by Wan Ting Koh
Photos by Najeer Yusof
CAMPAIGNING has started even before dates for the by-election in Bukit Batok have been announced.
On Monday (March 21), barely one hour after lawyer Murali Pillai was introduced as the People’s Action Party’s candidate for the single-member ward, he was pumping hands with residents living in Block 148, Bukit Batok West Avenue 6 where the party branch was located. As he made the rounds at the four-room flats, a Meet The People session was being conducted by Jurong GRC MP Desmond Lee, the caretaker MP.
He introduced himself as “Murali” and was invited into residents’ homes several times. Mr Murali, who used to be the ward’s PAP branch secretary, between 2007 and 2011, tried gamely to communicate with non-English-speaking residents in broken Mandarin and Hokkien. He also spoke in Tamil and Malay with non-Chinese residents. Bukit Batok has a higher proportion of Chinese voters compared to other wards. In the last GE, voters numbered 27,077.
His opposition contender, Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan began staking his claim even earlier, walking the ground a day after news about former Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok David Ong broke last Saturday. He was up and about again on Tuesday night, doing house visits at block 203 Bukit Batok Street 21. When meeting residents, Dr Chee shook hands with them at their doorstep after introducing himself – “Hi, my name is Chee Soon Juan”.
Both men are not political novices. Mr Murali cut his teeth in the last general election when he was part of the failed PAP team in Aljunied GRC which took 49.04 per cent of the vote. Dr Chee, after a hiatus of 15 years, contested in Holland Bukit Timah GRC last GE and won 33.40 per cent of the vote.
We know it’s early days yet but we thought we should try to find out how well residents already know of the men fighting for their vote and what they had to say about their ex MP who resigned after admitting to “personal indiscretion”. Here’s what they told us:
Mr Murali Pillai’s walkabout:
On Mr Murali Pillai: Friendly lah. I heard of him before but I have no impression of him before meeting him. I feel like he will help residents next time.
On Dr Chee Soon Juan: I am not clear about him. I have never met him so I cannot say.
On Mr David Ong: He is very good to people and friendly – he will greet us. It is a shame he is not here anymore. He is not proud and very easy to talk to. He managed the area well, it is very clean
On Mr Murali Pillai: He is okay lah. He is very polite, not fierce and always puts on a smiling face so he must be okay lah.
On Dr Chee Soon Juan: He’s coming to contest here? I feel like he’s still too young. I’ve seen him many times on TV but not face to face. He’s a handsome man and good at talking.
On Mr David Ong: He is a very good man. I am sad that he is gone. He is a very nice man. Last time when I got a summons, he helped me by writing a letter so I have a strong impression of him. He is very sincere.
On Mr Murali Pillai: He is okay. Easy to talk to.
On Dr Chee Soon Juan: I have no impression of him at all.
On Mr David Ong: Before the incident he seemed okay. He is nice to people and if anyone had any problem he would help.
On Mr Murali Pillai: This is the first time I’ve met him but I have a good impression of him. He is friendly and can speak a bit of Hokkien and Mandarin so it is easy to speak to him.
On Dr Chee Soon Juan: I don’t have a good impression of him. The Opposition party seems very messy. Some people say Dr Chee has talent but he does not seem suitable to run as MP. If it were Workers’ Party then I will consider.
On Mr David Ong: He is very good. Last time I asked him for help as my nephew was going to be expelled by his school as he is very rebellious. But Mr Ong wrote to MOE and the school kept my nephew. He will help residents no matter what.
On Mr Murali Pillai: He is very friendly. I am surprised he can speak other languages when he spoke Mandarin to me.
On Dr Chee Soon Juan: I haven’t met him personally but I’ve seen him around the area recently. He is quite aggressive on TV.
On Mr David Ong: His resignation came as a surprise to me. I’ve met him a few times when he walked past us. He will greet us, so it felt like he had quite a personal touch with residents.
Dr Chee Soon Juan’s walkabout:
On Dr Chee Soon Juan: He is not bad. Slowly he is becoming sincere. When he first came into the political scene, he was inexperienced, now he has grown. Last GE, my views of him changed for the better and I feel that he has grown.
On Mr David Ong: I never met him before, as he hasn’t been here. I don’t have any comment. He is neither good nor bad.
On Dr Chee Soon Juan: He has changed especially in the last election in the way he speaks. More mellow than the first time he spoke. And he’s speaking about more relevant topics now.
On Mr Murali Pillai: I am not very familiar with him. I just know that he is from the PAP.
On Mr David Ong: He has been with us for many years. I don’t see him. I just know that he is friendly and will speak up for residents. From a distance, I cannot tell what his person is like but the general belief is that he is nice.
On Dr Chee Soon Juan: He looks sincere and up to his game. After persevering for so long, he is inspirational. Last election he had good publicity especially with his family. He knows how to use social media and knows how to connect with the younger generation. I’ve been following his progress in the last 10 years and I think he has changed his style somewhat. His thoughts about democracy might stay but personality wise, he has matured. His tone of engagement has mellowed – he used to be brash and confrontational. But maybe this was because it was during Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s time. Now he is firm and persuasive but not that aggressive. He has moved with the political scene. Though I am not so sure about his promises, I see him as a strong candidate.
On Mr Murali Pillai: Just from photos and his publicity in the last election, I think he is a person who can speak well. He is the kind of steady guy that the PAP would field.
On Mr David Ong: He is a friendly chap and I have to commend him for coming all the way to Bukit Batok even though he stays in Bedok.
On Dr Chee Soon Juan: Based on first impression, he is very friendly.
On Mr Murali Pillai: Haven’t met him, so I cannot tell.
On Mr David Ong: He came once but I have no impression of him.
On Dr Chee Soon Juan: He is quite friendly and 高大威猛 (tall and strong). He is polite.
On Mr Murali Pillai: I’ve only ever seen him on TV.
On Mr David Ong: Honestly, I take care of myself so I don’t have much impression of him. Actually all three are good people.
Featured image by Najeer Yusof.
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