SINGAPORE — The chief of Singapore's newest political party Red Dot United acknowledged on Sunday (28 June) that contesting the Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in the 10 July General Election (GE) will be “very tough”.
During a virtual media session hosted on Zoom to unveil its election manifesto, party secretary-general Ravi Philemon, 52, acknowledged that Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam – and People’s Action Party’s (PAP) anchor minister for the five-member team in Jurong GRC – is “perhaps the biggest of the Goliaths in the ruling party”.
The 12-member Red Dot United, founded by former Progress Singapore Party members Ravi and Michelle Lee, 43, will be fielding five candidates to run in the GRC – the only constituency where it will be contesting this GE.
Apart from the founders, the party’s candidates include theatre director Alec Tok Kim Yam, 55; entrepreneur and author Liyana Dhamirah, 33, and legal engineer Nicholas Tang, 28.
The Jurong GRC, where Tharman has been an MP since 2001, was the PAP’s best-performing constituency during GE2015, garnering 79.3 per cent of the vote share against the Singaporeans First team.
“I personally have a very good relationship with Mr Tharman. After the 2015 election, he wrote me a personal email and encouraged me to keep doing what I am doing for the benefit of Singapore,” said Ravi, in response to a media query.
“(The election) is not about Mr Tharman. This is about Singapore and giving Singaporeans a choice.”
Ravi also said that the party is expected to be the only opposition party contesting the constituency. “My conversation with them, including Dr Tan Cheng Bock, I know that no other political parties are sending a team of five to the Jurong GRC.”
Captain of their own lives
In the party’s 18-page election manifesto, titled A Charter for the Future: Captains of Our Own Lives, released on Sunday, the party outlined its goal to reduce anxiety and stress felt by Singaporeans; allow them to have more options and flexibility in areas such as retirement savings and education; create a future-ready nation; and safeguard the constitutional rights of citizens.
“We will speak up to enable Singaporeans to be the captains of their own lives, while caring for those in need of assistance,” stressed Ravi.
Party chairman Lee noted that in Singapore, the political playing field remains “dominated by one party”.
“In this age of technological disruption, we cannot continue to rely on others to captain our lives by telling us what we can and cannot do. This reliance undermines our ability to grow as a society,” she added.
Lee pointed out that it is also necessary to reexamine institutional safeguards, such as the “vague” Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), which gives the ruling party “enormous powers”.
Tok added, “Constitutional rights have been eroded over the years and we feel that it is time we play a more active part to call for the restitution of these kinds of rights to Singaporeans.”
Employment, housing, healthcare and GST
The party has proposed to review Singapore's free trade agreements – such as the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (CECA) between India and Singapore – to assess how Singaporeans have benefitted from them.
It also plans to ensure a “Singaporean First” hiring policy by reevaluating the effectiveness of the Fair Consideration Framework in allowing Singaporeans access to good jobs, said Liyana.
The Red Dot United also suggests making the en-bloc redevelopment programme mandatory to ease the concerns of Singaporeans about lease decay and the value of their Housing Board flats.
Another policy change it is proposing is to reduce the minimum age under the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme and the Joint Singles Scheme progressively for singles to buy a flat to the age of 30 from 35 currently.
“We wish to establish greater transparency in the cost of building HDB flats, with a breakdown of land costs and building costs in order to price them affordably in a sustainable manner,” said Liyana.
In the area of healthcare, the party says the government should provide heavily-subsidised doctor consultations without means testing to identify common illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension early, the Red Dot United noted.
The party also calls for no further rise in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) during the next five years or longer. A GST hike – from seven per cent to nine per cent – is expected to take place no earlier than 2022 and by 2025.
Governance, CPF and education
The party also plans to review spending by public institutions – such as $880,000 rubbish bin for the National Arts Council – and projects such as the $45 million Budget Terminal, which was scrapped after being in operation for just six years.
It also proposed to review legislation such as the Presidential Elections Act in order to allow for more competition among qualified Singaporeans to provide better checks and balances.
The Red Dot United also called for an option in the CPF scheme allowing citizens to withdraw all their monies upon reaching the retirement age of 55.
“This will allow senior citizens to live their lives out with dignity, and to provide them with some flexibility to make their own retirement plans,” Tok said.
Another proposed change to the scheme is to allow citizens to borrow from their own CPF accounts to help them cope with the uncertain jobs market.
On education, Tok said the party hopes for more flexibility in the curriculum to enable students to experiment and pursue their interests, whether in sports, arts, technical or academic education.