A Q U A R T E R LY P U B L I C A T I O N O F T H E P E O P L E ' S A C T I O N P A R T Y
LEADERSHIP TO KEEP SINGAPORE GOING
IN THIS ISSUE
Good mentors in Tampines East Why an MP’s work is never done
PUBLICITY AND PUBLICATIONS COMMITTEE Lawrence Wong (Chairman) Desmond Lee Seah Kian Peng Lim Wee Kiak Baey Yam Keng Zaqy Mohamad Janil Puthucheary Chiang Heng Liang Diana Pang Hamidah Aidillah Benjamin Tay Teo Lin Lee Adrian Liew Editor Lim Huan Chiang Editorial and Design Focus Publishing Limited (Tel: 6319-2392) Printer KHL Printing Co. Pte Ltd Photos Singapore Press Holdings, istockphoto.com
Secretary-General Lee Hsien Loong emphasises the importance of outstanding leadership if Singapore were to continue making its * Also in Chinese, Malay and Tamil mark at home and abroad.
Building for the future Something for everyone, to build a good foundation for Singapore. That’s what Budget 2015 aims to achieve.
Your CPF An easy-to-read guide on the CPF Advisory Panel’s recommendations on more options for CPF savings.
A summary of major new polices and news in numbers.
Online blade The Internet caused some grief to Dr Lam Pin Min during the columbarium saga in his Sengkang ward. He has resolved it through quiet behind-the-scene discussions.
MCI(P) 144/02/2015 Petir is published by the People’s Action Party Central Executive Committee. Material in this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the prior consent of the publisher. Views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the PAP or the Government. All rights reserved. PAP Headquarters Block 57B, New Upper Changi Road, #01-1402, PCF Building, Singapore 463057 Telephone: 6244-4600 Telefax: 6243-0114 Internet: www.pap.org.sg
Outstanding leadership will keep Singapore exceptional
Contents 20 10 17 Please send feedback, suggestions and
GROUNDWORK BRANCHING OUT
comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lure of MPS at Tampines East Activists get exposure at an early age to MPS work and activities to help them understand government policies.
Wanted: More activists It is grooming activists who can explain government policies from the women’s perspective and garner votes for the PAP.
Engaging with a cause
Some Sundays in March and May were busy for Nee Soon Region YP activists. Find out what they have been up to.
PAP POLICY FORUM
Top concerns of young adult Singaporeans Innovative solutions were thrown up to address the concerns of young adults at the 6th Council’s inaugural dialogue.
An MP’s work is never done Lim Biow Chuan is always busy, as he is a believer of constant improvements in his work as an MP and head of Case.
QUOTE & UNQUOTE
Thoughts-provoking quotes from parliamentarians.
will keep Singapore exceptional Singapore is respected on the global stage because of the outstanding quality of its pioneer leaders. The challenge is to continue having such leadership to keep Singapore relevant, said PM Lee
t was outstanding leadership that brought Singapore to where it is today, and the country needs more exceptional people at the helm to stay relevant and special, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the annual May Day Rally. PM Lee, the Secretary-General of the PAP, said at the May 1 event that his job is to build a strong leadership team that will lead Singapore into the future. Leadership renewal will be the most important issue at the upcoming general election (GE), said PM Lee, who is 63 this year and in his 11th year as Singapore’s third prime minister. “It is not doing more or spending more, as some would like you to think. It is who will lead Singapore into the future. It is our future at stake and our children’s future. Because if this government fails, what is going to happen to you, to all of us, to Singapore?” he told his audience of nearly 5,000 people at The Star Performing Arts Centre in Buona Vista. The next GE must be held by January 2017, and PM Lee said the nation needs a new team of leaders who are of “high ability, strong character, dedication and gumption”. He spoke of how the hard work of the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his team of ministers had transformed Singapore into the
modern country it is today. “One reason for the strong reaction when Mr Lee passed away was because everyone knew that, without him, what we see around us would not be here today,” he pointed out. “Mr Lee’s passing reminded people that exceptional leadership made a big diơerence for Singapore.”
can speak up and people listen to us. We have freedom of action to set our national directions to advance our interests,” he said. “To stay exceptional, we need a successful economy. We need hardworking and skilful workers, and we need outstanding leadership.”
“A” team for Singapore Why we punch above our size Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the pioneer generation of ministers – the likes of Goh Keng Swee, S Rajaratnam, Lim Kim San, Hon Sui Sen, E W Barker and Othman Wok – helped pave the way for Singapore to have institutions like the HDB, the Singapore Armed Forces and Changi Airport. Singapore may be a small nation with just over Ƥve million people, but other countries regard it seriously and believe that it can make a contribution, PM Lee added. The prime minister recalled how scores of foreign leaders came to Singapore to attend Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s state funeral service, including the heads of state or government of Japan, South Korea, India, Israel and Canada. The United States sent former President Bill Clinton, while China was represented by Vice-President Li Yuanchao. “Because we are exceptional, because we had an extraordinary leader, people have regard for us. Therefore, we have friends in other countries. We have a voice when events aơect us, we
For now, PM Lee described his current Cabinet as a balanced one, with a good mix of experienced ministers with over 20 years of experience and fresh faces who came on board at the last GE in 2011. “I think they have come under some Ƥre, they have come through and they have gelled and worked together as a team, not so many soloists but a team. That is very important, but we all grow old and we all need successors.” PM Lee, who has been given a clean bill of health after undergoing treatment for prostate cancer in early 2015, stressed that no one was infallible and that it was important to Ƥnd capable people who can step in during times of need. “I need good men and women to come in, to form the next team to take Singapore forward – beyond me and my generation of ministers and leaders. It is very hard to do,” he said. “I am still trying hard and I think I will get a few people to enter and join politics and stand for election in the next GE, but you can never have enough. We can never have an ‘A’ team for Singapore which is too strong.”
“This is a special May Day Rally and not just because we are holding it in a different place. ,t·s a May Day Rally for 6* and it s the Àrst May Day Rally we are celebrating without Mr Lee Kuan Yew, our founding Prime Minister. We rejoice but it is a bittersweet occasion.”
ABOVE A rousing May Day Rally to celebrate SG50. LEFT PAP is always looking out for a high ability, strong character team.
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“It’s very important you don’t lose that magic. To stay exceptional, we need a successful economy, we need hardworking and skilful workers.We need outstanding leadership.”
Kepimpinan cemerlang memastikan Singapura terus unggul Singapura dihormati di pentas dunia kerana mutu kecemerlangan pemimpin perintis. Cabarannya adalah untuk Singapura terus melahirkan kepimpinan sedemikian demi memastikan Singapura kekal relevan, kata PM Lee...
Kepimpinan yang cemerlang telah membawa kepada kejayaan Singapura hari ini, dan negara ini memerlukan lebih ramai orang yang berkebolehan untuk menerajui tampuk kepimpinan agar ia kekal relevan dan istimewa, kata Perdana Menteri Lee Hsien loong di Rapat Tahunan Hari Pekerja. PM Lee, setiausaha agung PAP, berkata di acara 1 Mei itu, tugasnya adalah untuk membina satu pasukan pemimpin yang utuh yang akan memimpin Singapura mengharungi hari muka. Pembaharuan kepimpinan akan menjadi isu paling penting dalam pilihan raya umum (PRU) akan datang kata PM Lee, 63 tahun, yang merupakan perdana menteri ke-3 dan telah menjawat jawatan itu selama 11 tahun. “Ia bukanlah tentang melakukan lebih banyak lagi atau berbelanja lebih lagi, seperti mana yang diƤkirkan sesetengah orang. Ia adalah tentang siapa yang akan memimpin Singapura mengharungi masa depan. Masa depan kita kini menjadi taruhan dan masa depan anak-anak kita. Ini kerana, jika pemerintah gagal, apa yang akan berlaku kepada anda semua, ke atas kita semua, ke atas Singapura?” beliau menyatakan demikian kepada hampir 5,000 hadirin di panggung kesenian, The Star Performing Arts Centre, di Buona Vista. Beliau mengisahkan kerja keras mantan Perdana Menteri Lee Kuan Yew dan pasukan menterinya dalam merubah Singapura menjadi negara moden hari ini. “Salah satu sebab timbulnya reaksi mendalam apabila Encik Lee meninggal dunia adalah kerana semua orang tahu, tanpanya, apa yang kita lihat di sekeliling kita tidak akan wujud hari ini,” katanya. “Pemergian Encik Lee mengingatkan kita bahawa kepimpinan yang cemerlang akan membawa perbezaan besar kepada Singapura.”
Mengapa kita tidak dipandang enteng Singapura mungkin sebuah negara kecil dengan penduduk berjumlah lima juta orang, tetapi negara-negara lain memandang serius dan percaya negara ini boleh menyumbang,” tambah PM Lee. Perdana Menteri mengisahkan bagaimana sejumlah pemimpin asing menghadiri upacara pengebumian negara Encik Lee Kuan Yew, termasuk ketua-ketua pemerintah Jepun, Korea Selatan, India, Israel dan Kanada. Amerika Syarikat diwakili mantan presiden Bill Clinton, sementara China diwakili Naib Presiden Li Yuanchao.“Disebabkan kita
berbeza, disebabkan kita mempunyai pemimpin unggul, orang menghormati kita. Kerana itu, kita punya rakan-rakan di luar negara. Kita punya suara apabila ada kejadian yang menjejas kita, kita boleh bersuara dan orang mendengar apa yang kita katakan. Kita punya kebebasan untuk bertindak dalam menentukan hala tuju nasional demi mencapai kepentingan kita,” ujarnya. “Untuk kekal unggul, kita perlu sebuah ekonomi yang berjaya. Kita perlu pekerja yang gigih bekerja dan berkemahiran, dan kita memerlukan kepimpinan yang cemerlang.”
Pasukan “A” untuk Singapura Untuk sekarang ini, PM Lee menyifatkan Kabinet beliau adalah seimbang, dengan percampuran yang baik antara menteri-menteri mapan dengan lebih 20 tahun pengalaman dan muka-muka baru yang ditampilkan dalam PRU 2011. “Saya Ƥkir mereka semua telah menghadapi saat-saat genting dan telah mengharunginya dan mereka semakin serasi dan mampu bekerja bersama-sama sebagai sebuah pasukan, tidak ramai pemain solo tetapi sebagai sebuah pasukan. Itu amat penting, kerana kita semua semakin tua dan kita semua perlu pengganti.” “Saya perlu lelaki dan wanita yang baik, untuk membentuk (pasukan) bagi penggal berikutnya untuk membawa Singapura ke hadapan – melepasi saya dan menteri-menteri dan pemimpin segenerasi dengan saya. Ia satu perkara yang sukar dilakukan,” katanya. “Saya masih berusaha bersungguh-sungguh dan saya Ƥkir saya akan mendapat sebilangan kecil orang untuk masuk dan sertai politik dan bertanding dalam pilihan raya untuk PRU mendatang, tetapi anda tidak akan berasa kecukupan. Kita tidak akan mempunyai sebuah pasukan 'A' untuk Singapura yang terlalu kuat.”
TOP The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his pioneer generation of ministers helped pave the way for Singapore's success. Pictured is the 15th Central Executive Committee (1979-1981).
“In the next election, leadership renewal is the most important issue. It is who will lead Singapore into the future and it’s our future at stake and our children’s future. Because if this government fails, what is going to happen to you, to all of us, to Singapore?”
Building for the future
Everyone, from young to senior citizens, gets a helping hand in the Budget 2015 announced by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Feb 23, 2015. Petir highlights some of the key initiatives for the different groups of Singaporeans.
ÂTHE WORKERS SkillsFuture Credit What it is: A fund for every working Singaporean to tap on to oơset the cost of training courses. It will cultivate a strong culture of lifelong learning to help workers develop new skills and Ƥnd better career opportunities. Who it's meant for: Those aged 25 and above. How it'll work: Those eligible will get $500 from next year in their SkillsFuture Credit account and top-ups in the future, to pay for a broad range of courses oơered by government training agencies What it'll cost: About $1 billion a year.
ÂTHE PARENTS Childcare subsidies What it is: Childcare centres' fees will be lowered by about $100 every month. Who it's meant for: Parents with children who need childcare. How it'll work: New scheme will complement a current scheme, where childcare centres receive government grants and rental subsidies in return for charging a lower fee. About half of pre-schoolers will beneƤt by 2020. What it'll cost: $250 million on both schemes over the next Ƥve years.
ÂTHE SENIORS CPF changes What it is: Higher total CPF contribution rates between 0.5 and 2 percentage points from next year. CPF members aged 55 and above will receive an extra 1τ interest on the Ƥrst $30,000 of their total CPF savings. Who it's meant for: Workers above 50 to 65 years old. How it'll work: For workers aged above 50 to 55, employers and employees will split equally the CPF rate hike of 2 percentage points, bringing the contribution rate for this age group to 37 per cent, on par with younger workers. Workers between the age of 56 and 60 will get a 1 percentage point increase while those between 61 and 65 will have theirs raised by 0.5 percentage points. Silver Support Scheme What it is: About 150,000 needy elderly citizens will get quarterly payout of up to $750. Who it's meant for: The bottom 20 per cent of elderly Singaporeans aged 65 and above, with a smaller degree of support extended to 30 per cent of elderly. How it'll work: Quarterly payouts from $300 to $750, depending on the elderly’s HDB ƪat size, amount of household support, and lifetime of wages based on CPF contributions. As the payouts only start in the Ƥrst quarter of 2016, an extra Goods and Services Tax voucher of $600 will be given to seniors aged 65 and above living in HDB ƪats. What it'll cost: About $350 million a year.
ÂTHE STUDENTS Free examinations What it is: Students will take exams for free. Who it's meant for: Students in mainstream schools as well as polytechnic and ITE students. How it'll work: The fee waivers will work out to about $900 savings for a child from primary school to pre-university. What it’ll cost: $250 million over the next three years.
ÂTHE “SANDWICHED’’ MIDDLE CLASS CPF changes What it is: The CPF salary ceiling will be raised from $5,000 to $6,000 from Jan 1, 2016. Who it's meant for: At least 544,000 middle-income workers. How it'll work: By raising the ceiling cap, middle income workers can save more in their CPF accounts. A 45-year-old worker who earns above $6,000 will save an extra $60,000 in his CPF by the time he reaches 65. There is also higher annual contribution cap for the Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS). This will be raised from $12,750 to $15,300 per year for citizens and PRs. Every dollar put into the SRS account is tax-free which lowers the amount of tax a person has to pay. Also eơective Jan 1, 2016.
‘’Finding something that we think we can be good at, persevering over the years and taking pride in it, and passing the passion on to the next generation, so that we keep moving up.’’
ÂTHE LOW-INCOME Goods and Services Tax (GST) Voucher scheme What it is: $50 more in cash payouts a year under the permanent scheme. Who it's meant for: About 1.4 million lower-income Singaporeans aged 21 and above. How it'll work: Those who qualify will receive either $150 or $300 worth of GST Vouchers this year, depending on the annual value of their homes.
- Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam
BY THE NUMBERS:
in total government spending,
an increase of 19.3 per cent from 2014.
in total government revenue,
a rise of 4.7 per cent from 2014. May 2015
More Flexibility, More Options How much will you need during your retirement? The CPF Advisory Panel recommends giving you more options
You Decide What Payout You Want: You turn 55 in 2016. You will be able to choose from:
Basic Retirement Sum (with property)
Full Retirement Sum (without property)
Enhanced Retirement Sum
Monthly payout of $650-$700* for life to meet your basic needs.
Monthly payout of $1,200-$1,300* for life to meet your basic needs.
Monthly payout of $1,750$1,900* for life if you choose to put more into your Retirement Account. *Based on estimates from the CPF LIFE Standard Plan today.
How Will You BeneĆ¤t?
WHAT IT IS NOW?
YOU HAVE MORE OPTIONS
One CPF Minimum Sum for everyone in the same age group.
You can decide the monthly payout that will best meet your retirement needs.
The New Choices You Have: You will know your options ahead of time. This is because
the Basic Retirement Sum will be announced up to 2020.
,WHAT IT IS NOW?
The Minimum Sum for your age group was hard to predict because the rate of change was diĆ¨erent each year.
Age 55 in 2016
Age 55 in 2017
FLEXIBILITY TO RECEIVE HIGHER CPF RETIREMENT PAYOUTS FOR LIFE
The New Choices You Have: You will have ƪexibility to withdraw more or top up: At 55, you will still have the same options to withdraw as before.
Start your payouts later, up to age 70
For future cohorts*, when you turn 65, you will be able to: Withdraw up to 20% (includes Ƥrst $5,000 withdrawn from 55) from your Retirement Account. However, your monthly payouts will be lower.
40% work beyond 65 Receive 7% more payout for every year that payout is deferred.
*Applies to those who turned 55 from 2013.
You will also be able to: ҞTop up your Retirement Account, up to the Enhanced Retirement Sum.
Top up your spouse’s CPF so that he/she can also have higher payout* *as long as you set aside the Basic Retirement Sum.
ҟYour monthly payouts will be higher.
,WHAT IT IS NOW?
Everyone can withdraw up to $5,000 from their CPF accounts from age 55.
How Will You BeneƤt? YOU WILL HAVE MORE FLEXIBILITY to best meet your retirement needs.
Anything above half the CPF Minimum Sum and Medisave Minimum Sum can be withdrawn from age 55 with a property pledge.
Put in more savings in CPF LIFE You can top up to the Enhanced Retirement Sum.
How Will You BeneƤt? ----- Basic Retirement Sum -----------------------------------------------------
Age 55 in 2018
Age 55 in 2019
Age 55 in 2020
YOU WILL HAVE GREATER ASSURANCE AND FLEXIBILITY
Cohorts turning 55 later will have peace of mind knowing that they will be able to receive higher payouts by putting aside a higher sum to cope with changes in standard of living and inƦation.
SHORTIES New Cabinet appointments
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New unit to study critical issues facing Singapore
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NEWS IN NUMBERS
Singaporeâ€™s Consumer Price Index fell by 0.3 per cent in March compared with a year ago. 3his was the ĆĽfth straight month the index has fallen, due largely to declines in home rentals and transportation costs. Core inĆŚation came in at per cent, down from .3 per cent in the preUious month.
The HDB resale market price index fell by per cent in the ĆĽrst three months of this year compared with the last quarter of 0 while the number of transactions in the resale market declined by 0. per cent to ,3. The price index for priUate properties also dipped by per cent.
More than 00,000 households in HDB flats receiUed up to Ę™ each of rebates, depending on their type of flat, in April. A total of Ę™ million worth of &ST 5oucher Utilities SaUe U SaUe rebates was giUen to eligible households. Those in to room HDB flats can offset about three to four months of utilities bills on aUerage with the Uoucher.
The face of PAP founding member Lee *uan 8ew, who died on March 3 at , will be printed on new commemoratiUe Ę™0 notes that will be issued this year to mark Singaporeâ€™s 0th birthday. The note will show Mr Lee with ĆĽst raised, leading the crowd with the â€˜Merdekaâ€™ rallying cry which means freedom in Malay.
Online Blade Dr Lam Pin Min shares his learning points from the Sengkang West columbarium saga and his work in the constituency
he Internet is a double-edged sword and Sengkang West MP Dr Lam Pin Min is familiar with both sides of the blade. Like many MPs, he learnt how to wield the sword by starting a Facebook account and engaging his residents by posting photos of his constituency events. As Sengkang is a “young’’ constituency peopled with couples with young children, many residents use the social media. For instance, those staying in new BTO (Build-To-Order) developments such as Anchorvale Cove and Fernvale Foliage have started BTO-related Facebook pages. “They are very active,” noted Dr Lam. “Even before the residents collect the keys and shift into the ƪats, they are already communicating amongst themselves
and making new friends. I am truly honoured to be invited to be a ‘friend’ in their Facebook pages. Whatever they post there appears on my timeline. That is good, for I can act on their concerns and feedback rather than having the residents complain about certain issues without my knowledge.” However, it was late last year that the double-edged blade inƪicted a deep cut on Dr Lam, ͢͠, and he experienced one of the most trying moments of his nine-year MP career.
Slaying the online rumour mill When news broke on December ͟͜, ͜͞͝͠ that future residents of BTO project Fernvale Lea in Sengkang West were surprised and unhappy that a Chinese tem-
“If everyone can just put in a little more effort to be nice to one another, Singapore will be a more pleasant place to live in.”
CONVERSATION ple with a commercial columbarium would be built next to their new ƪats, Dr Lam Ƥrst had to quash swirling online rumours about the building of a funeral parlour or crematorium. Then he had to deal with the online fallout when, in a dialogue with residents to discuss and clarify the matter, he sat at the same table as representatives from the developer, which some residents mis-interpreted as siding with the developer and the authorities. “On hindsight, I should perhaps have stood separately, introduced myself and the panel, and then moderate the dialogue in a diơerent manner,” said Dr Lam, when asked if he would have done anything diơerently in his handling of the columbarium saga. Rather than adopting a vocal, combative approach to represent his residents’ interests, Dr Lam preferred to work quietly behind-the-scenes, discussing the issue with relevant agencies and also with the Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan. On January 29, 2015, a month after the news broke, Mr Khaw conƤrmed that no commercial columbarium would be built at the site. Reƪecting, Dr Lam said: “The columbarium episode was quite a challenging time for me, not just from managing the unhappiness of my current and future residents, but also in trying to dispel some of the untruths that were circulating in the social media.”
Did you really aspire to be a veterinarian when you were young? Yes, it was my childhood dream. But it required me to study abroad, which would have wiped out my parents’ savings meant for my three other siblings’ and my tertiary education. Getting into medical school in Singapore was the logical and most feasible option then. I still love animals, so do my wife and two daughters. We have 20 rabbits, two dogs and two terrapins at home.
Aspiration and Inspirations 18
What inspires you in your career path? I have always been adventurous and have often taken the road less travelled. When I ƥrst signed on with the Republic of Singapore Air Force in 1997, it took a lot of
courage as I detoured from mainstream doctoring to embark on a military profession. I became the ƥrst qualiƥed aviation ophthalmologist in Singapore. I also went to East Timor for three months in 2000 to provide humanitarian support at the United Nations Military Hospital for which I received the United Nations Medal for Service. It was a war zone there. We had very basic facilities and had to improvise to care for everything, from gunshot to grenade wounds to aircraft accident injuries. In our free time, we helped in the villages and orphanages. It made me realise how lucky we are in Singapore and how we shouldn’t take things for granted.
No surprises, please
DR LAM PIN MIN
Minister of State for Health Age: 46 Family: Married to consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Jeanette Chen, with two daughters, Kate-Lynn, 14, and EmmaLynn, 11. Hobby: Collecting stamps Sports: Swimming and working out in the gym. Represented National University of Singapore in canoeing, former dragon boater and canoeist in National Junior College. Car music of choice: 938LIVE for news, and Jia FM 88.3 as it is a bilingual music station. Favourite food: Vegetarian beehoon from Ruyi Yuan Vegetarian stall in Tanglin Halt.
LEFT Scoring with young Sengkang residents through a game of basketball.
Medical Man Appointed Minister of State for Health in August 2014, Dr Lam wants to champion end-of-life issues and improve the model of primary healthcare in Singapore. “End-of-life care is still nascent and needs to be developed further, considering the rapidly ageing population,” he said. “Many Singaporeans still ƥnd the topic of death a taboo and many, both young and old, still shy away from talking about this topic openly.” He attended an event organised by the Lien Foundation and was surprised to ƥnd that the elderly in attendance were quite willing to discuss issues dealing with death. “It was quite an eye-opener, especially when the elderly residents remarked that it’s the younger people who are not so comforta-
To avoid similar unhappiness in future, Mr Lam said it is crucial that Singaporeans be kept well-informed of any development in their vicinity. “The element of ‘surprise’ will not go down well with residents,” he said. This could even include the building of an eldercare facility, or the seemingly simple conversion of a void deck space in a HDB block to a childcare centre, which might be interpreted as the removal of a public gathering space for residents. And in order to keep people informed, he strongly suggests that government agencies keep the local MPs informed of future developments in their constituencies so that residents can be engaged constructively way ahead of time. He acknowledged that the episode has left a blot in an otherwise clean sheet of constituency work. He said: “Some residents may still be sore and unhappy about it, but what’s important is how much we have done for the residents over the years.” Apart from stepping up the establishment of childcare centres and kindergartens to cater to young families in his ward, and starting a Guardian Angel project to raise funds for low-income residents in two rental blocks, Dr Lam is also transforming Sengkang into what he calls a “suburban recreational hub”. New facilities built in the last few years include the Sengkang Riverside Park, Sengkang Floating Island, Anchorvale water activity centre at the Punggol reservoir, new
shopping malls and the new Anchorvale community club. While the Internet could be a doubleedged sword, his greatest challenge is not online, but oƫine. “Trying to solve all the problems of my residents can be physically and emotionally challenging as you don’t necessarily have control over some issues, like inter-personal relationships resulting in neighbourly disputes. Such social issues, unfortunately, cannot be resolved easily,” he said. Therefore, if there is one thing he hopes for, it is that people treat one other with more respect: “If everyone can just put in a little more eơort to be nice to one another, Singapore will be a more pleasant place to live in.”
ble raising the subject of death with their elderly parents. It’s ironic. Perhaps they are afraid their parents may think they are unƥlial to talk about such issues.” He intends to ramp up the national discourse on end-of-life issues such as the Advanced Medical Directive, advanced care planning, hospice and palliative care, and the quality of death. He says MOH could start the ball rolling by working with organisations like the Lien Foundation. “By talking more about such issues, Singaporeans could get de-sensitised to the topic. It will be interesting to ƥnd out how many Singaporean families have actually sat down with their parents to discuss what they want towards the end of life?” With his MOH colleagues, he is also busy getting the word out on the new universal health insurance scheme MediShield Life, which will be
implemented at the end of 2015. “This will entail a multi-pronged approach, including print advertisements, TV interstitials, dialogue sessions and radio talk shows.” At the MOH, he also oversees intermediate and long-term care, communicable diseases, the engagement of medical professionals and primary healthcare. He is in the midst of reviewing the primary care model. Professionally, the specialist in paediatric ophthalmology left his job of nearly nine years at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in January 2014 to head the Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus Service in private practice at the Eagle Eye Centre. “I treat every milestone in life as a new challenge. And each new challenge oƤers me invaluable opportunities to learn and be a better person,” he said.
Dr Lam Pin Min keeps tabs on his residents’ health as one of them does her listening test.
G RO U N DWO R K
B R A N CH I N G O U T
The lure of MPS at Tampines East Petir speaks to three core members of Tampines East meet-the-people session (MPS) team who are dedicated to helping fellow residents gain BY CHONG KOH PING PHOTO: LOO HUEI HONG access to social services
MPS at your doorstep
Ms Charmaine Ho, 30, was Ƥrst introduced to branch activities when she sought help at one of Mr Mah Bow Tan’s meet-thepeople sessions (MPS). “I was trying to apply to university some years ago, and I met my MP, Mr Mah at one of our block parties. He told me to come to the MPS to help him understand more about my case and to appeal on my behalf. That was my Ƥrst encounter with the PAP, and
Ms Charmaine Ho
• 30, branch YP chair • Member since 2007 • Sales account manager
the MPS. I couldn’t believe that there were so many poor people seeking help,” Ms Ho recalled. This prompted her to join the PAP, to do her bit for the community, volunteering at the weekly MPS and more. Still, she sensed some gaps in the way residents are being helped through the MPS which she described as “rather passive, where we sit here to wait for people to come.’’ Together with some like-minded young activists at the Tampines East branch, Ms Ho embarked on a “mobile’’ MPS to plug the gaps. Started two years ago, the mobile MPS operates once a month. “With the mobile MPS, we take on an active role, go out to the residents to say hi. Not everyone is aware of the existence of MPS,” said Ms Ho. Working in a pair, on “good” days, Ms Ho and her fellow comrade will cover an entire block of some 70 units of ƪats at one go. However, on some occasions, it may take them an entire night to cover just four ƪoors. Some residents have more issues to cover, some just simply hostile. “We usually listen to what they have to say Ƥrst. Then explain to them that we’re residents living here in Tampines East, representing the MP to come and speak with them as an advance party.” “We provide a sort of one-to-one touch point, and so far, the residents are happy to see us,” she added.
G RO U N DWO R K
B R A N CH I N G O U T
MPS an eye-opener
Attending her Ƥrst few MPS, Samara Thirushelvam came across fellow residents with stories that seemed more like scenes straight from MediaCorp TV serials than the real life she was used to. For the then 18-year-old Samara, this was a sort of “awakening” for she could not imagine that there were still people living in poverty in a First World Singapore, right in her neighbourhood, no less. “There was a family of six who came to ask for a rental ƪat. They were sharing a rental ƪat with seven others, and the children couldn’t use the light at night. They had to use the light in the public spaces to do their homework,” she recalled. This and many others are the MPS cases Samara encountered as part of her “Grassroots and Governance” attachment programme when she was studying at Victoria Junior College. Every week, for six weeks, she attended the MPS in her school uniform,
“Like our Tampines East PAP.SG chapter, it’s not entirely made up of senior activists. We make sure that some of our YP members are part of the chapter. They recently helped the older members do up a Áyer explaining the various Ànancial assistance schemes. This way, the young and old activists can learn from one another.” - Mr Benny Yeo
Ms Samara Thirushelvam
• 20, branch YP exco member • Member since 2013 • National University of Singapore Year 2 student
shadowing a letter-writer, listening to the bread-and-butter woes of the man in the street. “I got to see how government policies impact diơerent people, and see things beyond our text books. I saw the problems that people face, on CPF, on money, on housing,’’ she said. So inspired was Samara that after the
Mr Benny Yeo
• 50, branch secretary • Member since 1995 • General Manager of the PCF Tampines East 3-in-1 Family Centre
Culture of mentorship
DEMOGRAPHICS OF TAMPINES EAST or 2 room Ʀats
5 room Ʀats
At a relatively “tender’’ age of 50, Mr Benny Yeo is already a veteran branch secretary of 15 years. He was entrusted to this position by the MP Mr Mah when he was just 35 years old. Describing it as a culture “unique” to the branch, Mr Yeo said he had no lack of mentors to help him when he took on the top branch position when he was in his midthirties. Today, the branch has a good mix of some 20 senior and young MPS helpers who never fail to show up, week after week, to serve the residents. “We have some very senior activists who have spent decades serving at the branch, 53
attachment ended, she continued going back to help, and eventually became a PAP member in 2013. She confesses that she can only help with “simple things” like translating English into Chinese, Ƥlling in documents and drafting letters. More importantly, volunteering at the MPS also gave her insights into policy-making. “Mr Mah will often talk to us about hot button issues after our MPS. We recently had a session on the CPF policy where activists gave him feedback on Singaporeans’ grievances. And he clariƤed some misunderstanding and explained the rationale for some of these policies to help us understand,” she said. Currently a political science student, Samara also relishes the opportunity to experience Ƥrst-hand the constraints and diƥculties of policy-making. “Such are the things that I would never be exposed to, this was such an eye-opener,” she said.
years, 48 years, 33 years, and so on. They are generous in sharing what they know. “At the same time, we have an active renewal process to bring in new blood. The seniors are always more than happy to relinquish their positions for the young people to take over,” said Mr Yeo. But, the senior activists do not just fade oơ after they step down. Instead, they stay on to mentor, playing important roles as advisers to impart their knowledge and experience to the younger comrades. Conversely, the younger members are roped in to help the seniors in areas that they are savvier in. “Like our Tampines East PAP.SG chapter, it’s not entirely made up of senior activists. We make sure that some of our YP members are part of the chapter. They recently helped the older members do up a ƪyer explaining the various Ƥnancial assistance schemes. This way, the young and old activists can learn from one another,” Mr Yeo elaborated. A beneƤciary of the nurturing culture at the branch, Samara describes Mr Yeo as a mentor who is like a “walking encyclopedia”. “He’s always ready to help us, with any letter or any sort of documentation. The older members are very supportive of us newbies and they welcome us with open arms,” said Samara.
G RO U N DWO R K
WO M E N ' S WI N G
Wanted: More activists Women’s Wing chair spells out the key direction for women activists in the lead up to the next general election
WW chairman Grace Fu with fellow women MPs at the 3rd WW Annual Conference held on April 18 at Grand Park City Hall.
nergising and invigorating women activists politically continues to be one of the main focuses of the new WW executive committee, says Ms Grace Fu. In an interview with Petir, the WW chairman points out that conventional mobilisation is no longer enough; women activists have to go out there to get more people interested and understand politics, build a stronger network of supporters and get more people to cast their votes for the PAP. Being in WW is not just volunteering to do social work, or helping the neighbours, she reminds them. “When volunteers help out at the meetthe-people sessions, their hearts are in the right place. It’s a good start. But we are here to deliver the bigger good. We need to continue delivering the right for the PAP to govern.” Since taking over as Chairman of WW, Ms Fu has been giving the women activists more exposure to the political aspect of WW’s work, through the quarterly meetings, as well as the annual conferences.
Sharpening political perspectives And the women activists are urged to hone their political perspectives when they meet.
Jan 2015 to Dec 2016
“We are here to deliver a better Singapore through political means. How do we deliver a better future for the people? We need to Àrst ask why we are doing it before we answer the question of what we are doing.We need to show how to do it, through actions, not just talk.We need to govern effectively and to show that this can done through our political party.” For example, when it comes to major government policies like the Pioneer Generation package, she will discuss with them: Why is the government doing this? What does it mean for the elderly? Why is it important to the women? What are the views from the women’s perspective? “As women, we live longer, and so this package beneƤts women more. We need the women activists to recognise this and discuss how to address the political needs of women of diơerent age-groups, and be active advocates for them,” she adds. Armed with heightened political awareness, they will become eơective activists for their branches in communications and
Chairman : Grace Fu Vice chairman (outreach) : Indranee Rajah Vice chairman (advocacy) : Josephine Teo Vice chairman (outreach) : Amy Khor Secretary : Sim Ann Assistant secretary : Ng Hsueh Ling Assistant secretary : Lee Su Min Treasurer : Foo Mee Har Assistant treasurer : Low Yen Ling New Media – lead : Tin Pei Ling New Media – deputy lead : Lena Lee
campaigning during elections. “Half of the voters are women, and we in WW, as women, understand the psyche and know how to position ourselves and explain the PAP’s policies to the women voters,” Ms Fu explains. In the new Exco, whose term started in Jan 2015, the WW is also looking to expand its reach in the cyberspace, to rally the people to support and amplify the women’s voice – to share and defend the PAP’s positions. The Exco role on new media has been enhanced to organise the WW’s presence and to take positions on government policies from the women’s standpoint.
G RO U N DWORK
YO U N G PA P
Engaging with a cause Nee Soon YP interacts with residents through a variety of causes, BY TAN AI CHENG ranging from environment to social
wo meaningful events were organised by Nee Soon Region Young PAP (YP) members recently as part of their community outreach with a cause. They were Mother’s Day on May 10 and water conservation (water being a scarce resource) in March. Bright and early on Mother’s Day, which fell on a Sunday, about 40 YP volunteers fanned out in Nee Soon Central, Chong Pang and Nee Soon East constituencies to distribute 3,000 stalks of carnations to residents. Their cause? To get residents to show appreciation to the “special woman” in their lives. A card accompanying each stalk read: “On a special day, for a special woman”. “It was sweet to see young children getting the ƪowers from our volunteers before running back into their mothers’ arms. Husbands were also coming forth to collect them for their wives and thanking them on the spot,” observed Ms Athena Michael, 24, chairwoman of YP at Chong Pang. Volunteers also handed out the carnations to youths and passers-by so that they could bring them home for their mothers. Mr Jiang Yulin, 25, chairman of Nee Soon East YP, said: “The event garnered positive attention as all 3,000 ƪowers were given out within an hour.”
Bringing home the importance of water Earlier in March, the Nee Soon Region YP held an event to advocate water conservation in conjunction with World Water Day on March 22. Thirty-six members distributed 8,000 bottles of Newater, tagged with the message “Every single drop matters’’ to Nee Soon Region residents. Newater bottles were also distributed on March 15. As in the Mother’s Day event, the members spread their message by giving the Newater bottles in public areas such as the wet markets, food centres, entrances of the bus interchange and link ways to Yishun and Khatib MRT stations. Ms Cynthia Mark, 30, chairman of Nee Soon Region YP, explained the rationale behind the two events: “The mission statement of Nee Soon YP is: Outreach with a cause. We wish to advocate diơerent causes ranging from environment to social causes.” “For the Mother’s Day event, we hoped to raise appreciation for motherhood. With the World Water Day event, we hoped to advocate the acceptance of alternative sources of water and also the importance of conserving water as it is indeed one of our scarce resources.’’
“The event garnered positive attention as all 3,000 Áowers were given out within an hour.”
G RO U N DWO R K
PA P P O LI CY F O R U M
Top concerns of young adult Singaporeans More affordable housing, work-life balance and educational opportunities were the regular hot topics at the PPF 6th Council’s inaugural dialogue
he 60 young adults, at the “Aspirations of Young Singaporean Adults” dialogue, also came up with innovative ideas on how to solve them. It was held on Feb 14, 2015 to gather feedback and suggestions for the policy needs of young Singaporean adults aged between 18 and 35 years old. It was attended by Comrade Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth. Mr Wong, who is also an advisor to the PPF, gave insights into how their feedback could help to shape future policies which would impact young Singaporean adults. The participants were divided into four focus groups, with about 15 in each group. Some participants, worried about down payment for ƪats, suggested “leasing” schemes for Ƥrst-timers to lower the barriers of entry. Under such a scheme, the Ƥrsttimers could buy the ƪat with no downpayment but pay “leasing” charges every month. After a certain number of years of “leasing’’ charges, the ƪat would become theirs. Others suggested more work-life balance for the work force. Biomedical scientist, Dr Zheng Shunsheng, 31, pointed out: "Worklife balance is one of the main issues that young Singaporeans adults are concerned about. Improved work place ƪexibility, such as allowing parents with young children to do part of their work from home, or greater application of ƪexi-hours by employers, may signiƤcantly enhance our work force participation rate and reduce reliance on foreign manpower." Other participants were concerned about the delay in starting tertiary education for Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs). They
“Improved work place Áexibility, such as allowing parents with young children to do part of their work from home, or greater application of Áexi-hours by employers, may signiÀcantly enhance our work force participation rate and reduce reliance on foreign manpower.”
suggested that NSFs be allowed to earn university credits during their two-year NS stint or provide work place relevant skills training for them. They could study some of the modules part-time and use them as credits for their university degree. This will help them shorten the time required to complete their tertiary education.
Useful takeaways from dialogue Career opportunities and advancement, adequate funds for retirement and healthcare cost were other topics discussed during the dialogue. Another concern was the over-reliance on educational qualiƤcations in career opportunities and advancement. To overcome this, it was suggested that there could be multiple progression tracks for non-graduates, with the public sector taking the lead in implementing such a policy.
Many were also worried about insuƥcient retirement income as large amounts of savings are locked up in property assets. One suggestion was to oơer investment options that would take into account the longer investment runway period that young working adults have. Many of the participants found the session fruitful. Full-time NS man Kelvin Aw, 19, shared: “It was a thought-provoking and fruitful session. I took home valuable thoughts that I would not have gotten anywhere else and I wish to attend more of such sharing sessions.”
SONNY WEE Vice Chairman 6th PAP Policy Forum (PPF) Council
BACKBENCHER'S BITE WHO: Lim Biow Chuan, MP for Mountbatten SMC. He entered politics in 2006 and is a senior lawyer in his own law ƥrm, #errick 6ong & Lim BC LLP. WHERE: Mui Thiang Kee Eating House at Block , Cassia Crescent, along Old Airport Road.
bibed in the students’ everyday life in school, so that it becomes part of their lifestyle. Otherwise, VIA becomes just another subject to the students. More can be done by schools to emphasise values on an every day basis.
ON THE MENU: Two char siew bao ʙ0.70 each from Old Airport Road Home
made Paudian, one bean paste bao ʙ0.60 and iced Milo ʙ.0.
An MP’s work is never done
he saying goes that “A woman’s work is never done” but it also applies to Mountbatten SMC’s Lim Biow Chuan. Except it is “An MP’s work is never done.” Several hot potato issues he has handled in recent years are still “work-in-progress” for Mr Lim, 52. While there have been improvements to the situations, he believes more can be done. These range from the Sim Lim Square saga, to education issues like changing parents’ mindsets towards emphasis on academic grades. TOPICS DISCUSSED Ҟ More time to adapt to reduced emphasis on academic scores We are moving away from the focus on academic excellence to recognise other traits, like character and leadership. But just because the Education Minister say so does not mean parents’ mindset will change
overnight. Not naming the top scorer for the Primary School Leaving Examinations is a correct signal so that you don’t just focus on the students with the top academic scores but we should also recognise students with other strengths and gifts. We also need to acknowledge that students develop at diơerent pace and that there are diơerent paths to attaining success in life. We are in the right direction but it will take a while to change people’s perception. ҟ Values as part of lifestyle We should focus on inculcating the right values in our young. Character values are often caught and not taught, as children model on what they see. We must push character education more. This will make up the soul of our nation. Schools run the Values In Action programme but this is insuƥcient. The culture of the school must be values-driven, all educators must believe in it and it must be im-
Ҡ Chief consumer advocate As President of the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), one of the things we have been working on has been to encourage more companies to come on board the CaseTrust Accreditation scheme so that the businesses commit themselves to fair business practices. Another important aspect is to educate consumers, to make them more aware of their rights and their right to say No, so that they are more cautious when they buy things. Working on these two areas will strengthen consumer awareness and hopefully, prevent future sagas like the Sim Lim Square incident. ҡ Not a ǲmicro-manager’’ parent As a parent, I make it a point to Ƥnd out my daughters’ strengths. They are aged 14 and 16. When I see that they have put in eơort, I accept their results. Each of them is unique and I love them equally, regardless of their performance in school. I don’t believe that I should micro-manage them. My wife, Cheng Yee and I put up a united front in front of our daughters so that we have a consistent stand as parents. Ң SG50 oơers avenue to engage residents Half of my residents live in private housing so it is a challenge trying to engage them, especially if they live in condominiums. We organise chit-chat sessions during my weekend visits so that I can get to know them better. As part of SG50 celebrations, we are planning to organise events such as estate light-up, movie screenings and other openair events so that residents can celebrate the nation’s 50th birthday with us.
QUOTE & UNQUOTE ǲI want the ǮMany Helping Hands’ to be like the ǮThousand Arms Bodhisattva’ or the 㻯䴠. We can have many hands but we must have a body and a central nervous system to coordinate the helping hands.”
Parliamentary Secretary Low Yen Ling on building future ready systems to coordinate help for the needy.
ǲWe are never too young to do good, and I’m glad to see our students truly putting their values into action.”
Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat on Eunos Primary School students for showing kindness and care to the vic
tims of the Nepal earthquake.
And Ʃnally... “It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home. We can have the best architects and urban planners to build our communities but it is the people who live in them that give it the spirit – the kampong spirit.”
MP David Ong on his support for the Commu
nity Disputes Resolution Bill.
ǲ... an ageing population does not necessarily signify a crisis to the nation, unless we as a nation are unprepared for it. Think not of a Ǯsilver tsunami’ but of a Ǯsilver boom’…”
MP Chia Shi-Lu on how a healthy senior may be more productive than a younger but unƥt person.
Leadership to keep Singapore going