RAVI PHILEMON: MY PROMISE TO VOTERS OF HONG KAH NORTH SMC

Dear Voters of Hong Kah North

In my walkabouts in your constituency, you had raised some questions with my team and me. I address a couple of more important ones here.

Why were you not here earlier?
I have worked with the less-privileged in the community for a fairly long time. The homeless families I work with come from all constituencies. When I blog about various issues, it concerns a good number of Singaporeans from various constituencies. For example, you were just as affected by the recent massive MRT breakdown as someone living in Aljunied. So, when I was making myself counted on such issues, I was doing so also on your behalf.

I have a family and held a full-time job. As the main breadwinner, my priority like most of you, is my family and my job. As such, time, resources and money for my activism for the society and speaking up on the various issues are very limited. Whatever activism I did, whatever issues I speak up on are done on a voluntary basis. I do not earn almost a million dollars a year, like the Senior Minister of State does for serving you.

Although I have lived a good part of my adult life here, and so am very familiar with the western parts of our country (the first flat that I bought after marriage was in Bukit Gombak), I have since come to realise that there are some problems that are unique to Hong Kah North smc.

I apologies to you, voters of Hong Kah North, for not walking about in your constituency earlier.

Regardless of if I am elected or not, I promise to work in your constituency and get to know you better. My commitment to you will only be limited by the time and resources I have at my disposal.

You are not Chinese, how will you understand me?
I am a 4th Generation Singaporean and have friends of all races in Singapore. I speak English, Tamil, pasar Malay and a smattering of Mandarin and Hokkien. Residents were pleasantly surprised when I go for home visits and introduce myself in Mandarin, "Wan shang hou. Wo men shi cong xinjiapo renming tang. wo the ming la wei..."

I may not be able to hold a full conversation in Chinese, but I can make out what you are saying and understand you. More importantly, I have capable and dedicated workers in my team who can hold proper dialogues in Chinese and Malay. I promise that I will cross the language barrier to understand and serve you to the best of my abilities.

I hope you will accept me, a 4th generation Singaporean, as one of your own.

Some concerns that you had raised with me in my walkabouts were:

SAFETY
The bus-stop for Westwood Secondary School is located a good distance away from the school and students from this school have to walk along the road to reach their school. That area is also surrounded by an industrial estate. Considering the heavy vehicles that ply the road and the safety of the students, can the bus-stop be moved nearer to the school?

TRANSPORT
(Several spoke to us on the issue of transport. One related how she finished work at 6pm, but reached home only past 11pm during the massive MRT breakdown in July.)
There are limited buses in Hong Kah North smc - both in the Bukit Batok area and Jurong West part. A new peak-period bus (no. 651) recently started serving the residents in the Jurong West area, but this is insufficient. The transport plan for this area seem to be one of feeder-bus services to connect to the nearby MRT stations. With the frequent delays and breakdowns of the trains, you would like more buses in your area to serve you.

COST OF LIVING
A good number of you spoke to us about the escalating cost of living, about how a plate of chap chye png is at least $4/plate now. One family shared that they were not better off despite Dr Amy Khor spending $160 million for your constituency in the past 5-years.

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MEET THE PEOPLE SESSIONS
A number of you had expressed that when you needed to see your MP on pressing urgent matters, she is not available because she rotates her MPS between the 2 areas in your constituency.

AGING HDB FLATS
Some of you were concerned that your HDB flats were older, as they were built in the 1980s; if you will be able to sell your flats to monetise it (for retirement or emergencies) in a few years time.

RATS
Some residents in Blks. 301, 302, 303, 304...Bukit Batok area are concerned about the rats problem which is still persistent in that area. "Even my dog is afraid of them. They are as big as my dog", exclaimed one resident.

SLOW RESPONSE FROM THE TOWN COUNCIL
Some residents expressed how the town council is relatively slow in responding to some of their queries and concerns. "Is it because we are in Choa Chu Kang town council? So they give first preference to Choa Chu Kang residents?" asked one Hong Kah North resident.

CONCERNS ABOUT THE FUTURE FOR YOU AND LOVED ONES
A number of you we had spoken to expressed concerns of job security. One resident is his late 40s expressed how he found another job soon after losing his previous one, but that he had to take a 30% pay cut. "Can you imagine our quality of life now?" he asked.

Another, a taxi-driver was concerned that now anyone with a private car can compete with taxi drivers who have to be Singaporeans and have to have a vocational license. "Why must we pay hundred over dollars for taxi rentl?" he asked.

One couple whose only son is in Sec 2 in the Normal stream was concerned about the opportunities for her son in the future. "He is already branded as normal. Means not good enough," she sighed.

CONCERNS ABOUT INCOME IN OLD AGE
Some residents are older - in their 50s and 60s - and live separate from their children. They are working now but have concerns about not being able to work and not having enough money as they grow much older.

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It is also important for me to share about my strengths to the voters of Hong Kah North smc.

1. I am a good campaigner. For example, in the 2009/2010 period I campaigned with some others from the disabled community for concessions for them on public transports. The Transport Minister then said that he will be very slow in recommending such a concession to the transport operators. I did not give up, but lobbied hard for a favourable outcome. Today there are concessions for persons with disability on public transports. I was nominated for the Singapore Advocacy Award by this group, in recognition of my work in the campaign.

2. I am a hardworker. The residents of Hong Kah North would have seen how hardworking my team and I have been in your constituency in the past months.

3. Having worked in the social welfare sector I can relate to and empathise with ordinary people.

4. By working in senior management positions in Non-Government Organisations I have acquired the skills of Fundraising.

5. I am efficient and cost-effective. If you notice the collateral that I have put in the hands of Hong Kah Noth smc voters so far, you would have noticed that it is printed without colour in normal grade paper. I believe that substance is more important than sleekness. That the message is more important than how it is packaged.

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I have read Dr Khor's manifesto and I appreciate and welcome the various upgrading projects in Hong Kah North. A good number of flats in Hong Kah North smc are more than 30 years old and could use the upgrading.

Dr Khor can bring this upgrading to you as a grassroots Advisor even if she is not elected by you. There is precedence for this. In 2012, Hougang smc got various upgrading and the Grassroots Advisor of that area, not the elected MP, unveiled the projects and was in-charge of it.

By electing me, you will have me working diligently for you to keep the promises I made to you; while Dr Khor will have the Government's resources and funds to serve you as the Grassroots Advisor. Both of us will compete to earn your favour and votes in the next General Election. This can only be good for for you, the voters of Hong Kah North smc.

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