SINGAPORE: Local opposition party, the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), has criticized Minister of State Sun Xueling for making a resident’s feedback letter public and for the way she publicly expressed disapproval of the resident’s tone and language.
Ms Sun, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Punggol West SMC, shared screenshots of the resident’s email on her Facebook page on 3 June. The resident’s email, which was addressed to Ms Sun and Workers’ Party’s (WP) Jamus Lim, raised concerns about the noise generated by heavy vehicles on the road near Punggol Way.
The email also touched upon grievances regarding uneven cement floors at the void deck and criticized a road design, using offensive language. The resident was frustrated and warned that the failure to address the issue could result in Ms Sun losing the ward.
Although Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council assured the resident that it would address the issues raised, the resident’s email did not sit well with Ms Sun. In a Facebook post, she stressed the importance of providing feedback in a civil manner and urged society to refrain from using offensive language to convey their concerns.
In response, the SDA released a statement on 11 June expressing their disapproval of the ruling party politician’s actions. Party chairman Desmond Lim claimed that the way Ms Sun handled the issue has “aggrieved” some Pasir Ris-Punggol residents, who raised their concerns to him.
Mr Lim acknowledged that the resident’s email may have been inappropriate in its tone and language but emphasized that publishing the letter online and highlighting the flaws was unnecessary.
Asserting that it is important to treat residents with dignity and respect, even when they express themselves rudely, he said: “Even if one feels offended by the resident’s comments, lashing out and retaliating is never the solution.
“There is no need to take the high ground, especially in a case where a resident wants to give feedback but is unable to do so in an appropriate manner. Serve residents with humility, treat them with care, and accord them some respect if they make mistakes.”
Mr Lim further stressed the need to respond to residents’ concerns with empathy and understanding. He urged public figures to take such incidents in stride, sharing his own experiences of facing personal attacks and threats. He said:
“As a public figure, I have encountered my share of nasty people. Some would make things personal and pass very hurtful comments about my appearance and my language. One time, I had to lodge a police report as someone threatened to harm my family. Yet, we have to take things in our stride.”
Pointing out that a soft word can turn away anger, Mr Lim called for a more compassionate approach to addressing residents’ concerns, as he said: “Serve residents with humility, treat them with care, and accord them some respect if they mistakes. The SDA strives to do that, and I hope that our current PAP MPs will remember that.”
Mr Lim and his team have been walking the ground at Pasir Ris-Punggol for nearly two decades. He first stood in the six-member SDA team contesting in Pasir Ris–Punggol GRC, which lost the contest with 31.3 per cent of the vote against the ruling party team led by senior Cabinet member Teo Chee Hean.
He then contested Punggol East SMC as a solo SDA candidate in a three-cornered fight during the 2011 general election. Mr Lim’s share of the vote, at 4.45 per cent, was significantly lower than that of the other opposition candidate, Lee Li Lian of the Workers’ Party, who had 41.01 per cent of the vote.
Having garnered lower than 12.5 per cent of the vote, Mr Lim lost his S$16,000 election deposit under Singapore’s electoral rules.
But Mr Lim remained undeterred and threw his hat into the contest once again in the 2013 by-election at Punggol East SMC, which was triggered when People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament Michael Palmer resigned in the middle of his term and gave up his parliamentary seat.
Mr Lim contested the by-election, which turned out to be a four-cornered fight involving Koh Poh Koon of the PAP; Lee Li Lian of the Workers’ Party; and Kenneth Jeyaretnam of the Reform Party. Ms Lee won the election, with Mr Lim garnering just 0.57 per cent of the vote, the lowest among the four candidates.
He lost his S$14,500 election deposit and became the second candidate in Singaporean electoral history after Harbans Singh forfeited his election deposit twice. His electoral result of 0.57% was also the lowest any candidate or party got in an election since Singapore gained independence in 1965.
The SDA politician, however, has continued to persevere. He led the six-member SDA team contesting in Pasir Ris–Punggol GRC again during the 2015 general election and garnered 27.11 per cent of the vote against the PAP team’s 72.89 per cent.
In 2020, for the first time in his political career, Mr Lim did not become the lowest-scoring entity in a multi-cornered fight.
His team contested Pasir Ris–Punggol GRC against the PAP and the Peoples Voice team led by Lim Tean. The SDA team lost 23.67 per cent of the vote against the PAP team’s 64.16 per cent but did better than the Peoples Voice team, which garnered 12.17 per cent.