbent Cedric Foo, 55, group deputy president and chief financial officer of Neptune Orient Lines. Mr Foo is gunning for a fourth term as the Member of Parliament for Pioneer, having served the area for the past 14 years.

At Hong Kah North, blogger and social worker Ravi Philemon, 47, will go against Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, 57.

In his speech to his few supporters present, he said: "Voters from Hong Kah North, in my walkabouts in your constituency, you have expressed to me that you wished that you had a stronger opposition in your ward. I want to tell you that I am here."

Large crowds of PAP supporters turned up to cheer the candidates, compared to the few supporters of the opposition parties at the primary school. But the PAP supporters dispersed and started to leave the assembly area even while the last of the speakers from the PPP were still talking.

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