An interview was conducted for the Minister of Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong; below are his responses in full:
On Crossing to Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC:
In recent times, I had a reason to bid the residents in Boon Lay (part of West Coast GRC) bye. During the MPS, about 160 people turned out. That happened to be the largest we have ever had and many are familiar faces.
A great number of them to say thank for some of the few things that I have done. Many of them even wept because they are sad to see me go.
Someone even gave a photo album containing all the pictures of important occasions I’ve attended in Boon Lay since 2011 to 2015.
It was not easy to leave but it feels great to feel that I was able to do things in the constituency that had positive effects in people’s lives.
I wouldn’t hesitate to get it done again in the event you should ask me to rewind the clock, make the choice again understanding that you must really go on a route which is challenging.
Q: How have you been organizing for the move to Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC?
By walking around.
Madam Halimah and I have both moved here, so we have been spending much time staying around, weekends in addition to weekdays, mornings or nights, whenever we are able to find time to meet with the residents, keep in touch with them and spending some time together, even weekends and weekdays, mornings or nights, whenever we are able to find time to meet with the residents, keep in touch with them and spending some time together.
Q: Were there any special instances at Meet the People’s Sessions (MPS) that you recalled because they touched you or shocked you?
The bulk of them need financial assistance (which) we can help. But what is hard, and at times heart-wrenching, is when you’ve got instances which are not just about monetary demand but more profound issues, (for example) a couple not getting along, violent partner, someone facing addiction (such as) drinking or a drug addiction.
The worst is when the kids are affected by it. That is when you hear stories that are depressing and you also strive really hard to assist. (But such instances need) lots of counselling.
That is why it is not bad that our front line finally has been reinforced in terms of giving more support and having more social workers. We (also) have a social service centre to offer that type of support in the constituency on the ground.
Q: What about the touching cases?
I don’t want to refer to any specific case because we need to respect their privacy.
I see several circumstances where parents economize and save in order to give their children the best education possible and a good start… many of them request for support and we try our possible best to assist. And it’s a lot gratifying to see their children do well in school and progress.
Besides, there have been some developments like the student care centre in the CC where volunteers guide them.
We also offer free tuition. Beforehand, there was no such capability. The school (Boon Lay Garden Primary) has no space for a student care centre.
There are quite a lot of low-income families where parents are busy working and there is no one to cater to the kids. We created a student care centre in the CC and pooled resources together and created My First Skool.
Q: What kind of issues keep you awake at night or make you ponder over?
There is no end to the problems. More sophisticated ones (could be) community or neighbour disputes.
(On the constituency level, the) revitalisation of stores scheme: Boon Lay Shopping Centre is strata-titled, with several owners.
There is a Government subsidy for the revitalisation but every owner must be responsible for their cost.
(When it comes to) a strata-title property, you must ensure that everyone understands or else you cannot go. (If) some don’t concur, then you are stuck in paralysis.
Nation wise, we have had an extremely active year (with) the SEA Games, SG50 (celebrations).
Those are (some) things that I always worry about.
But you must take it in your pace, take it step by step, and go along.
Q: Any issues with regard to the hustings that are approaching, eg. mudslinging?
(There will always be) claims, criticism (and the like) thrown at you within an election.
That is not (something) I am worried about… My appeal to voters, especially first-time voters, is: Take the elections seriously.
Examine the opposition, the PAP together with each of the nominees, for their personal ethics, their truthfulness, their character. Measure the suggestions that distinct parties put up.
It is tempting to listen to suggestions to do more but are not these unsustainable? Who’s planning to fund the excess spending? Are they great for the nation in the longer term?
So evaluate attentively and make a choice. As Mr. Lee Kuan Yew used to say: “This isn’t a game of cards. It is your life and mine.”
Q: During election campaigning, it is par for the class to criticise policies that are unpopular. But options might be forthcoming.
It is simple to get carried away by rhetoric in the warmth of an election rally… I expect Singaporean voters will remember to reflect past the rhetoric, beyond the emotions of election (campaigning) to believe deeply and carefully in what the various parties are offering, what’s their track record, who are the people who are functioning and (his or her) track record, the things he or she might have said before and what they have done.
Those are matters which can be not hidden, it is possible to compare notes, see on your own, do your homework and your personal judgement can be made by you.