The Reform Party went on the offensive at their final rally in Punggol East, attacking rival candidates and repeatedly emphasising the “broken promises” made by both PAP and WP.
Secretary-general and Punggol East candidate Kenneth Jeyaretnam, railed against media reports describing RP as a “motley crew”.
“How dare they call us a motley crew?” said Jeyaretnam to a crowd of about 300 at the open field in Rivervale.
“This was a snap election and we had little time to prepare. We did not complain. We are smaller than the others, but we are newer and we have put on a very tight show against difficult odds.”
He added that in the past four-and-a-half years, RP had gone through two elections without scandals or disarray in reference to adultery allegations which have plagued both PAP and WP.
Jeyaretnam also repeated the policies RP would push for should he win a seat in Parliament.
These include the conversion of HDB flats into freehold ownership so that owners are not dependent on the government for upgrading, stricter controls on immigration, free education from pre-school to secondary level, and reducing National Service to just one year, paying a “market wage”.
“You need an economist in Parliament to ask the right questions. I can beat PM or (Finance Minister) Tharman in a debate any day,” said Jeyaretnam, elaborating on his experience as an economist and ex-hedge funds manager.
Verbal attacks on rival candidates
As the night went on, other RP members continued the assault, hitting out at rival candidates.
The Workers’ Party, in particular, was accused of being "silent" in Parliament and unwilling to "rock the boat".
“If you vote Kenneth Jeyaretnam into Parliament, he will slap the “driver” and “co-driver”,” said RP Chairman Andy Zhu, referring to WP’s Low Thia Kiang and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Founding member Mohd Affendy also poked jibes at both PAP and WP.
“What has a doctor (PAP’s Koh) got to do with economic problems?” he said. “WP is sending a beautiful face (WP’s Lee) into Punggol. What do you want her to do? To teach salesmen in Parliament?”
Blasting WP chief Low for not offering support after the death of Jeyaretnam senior, RP’s Andy Zhu said that WP had displayed “arrogant behaviour in staking a claim in Punggol East”.
‘No more broken promises’
On a national level, RP speakers also highlighted the shortage of flats, inadequate healthcare and lack of accountability when it came to the actions of Temasek Holdings and GIC.
“Look at the broken promise of CPF, that you would be able to draw your money out at 55. Figures show government doesn’t need the money so why do they keep changing the rules?” said Jeyaretnam.
“Other candidates can’t get you off the treadmill that’s why they are so quiet in Parliament. They sit in Parliament, draw an MP’s allowance, and say they will never be ready to form a government.”
On a constituency level, RP members said the feedback from Punggol East residents from their daily walkabouts was that they were “generally disappointed with the WP” and unhappy about the lack of coffee shops in the area, as well as the delayed renovation works at Rivervale Plaza.
“Kenneth Jeyaretnam was the first to bring up Rivervale Plaza in Parliament in September last year. The MPs who were supposed to look after your problems were not even concerned about it,” said RP speaker Jahangir Ibrahim.
“And the WP? No census passed, no motion called.”
Bringing up Jeyaretnam’s three promises to Punggol East should he win – that he will move to the ward where he will work as an MP full-time and donate a portion of his salary to the community – Prabu Ramachandran said that RP would serve the residents “not when the election is near but 365 days a year.”
Maintenance worker Vijayan, 53, a Punggol East resident who was at the rally, told Yahoo! Singapore that Jeyaretnam had the "fighting spirit of his father" and he was there to "see what the RP offers".
“I am the sandwiched class. My biggest issue is education. My daughter does not get Edusave because our combined household income is more than $5,000. Jeyaretnam has the fighting spirit of his father,” he said.
Kenneth Jeyaretnam ‘the right candidate’
RP members took to the microphone to extol the virtues of their candidate, describing him as a "compassionate, caring man" with a mission to fulfill his late and respected fathers’ dream of democracy for Singapore.
“Kenneth Jeyaretnam was a Cambridge graduate who studied in London, he was living very happily with his wife and son,” said Zhu.
“He is a filial child who came back to Singapore in 2007 to take on his father's legacy. He made the difficult decision to come back and help Singaporeans fight back.”
“I am a riches-to-rags story,” said Jeyaretnam in an emotional second speech.
“You can knock me down but I will get up again and put my feet firmly back on the path to democracy”.
He added that he would continue to do visiting in the Punggol East area tomorrow (Cooling Off Day) but without any party badges on.
Photos: Reform Party's last rally for Punggol East by-elections