SINGAPORE — Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock has called for a national debate on the COVID-19 pandemic in response to Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing’s comments that the opposition was not prepared to handle the crisis.
The PSP’s secretary-general said on Sunday (5 July) that he was prepared to go on a debate alongside Singapore Democratic Party chairman Paul Tambyah to see if the opposition would have been able to handle the pandemic better than the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).
Speaking during a walkabout in Nee Soon group representation constituency (GRC), Dr Tan said, “I read somewhere that he has told the media - or I don't know where he made his speech - telling that we won’t be able to help in COVID-19 management.”
Chan said at a media doorstop on Saturday that he had perused the manifestoes from the opposition parties and found that proposals or suggestions on how to get through the pandemic were “glaringly missing”.
“This election is probably conducted in the most challenging time in our history. I think every party, including the PAP, must have the plans to share with the voters how we are going to get through this situation,” he said.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also echoed Chan’s comment, saying in a webcast for Sengkang GRC voters on Saturday that the opposition parties have no plans to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
In response, Tan said he was prepared to take on Chan in a debate.
“We will challenge it. So I think we are prepared, Paul and I, we are prepared to go on TV and debate on this. So if he's prepared, Chan Chun Sing can bring the health minister (Gan Kim Yong)…and we will debate this thing out, see whether the opposition is as good or if not even better than the way they managed COVID-19,” he said.
Asked to share some of his proposals or arguments he would raise at such a debate, Dr Tan said, “No need, we will debate it in the House.”
“I and Paul, we will take on Chan Chun Sing and the health minister. I think that will settle everything. You all will see whether we have the competency, whether we have the knowledge of this COVID-19…We will get all the answers in an open debate,” he added.
Dr Tan is a retired doctor while Dr Tambyah is an infectious diseases expert, who was recently elected to be the president of the US-based International Society of Infectious Diseases.
Cheer-off between PSP and PAP supporters
Dr Tan was accompanying PSP member Lee Hsien Yang and PSP’s Nee Soon GRC slate, consisting of Bradley Bowyer, Damien Tay, Taufik Supan, Kala Manickam, and S Nallakaruppan, who visited at least five coffeeshops around the Yishun area on Sunday.
The PSP team ran into the PAP candidates contesting in the GRC at several coffeeshops, triggering cheering between supporters of the rival parties.
In a coffeeshop at Block 744 Yishun Street 72, the PSP candidates met the PAP team, led by Nee Soon GRC incumbent, Senior Parliamentary Secretary Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.
When asked about the hustings, Faishal said Nee Soon residents would know how the PAP has taken care of them.
The PSP team then proceeded to the coffeeshop at Block 747 Yishun Street 72 before doing door-to-door visits at an HDB block in the area. The team later took the train from Yishun MRT station to Khatib MRT station before walking to a Mr Teh Tarik shop and the surrounding coffeeshops where PAP’s new face Carrie Tan was also present.
The fifth stop for the PSP candidates was at Block 101 Yishun Avenue 5, where they fielded questions from the media.
Bowyer responding to Shanmugam’s statement
Bowyer responded to Yahoo News Singapore’s question about comments by Law and Home Affairs Minister and incumbent Nee Soon MP K Shanmugam on Saturday that the PSP candidate was offering jobs as town council cleaners to Singaporeans.
Bowyer said, “We have a big structural problem in the way that we run our workforce. Every society has people from every level, we're not all rocket scientists and you can't turn every Singaporean into a clone of an ideal scholar, so you have to have a society that has space for everyone and that’s what’s gone wrong.
“Mr Shanmugam can have his opinions as to what he thinks of little parts of it, but I look at the big picture and PSP looks at the big picture, and it's some structural issues that we need to fix.”
Shanmugam had taken aim at his PSP opponents’ manifesto specific to Nee Soon Town, saying that “there was nothing there”.
Asked by Yahoo News Singapore about Shanmugam’s statement that the team was not familiar with Nee Soon, Bowyer said that he has been coming “in and out of this area for many years”.
He added that he had relatives who lived in the area whom he visits.
“I've been very much on the ground in the last few months, on and off observing and then I (was) finally been able to walk the ground. And I feel the people I've been talking to, they feel just like me…I see the same stresses and the same friction. So I feel quite connected and (am) quite aware with what's going on.”
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