Good evening residents of Hougang and my fellow Singaporeans! Thank you for coming to the Workers’ Party rally this evening.
A year ago, I stood on this stage during the General Election campaign as a candidate for East Coast GRC. I am now here as a friend, a supporter and a fellow party member of the Workers’ Party’s candidate for Hougang, Mr Png Eng Huat.
The PAP has said that this is a local election, and national issues are less of a factor. I find this very odd. I can understand if we are in a much larger country, where what happens in one small town of 37,000 people does not really affect the entire country. But Singapore is such a small city-state.
Does the affordability of HDB flats affect Hougang residents? Are Hougang residents concerned about the stress their children have to go through in our education system? Do Hougang residents get caught in MRT train breakdowns?
These are all national issues, which affect all Singaporeans, including Hougang residents.
So why is the PAP so reluctant to talk about national issues at this by-election? Is it because they are concerned that many Singaporeans are not happy with their performance over the past one year?
Since the PAP does not want to talk about national issues at this election, we will. Let’s talk about a national issue that touches the lives of many, many Singaporeans—the state of our public transport system.
The Workers’ Party is very concerned about the quality and affordability of our bus and MRT system.
I am definitely concerned about it because, like many of you, I depend on the MRT to take me to and from work every day. Like many of you, I know what it’s like to squeeze into crowded trains and stand all the way from home to work.
I know what it is like to be stuck in a stationary train with air conditioning that is not working, and then hear the dreaded announcement, “This train will be delayed because of a track fault. We apologise for the inconvenience caused.”
Or when we are on a packed station platform, and the announcement goes, “For easier boarding, please move to a less crowded area on the platform.”
Hello? Where to find a less crowded area?
Our problems with overcrowding on buses and trains are a result of years of poor planning and lack of investment by the PAP government. They allowed in hundreds of thousands of foreigners over the past 10 years, but without first upgrading the transport infrastructure to accommodate the surge in commuters.
Thanks to the message that voters sent them in the last General Election, they “woke up their ideas” a bit, and started accelerating their purchases of trains and buses, and doing system upgrades.
Then before we started enjoying more comfortable train rides, something even worse emerged—MRT breakdowns!
In the last year, we have seen major MRT breakdowns on almost all the train lines—the North-South line, the East-West line, the Northeast line, the Circle line and even the Bukit Panjang LRT.
On April 9th, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told Parliament that train disruptions are “unavoidable”. Then the very next week, we had five MRT disruptions, all of them affecting rush-hour commuters on various lines .
There are always excuses for the breakdowns: For the NSEW lines, we are told it is because of “ageing infrastructure” . For the new Circle line, we are told it is due to “teething problems”. For the not-so-new Northeast line, we are told the reason is “collapsed cables”.
One frustrated commuter wrote to the Straits Times forum earlier this month . She said, “It is odd how a system which was apparently fine and held up as a role model of First World efficiency for 25 years turned suddenly into a plague of breakdowns and disruptions. What commuters like me want to know is why it happened virtually overnight late last year?”
Before, we used to believe the SMRT slogan, “Always there for you”. This sounds very similar to the slogan of the other candidate in this by-election, doesn’t it?
Sad to say, now we cannot assume that the MRT will “always be there” to take us from point A to point B.
Because of the increasingly frequent train breakdowns, we now have to factor in possible delays when making travel plans, especially when we have important appointments like exams or job interviews.
Some of you have had to spend more money to take taxis when the trains breakdown—and taxi fares have recently increased too!
Is this something we should start to accept as normal in Singapore, because it is “unavoidable”?
During the current Committee of Inquiry into the massive December train breakdowns, we have seen LTA blaming SMRT, SMRT blaming their predecessor MRTC, and everyone else blaming the former CEO.
Frankly we are less interested in who is to blame, but more interested to ensure that Singaporeans enjoy affordable, efficient and reliable public transport.
We hold the Government ultimately responsible for the performance and reliability of the MRT system. This is after all an essential public service, and all the more so when car ownership has become more unaffordable because of sky-high COE prices.
Some of you will remember that there was a time when the Government took full responsibility for providing affordable, efficient and reliable public transport.
But subsequent generations of PAP governments have since chosen to transfer much of this responsibility to profit-oriented companies which operate in virtual monopolies,
These companies enjoy the profits derived from the fares you pay, but do not have to worry about competing for ridership. So that gives them little incentive to improve service levels or invest in maintenance, except to meet the minimum standards specified by LTA.
This market-oriented, “leave it to the private sector” approach to governing has been the hallmark of today’s PAP, whether it is in the area of public transport, healthcare, housing, or immigration policy.
The Workers’ Party has voiced your concerns, both in and out of Parliament, on the affordability, reliability and structure of our transport system.
We will continue to do so, but we need your support so that we have more MPs in Parliament to speak out for you with a louder voice.
About Png Eng Huat
Voters of Hougang, the Workers’ Party has chosen Mr Png Eng Huat to be our candidate for the Hougang by-election.
Allow me to say a few words about Png Eng Huat.
We contested together in East Coast GRC in the 2011 General Election. We worked the ground together in East Coast GRC. We did house visits together, served residents together, we planned our election campaign together, and we fought the election together.
Png Eng Huat is a humble and caring man. He always thinks of others’ welfare ahead of his own. I have no doubt that he will put the interests of Hougang residents as a top priority if you elect him as your MP.
But more than just being a good man, Png is able to analyse policies, and identify the issues that affect the lives of Singaporeans. I have seen this in the Parliamentary speeches that he has helped our MPs to write. So I have no doubt that he will have ability to clearly voice the concerns of Hougang residents in Parliament, if you elect him as your MP.
It is for this reason that I am happy to give my full endorsement to Png Eng Huat to be MP for Hougang!
Residents of Hougang, the Workers’ Party represents your hope for change in our beloved Singapore. We want to make our country a more compassionate, caring and fairer society, where everyone, whether rich or poor, has an equal opportunity to achieve success in life.
Last year, Hougang voters gave the Workers’ Party a ringing endorsement of almost 65% of the votes. Next Saturday, you have another opportunity to decide if you want the Workers’ Party to continue serving you like we have done for the past 21 years. Will you give us your support?
Every vote is precious. Please call, SMS, Facebook and ask your friends and family members who live in Hougang to vote for the Workers’ Party, and vote for Png Eng Huat as MP for Hougang.