'No crime' to pay youth volunteers to help party: SDA

Singapore Democratic Alliance party chief and Punggol East candidate Desmond Lim Saturday defended the hiring of volunteers to help out in his by-election campaign.

In a statement Saturday following a report by The Online Citizen that an SDA "supporter" admitted he  had responded to an ad on a forum calling for "company ambassadors", Lim said he told the reporter of the online socio-political website that his group reimbursed those helping him out.

"My team’s direction was very clear: Engage young blood in the process so they understand Singapore politics, with hands-on experience. And this is exactly what has unfolded," he said, explaining that his group comprises a mix of paid and unpaid volunteers.

He also cited Section 70 of the Parliamentary Act that states the law is against the payment to voters in facilitating votes, and that any other form of assistance rendered for campaigning purposes is legitimate.

“It is very common and the norm for any party to engage paid assistance in doing ground work. Suddenly the SDA’s move has become so magnified," he said.

SDA said the party has been resourceful in its full-fledged campaign, including working the ground with collateral, publicity and awareness.

"Given his reach in a mere four days, Desmond has achieved good results as he has been undeterred in his interaction with residents in Punggol East," the party said in the statement.

No rally

Lim also disclosed that the party will not be conducting a rally, which potentially costs between $150,000 and $200,000, in order to better deploy its resources.

Earlier on Friday night, he told reporters that SDA would "make use of new technology" to reach out to residents of the ward instead.

“The engaging of volunteers allows us to stretch our budget further, whilst having the ground work done. This means me and my party can focus on the real work, meeting and talking to residents," Lim said in his Saturday statement.

Regarding the controversy stirred by reports on his volunteers, Lim said he must have been "very effective" in his groundwork such that stories have to be raised "to distract voters in their choices".

He also added that his party would not hesitate to take legal action if further comments diluting the party's credibility is mentioned over the issue.

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