Punggol East has fallen through the cracks: RP's Jeyaretnam

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RP's K Jeyaretnam meets party supporters after the rally.

Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam says the residents of Punggol East have been let down by the People's Action Party in his maiden rally on Sunday evening.

Speaking to a crowd of about 300 people, he said the Workers' Party also has not done much for residents since the last General Election at the single-member constituency.

"Punggol East has fallen through the cracks," said Jeyaretnam, who is among four candidates contesting the by-election.

"I will not promise millions of dollars but I have managed hundreds of millions of dollars," said the 53-year-old former hedge fund manager in the rally held under overcast skies at an open field in front of Blk 183C at Rivervale.

Eight speakers -- RP members Andy Zhu, Vignes Ramachandran, Prabu Ramachandran, Osman Bin Sulaiman, David Tan, Kenneth Jeyaretnam and former secretary-general of PKMS Nazem Suki -- also spoke to a lukewarm crowd of people in their 40s and 50s.

Campaigning under the slogan, "No More Broken Promises", Jeyaretnam -- the son of former opposition leader and Workers' Party leader JB Jeyaretnam -- himself made three promises to voters.

"I will move here to be in our community, I will be a full-time Member of Parliament and I will donate 10 per cent of my salary to our community," he said as he and other speakers made several references to his firebrand dad throughout his speech.

Party chairman Zhu said Jeyaretnam is a "chip off the old block" and he possessed the same courage fearlessness and sense of justice as his late father.

Jeyaretnam also spoke about the online threats his family has received, saying "only in the third world do these things happen".

"This morning I almost pulled out of this rally. Sometimes you must know when to get out of a fight. But police made assurances of safety for you and us. I remembered who I am -- the son of JBJ!" he exclaimed.

Engineer Ken Ramchand, 41, who was among the crowd, told Yahoo! Singapore Jeyaretnam brought out strong points for Singaporeans and is a good representative of Singapore as a whole.

"He's the right man, in terms of his background as an economist. He should be given a chance," Ramchand said.

Another rallygoer who only gave his name as Lim said if Singaporeans keep track of the political scene in Singapore, they should know who is better.

"Anybody can talk in parliament but who can really make changes for Singapore? We need better opposition candidates," the 53-year-old construction worker said.

"Even if the PAP lose this [ward], they will still have a dominant voice in the parliament," he added.

Also spotted in the crowd were prominent human rights lawyer M Ravi and independent candidate hopeful Ooi Boon Ewe.

Ooi told Yahoo! that compared with other candidates, Jeyaretnam spoke better than the rest and evoked comparisons with father.

"But you see the crowd, you know already. The crowd is a barometer," Ooi said.

Sunday's rally went ahead after a dramatic twist earlier in the day when the party had initially called off the rally because the safety of party chief and its supporters could not be assured.

At the time, it said the party was still in discussion with the Singapore police and Interpol to provide extra security.

But in a Facebook post shortly before 2pm, the party said, "The police have assured us that it's safe to attend the rally and security has been stepped up. So come along and don't be afraid".

After the rally, Jeyaretnam was more specific about the threats his wife and 16-year-old son, who are both living in London, have received.

"My son has received direct horrific and obscene emails with threats of castration and actual death threats. These were sent directly through his email," he said.

"My son is obviously very upset. It's a horrific thing for a 16-year-old to receive. The police in London are taking it very seriously and they immediately took him into police custody," he added.

He clarified that he has made three police reports since Friday. Two on threats against him and his family and one on an act of vandalism after a broken flower pot was found on the steps outside the Reform Party headquarters at Smith Street.

He also said he had cancelled his planned walkabout on Sunday morning because he was with police until 2am the night before.

On Friday, Jeyaretnam filed a police report after receiving messages "tantamount to death threats" against him and his family.

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