SINGAPORE: The People’s Action Party (PAP) on Friday (Aug 14) officially introduced its new candidates for Sembawang Group Representation Constituency (GRC) for the coming General Election.
Joining the five-member GRC are Mr Amrin Amin and Mr Ong Ye Kung, who were unveiled at the Sunshine Welfare Action Mission Home in Sembawang, a venue chosen as the party had already booked the location for a "kopi talk" with residents on the same day.
Said Mr Khaw Boon Wan of the new-look slate for Sembawang GRC: "There will be continuity but some changes. It will not be a new team as Vikram Nair and Lim Wee Kiak will be in the team.
"They all have their hearts in the right place. This is what we look for in our candidates. Capabilities are easy to judge - we have put them in places where we have seen them for a number of years. What is not so easy to assess is character, values.
"We look for people who are honest, with high standards of integrity. Who are passionate about wanting to help others, with a sense of selflessness - we all live in this world for a larger cause, not just for ourselves, but to see how we can tap on our abilities to help the others to help others and hopefully make their lives better.
"Ye Kung, Amrin are people we have assessed beyond their careers. In their spare time, do they make time for others? These are the type of people we think can add value to the team and more importantly, help the residents in the north."
The five PAP candidates for Sembawang GRC will be:
Mr Khaw Boon Wan, 62, Minister for National Development
Mr Khaw is the Chairman of the PAP. He previously served as Health Minister from 2004 to 2011 and has been a Member of Parliament (MP) with Sembawang since 2006.
"We won't take support for granted. If we focus on doing what is right, doing what is needed for the residents, then any time is right (for a GE) - particularly if we have a good, informed electorate," he said.
"What is good politics? Why do we keep emphasising character, honesty, integrity? Think about Singapore over the past 50 years - out of nothing, we have created something. How did it come about? Compare this to other countries, which had much more than what we had, yet over 50 years, they have gone backwards. Is it because the people were less capable, less lucky? We think politics has a lot to do with it. If corruption is rampant, if politics becomes money politics - if huge amounts of money has to be raised to fight an election - that's when cronyism comes about.
"Thanks to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who suppressed money politics. He kept the cost of running for elections low. There is a limit to the amount you can spend on elections. Every party has to disclose - full transparency - and account for the amount spend.
"This way, you keep politics clean. This is unique to Singapore; let us appreciate and protect that legacy. As long as every political party subscribes to this ethos - that candidates put forth are deemed to be honest, selfless, and who want to do something for Singaporeans - then the future of Singapore will be safe."
Dr Lim Wee Kiak, 46, eye surgeon
Dr Lim is a member of the GPC for Finance and Trade and Industry. He was an MP with Nee Soon GRC before his Canberra ward was added to Sembawang after the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee released its report on Jul 24.
Mr Vikram Nair, 37, lawyer
Mr Nair is a member of the GPCs for Communications and Information, Finance and Trade and Industry, and Home Affairs and Law. He has been an MP with Sembawang since 2011.
Mr Ong Ye Kung, 45, Director of Group Strategy, Keppel Corporation
Mr Ong was a member of the PAP team in Aljunied GRC which lost to the Opposition Workers’ Party at the 2011 GE. He previously served as the Principal Private Secretary to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and was also NTUC's deputy secretary-general.
"What have I learnt from 2011? A lot - big lessons and small lessons. The big lesson, as Minister Khaw mentioned, is that we never take things for granted. I don't think people want total dominance, so even Ministers can lose their seats. We need to serve with our heart and soul. We can't let one loss become a defeat, one setback become a failure," he said.
Asked about how the constituency compared to Aljunied four years ago, Mr Ong said: "What I feel is unique about Sembawang is that I've met many residents who like the different atmosphere, the rustic feel, which maybe you've noticed coming to Swami Home today. That special characteristic of Sembawang is something I'm still learning. While Singapore is a small island, it need not be homogenous."
Mr Amrin Amin, 36, corporate lawyer
Mr Amrin has been active in grassroots work since 2004, starting in Chong Pang, Marsiling in 2013 and most recently Woodlands in 2014. He has served in various grassroots committees such as the Citizens Consultative Committee and Community Club Management Committee. From 2004 to 2006, he was Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam’s legislative assistant.
“I had an ordinary life but was blessed to have extraordinary people around me. I grew up in a 3-room HDB flat and went to neighbourhood schools in Singapore. I worked hard. But even with the hard work, I would not have had all these opportunities if not for my family’s support and our Singapore ecosystem," he said, citing his parents' need to take on multiple jobs during his childhood.
“There are very few places in this world for someone like myself who is from an ordinary and minority background to be offered so many good opportunities. Having received so much from Singapore, I hope to give back.”
He added: "Since my younger days, I've been active in community work. I've always taken an interest in what's happening in my community, and doing what I can to help. I've met people from all walks and I'm very glad to be able to help some of them. Having received so much, I think it's very important to pay it forward."
The two new candidates will replace Senior Parliamentary Secretary Hawazi Daipi and Singapore table tennis president Ellen Lee, who will not be contesting the coming elections.
Mr Hawazi, who is also Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower, will retire from politics after 19 years as a Sembawang GRC MP. His Marsiling ward was carved out to become part of the new Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.
Ms Lee, 58, has been an MP with Sembawang GRC since 2006. She is also the deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Defence and Foreign Affairs and a member of the GPC for Health.
"Ellen puts her heart and soul into whatever she's doing. Community work is her passion. Residents take to her readily as she personifies dedication and compassion. She brought her expertise and empathy to her political work here in Woodlands. She'll be greatly missed by the residents and my fellow candidates in Sembawang," said Mr Khaw on Ms Lee.
With Ms Lee's departure, Sembawang could be represented by five men, should the PAP team be elected in. "Why is this an 'all-boys' team? The Party goes all out to try to persuade capable ladies to come out and take part in politics. Every election we try to improve the gender participation on the slate of candidates," said Mr Khaw.
"You have to look at the entire slate and not just at the GRC. In Parliament today, of the 80 PAP MPs, 18 are ladies. When the full slate is announced I'm sure you'll see the proportion will be improved."
Dr Khaw and Mr Nair are the only remaining members of the PAP team which contested Sembawang GRC at the 2011 GE. Back then, the PAP won 63.9 per cent of the vote against a Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) team made up of candidates James Gomez, Jarrod Luo Jie, Mohd Isa, V Sadasivam and John Tan.
The SDP has said it will not contest Sembawang GRC in the coming elections, announcing last week that it would make way for the National Solidarity Party (NSP) there to avoid a multi-cornered fight.
"We welcome NSP's participation and we hope they will disclose their candidates soon so voters can interact with them and know their plans," said PAP Chairman Khaw. "Democracy is a contest of ideas - let the best ideas prevail and the stronger team win."
The ruling PAP has said it will announce its entire slate of candidates for the GE before the National Day Rally on Aug 23, in a break from tradition. On Wednesday, the PAP unveiled its team for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.
NEW POLYCLINIC, SWIMMING POOL IN SEMBAWANG?
The PAP team also revealed at the dialogue session that there are plans for a new polyclinic and swimming pool in Sembawang. They said the new facilities will be part of a new Sembawang Community Hub, which will be located at the former Admiralty House at Nelson Road.
The team also told residents to expect a polyclinic that will have features not found in other polyclinics, although exact details have yet to be firmed up.
"It's actually going to be a lot of facilities that Sembawang residents have been asking for. It's going to include things like a swimming complex, a hawker centre, a polyclinic but also I think it extends to sort of a daycare hospital," shared Mr Nair.
During the dialogue session, residents also raised issues ranging from transport to healthcare.