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Redrawing boundaries costs town councils money: Sylvia Lim

WP chairman also says ministerial salary pegs, bigger GRCs and penalising opposition wards in upgrading were bad policies ESM Goh introduced when he was PM

Ms Lim took potshots at Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, while Mr Low said the lack of representation would make Singaporeans increasingly frustrated and create "a time bomb that is waiting to explode".


RUNNING through grievances over how electoral boundaries in the Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency (GRC) were altered through the years, Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim said that the changes not only make no sense but also cost town councils money - collected from residents.

New accounts need to be audited and signs need to be changed, while town councils need to be disbanded or built, she said at a rally in Ubi.

"Why should you residents pay for these political games of the PAP (People's Action Party)?" she said, citing the absorption of Braddell Heights ward into Marine Parade after a close shave for the PAP in 1991, the inclusion of Serangoon Central, and the recent absorption of Joo Chiat ward.

Ms Lim also took some potshots at the PAP incumbents, notably Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin. Mr Goh introduced three bad policies during his time as prime minister, she said: putting opposition wards at the back of the upgrading queue, increasing GRC sizes, and pegging ministerial salaries to the private sector. Mr Goh was prime minister from 1990 to 2004.

As for Mr Tan, Singapore can still benefit from his talents even if he is not elected, she said.

As the PAP will still likely form the government, "there are numerous government-linked companies he could be in, and no end of top-level committees he could sit on", Ms Lim said.

Ms Lim was speaking at the end of a rally for the hearts and minds of 146,244 voters in the five-member Marine Parade GRC.

There, the WP slate is led by Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, whose Joo Chiat ward he narrowly lost in 2011 is now part of Marine Parade GRC.

Mr Yee's team comprises lawyer Terence Tan, chocolate factory owner Firuz Khan, fresh-faced corporate lawyer He Ting Ru and RHB Bank head of wealth management and loan sales Dylan Ng.

The WP team squares off against the PAP's Mr Goh, an MP for Marine Parade since 1976 and who remains widely popular there; fourth-generation leader Mr Tan; first-term MP Edwin Tong, a lawyer who moved from his now-dissolved Moulmein-Kallang GRC; and veteran backbenchers Fatimah Lateef, a doctor, and Seah Kian Peng, Singapore CEO of NTUC FairPrice Co-operative.

The PAP won the area in 2011 with 56.6 per cent of the vote against a National Solidarity Party (NSP) team that included new face Nicole Seah - making Marine Parade one of the PAP's lowest-scoring GRCs. In various speeches on Monday night, Ms Lim and her fellow WP candidates spoke of the importance of checks and balances on the government, a common opposition theme on top of grouses over immigration and the Central Provident Fund.

Mr Yee assured residents that the WP now has considerable experience to run a town council.

Ms He said the PAP reminds Singaporeans of the need for stability, and asked if it was a stable situation to have power concentrated in the hands of a few.

WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang, who leads a team of WP incumbents at Aljunied GRC, highlighted how the opposition obtained 40 per cent of the popular vote in 2011 but gained control of less than 10 per cent of parliamentary seats.

"This is worrying and unhealthy for Singapore . . . the lack of representation will only make Singaporeans increasingly frustrated and suppressed. It is a time bomb that is waiting to explode," he said.

Fellow Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh said more bills should be referred to specially convened Select Committees for further scrutiny by experts and the public.

Firuz Khan, who worked for Japanese chocolate maker Royce for five years before striking out on his own in 2008, spoke of his experiences setting up a division in Singapore.

He had hired mostly Singaporeans, and the company developed a programme to train them, he said.

"With such a strong Singaporean core, we grew the business more than 20 times in size in the five years I was there, and I'm proud of it," he said.

"Even today . . . 80 per cent of the staff I recruited are still working for the same company, with some in management positions," he said.

In Wales in the UK, where he has a business, he has to employ 100 per cent locals, he said.

"I learnt to adjust my style to work with locals in the area. I learnt foreign companies can go to a place, employ locals there, and still be successful."