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GE2020: 'Wrong and irresponsible' of PAP govt to call elections now, says Tan Cheng Bock

Progress Singapore Party chief Tan Cheng Bock on a walkabout in Nee Soon ahead of the July 10 elections.

Progress Singapore Party chief Tan Cheng Bock on a walkabout in Nee Soon ahead of the July 10 elections.

Supporters of the People's Action Party and Progress Singapore Party break into cheer in Nee Soon as contenders from both parties meet during a walkabout.

It is "wrong and irresponsible" of the People Action Party (PAP) for calling an election in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and putting Singaporeans' lives at risk, Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock said on Sunday, as he called for a national debate on the ruling party's handling of the crisis.

In response to Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing’s criticism that the opposition was not prepared to handle the crisis, Dr Tan said: "Chan Chun Sing can bring along the health minister. And I will go along with Paul (Tambyah). Then we go on national TV and we debate this, see whether the opposition is as good, or if not even better, than the way they managed the Covid-19."

Mr Chan had said on Saturday that proposals to help the country tide through the pandemic were "glaringly missing" from various opposition parties' manifestos. 

Singapore Democratic Party chairman Paul Tambyah, an infectious diseases specialist, had said at a forum on Friday that he wondered if the government had "lost its focus on the public's health and started thinking about the election" back in March.

Echoing his views, Dr Tan added: "Remember, all solutions don't only come from one source. The best solution will come when everybody contributes and share your ideas, then you get the best outcome."

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He reiterated that he had disagreed at the outset, with Singaporeans going to the polls at such a time.

Singapore's next General Election takes place on July 10, and Dr Tan's comments came on the sixth day of the nine-day campaign period. 

"This is an irresponsible act of the government, knowing full well (the possible consequences)... If they really consider that the elections is safe, they shouldn't have all these social distancing rules and so on. You're putting all at risk. And I'm really worried," he said.

Dr Tan and PSP's Nee Soon candidates - Brad Bowyer, Kala Manickam, S Nalla, Damien Tay and Taufik Supan - covered various coffeeshops around Khatib and Nee Soon South on Sunday, and was accompanied by Lee Hsien Yang, the estranged younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The team also ran into their PAP opponents Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and Carrie Tan at separate points, drawing intense cheers from supporters from both camps, as well as bystanders. Alternating shouts of "PAP!" and "Tan Cheng Bock!" resounded, with many pumping their firsts into the air.

Referring to the challenges with crowd management during such situations like, Dr Tan said: "Any election is like this. I took part in six general elections, one presidential election, and now. When there's an election, (its) very difficult to say, you stand here, you stand there, because of the spirit and the determination to see who is talking. This is wrong and irresponsible. I only pray we all don't get sick. This shouldn't have happened."

PSP's Ms Manickam added: "We have many residents coming forward and they are eager to talk to us. Sometimes it's hard to say, no. It really hurts them... And this is why we shouldn't have an election at this period of time. And it's really at the risk of people's lives. So we have put politics over lives, which is not right. We should put lives over politics, and this is a very important signal we need to send to the leaders."

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