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WHEN asked on Wednesday whether the opposition had succeeded in making the ruling party work harder, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong drew on an old fable for his reply.
Referring to the opposition parties here, he said: "You know the fable of the rooster that crows when the sun rises? The rooster goes around claiming that its crowing causes the sun to rise. That's what they're doing."
He was speaking at the unveiling of the People's Action Party (PAP) slate of candidates for Marine Parade GRC, when he also announced that his fellow candidate in the GRC, Tan Chuan-Jin, would take over from him as lead minister.
Mr Goh said: "My main role is to ensure smooth leadership transition . . . This is leadership transition in action."
Facing reporters, Mr Tan also responded to claims that the PAP had stepped up its game since the 2011 elections, which had brought seven opposition members into Parliament, the largest number since independence.
Quoting Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, he said: "The world did not start in 2011. If you look at what the PAP government has initiated over the past few years, many of these things have been evolving."
Citing manpower and transport policies, he stressed that these policies and improvements take time to make a difference: "These things were put in place prior to the last elections... When I think of policies, I never think of the other side. It's always about the people."
Mr Goh and Mr Tan aside, the other candidates on the PAP ticket for Marine Parade GRC are Fatimah Lateef and Seah Kian Peng, along with Edwin Tong, who used to look after the Jalan Besar ward when it was part of the now-dissolved Moulmein-Kallang GRC. Mr Tong will be fielded in the Joo Chiat division of Marine Parade GRC.
Mr Goh added that, since he had spent 40 years in Marine Parade building it up, the residents know him. He would leave it to them to decide if he had done a good job.
"Opposition parties come and go, like nomads. Nomads will not have an interest in the people's welfare. A new tribe is coming - do they really have interest in Marine Parade's welfare?"
Mr Goh then spoke about a ground-up, community-level initiative in Marine Parade, which is reaching out to help children of lower-income families in the constituency. EduGrow for Brighter Tomorrows, as it is called, is the result of the efforts of "personal friends and patrons of Marine Parade" who support and fund this intervention programme to help educate these children; it is not a government effort, he added.
He noted a "certain arrogance" about the Workers' Party (WP), which has indicated plans to field a team in the GRC.
"Strength is relative. They (WP) are stronger than NSP (National Solidarity Party) - there's no doubt about it - but there is a certain arrogance about them. With that arrogance, will they be able to replace me and my team? Let them try.
"Are we worried that WP is coming to Marine Parade? Look at the way they run their Town Council's finances and look at the way we run (ours). You decide: Who do you want to manage your town council?"
He acknowledged, however, that during the last elections, the PAP government had not paid enough attention to people living in landed property. But the government has since rolled out more inclusive measures such as the Pioneer Generation package, which has gone out to all residents, regardless of where they live.
This is an area which Mr Tong wants to look into. Noting that HDB dwellers have been beneficiaries of a lot of government programmes, private property dwellers feel excluded. He said: "I think it's important we take steps to identify why they are not included.
"Sometimes, it's merely because of the residential address they carry. But that investigation, to me, is not enough. I think we need to find out why they are there. Some may be there because the property is rented and they can't afford housing; some are there because they have the asset but they can't convert it. They may be retired and not have disposable cash.
"So I think the government's programmes need to be more bespoke. You need to see how it is applied on the ground and not just stop at the fact that they are private (property) dwellers."