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New healthcare cooperative will help sandwiched class: Murali

SDP's Chee repeats promise to push for retrenchment insurance scheme in parliament if elected

PAP candidate Murali Pillai at the Bukit Batok bus interchange on May 1. Both the PAP and SDP did not hold a rally on Monday.


NEITHER the People's Action Party (PAP) nor the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) held a rally on Monday, but their candidates for the by-election in Bukit Batok kept to their usual packed programme on the ground.

Both the PAP's Murali Pillai and SDP chief Chee Soon Juan spent most of the public holiday - the sixth day of the nine-day campaign - combing different parts of the constituency to interact with as many voters as possible ahead of this Saturday's vote.

Mr Murali, a 48-year-old lawyer at top law firm Rajah & Tann, gave more details of the healthcare cooperative that he plans to set up if he is elected.

He wants to partner The Good Life Cooperative - a non-profit body that he had previously worked with in Paya Lebar - to get the project off the ground.

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The many elderly residents living in Bukit Batok can get health screenings and check-ups at mobile clinics, as well as buy necessities such as catheters and adult diapers at a lower price.

Mr Murali said one group that might benefit from this initiative is the sandwiched class because they don't receive the same amount of subsidies as the low-income households but still have problems making ends meet.

He added that there would be talks in different languages and dialects to help residents understand illnesses better, so that they can prevent or delay the onset of illnesses through lifestyle changes.

"We want to reach out to as many residents we can help as possible ... at the present moment, we seek the buy-in of our Bukit Batok residents and hope they can support us for the programme," said Mr Murali.

When asked if the healthcare cooperative would be set up regardless of who was elected, The Good Life Cooperative's chairman Carol Tan stressed that her organisation is "above politics".

"We are apolitical, we serve the community. But it is for people to come forward to approach us and it's up to them to meet us halfway," Dr Tan said. "The issue is about credibility, sustained credibility. It's not what you say when you're surrounded by the press but it's what you do in the quietness of the weekend and the weekday."

The SDP team, led by the opposition party's secretary-general Dr Chee, spent the morning pedalling on their bicycles to meet and greet voters.

Before the bike ride, Dr Chee told reporters that he would "push very hard" in parliament for the government to introduce a retrenchment insurance scheme, or what some others describe as unemployment insurance.

"You even have PAP MPs thinking about this, WP (Workers' Party) MPs talking about this scheme. It doesn't mean that because we're from different political parties, we can't work together. For the MPs who think on the same lines, let's bring them all together and we can help the retrenched people," he said.

The 53-year-old candidate pointed out that other Asian economies like Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong also have some form of retrenchment insurance for their people.

"They need that shock absorber, temporarily, to help them get through, and then they can focus on looking for another job, or at least retraining. These are things that I think this government is very short-sighted, and I hope they will come to their senses and be more enlightened in their approach to workers," he said.

The SDP will hold its third rally of the campaign on Tuesday from 7pm to 10pm at the open field along Bukit Batok Industrial Park A.

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