SINGAPORE: The decision by the People’s Action Party (PAP) to field Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in East Coast GRC had “an element of a strategic surprise”, said Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh on Wednesday (Jul 1).
The ruling party made the surprise move to field Mr Heng, who was previously the anchor minister for Tampines GRC, in East Coast GRC on Nomination Day. Mr Heng’s move was only confirmed late on Tuesday morning, when he appeared at the St Anthony’s Canossian Primary School nomination centre with less than half an hour to go before nominations closed at noon.
GE2020: 'We cannot afford a gap in East Coast in these uncertain times' - Heng Swee Keat on moving to the GRC
“Obviously, there was an element of a strategic surprise on the part of the PAP,” Mr Singh told reporters after a morning walkabout in the constituency’s Fengshan division with WP's East Coast candidates.
“To us, we see it as a strong challenge but also, it says something about the PAP’s assessment of the Workers’ Party team in East Coast. I think they see the slate as a very strong one.
“They know they have to fight hard for every vote,” he said.
The WP will put up its best fight, added Mr Singh, noting that the party has put up a diverse slate of candidates that it believes will be able to represent Singaporeans in Parliament.
Asked if the opposition party is shifting its strategy for East Coast GRC, Mr Singh declined to comment, saying that surprise is “one of those tools in (the) toolbox” for a small party like the WP.
He noted that the party’s volunteers have been working the ground in East Coast for the past few years, and that the WP will “fight hard for every vote”.
“It wasn't as if, if it was someone else, we will be fighting any less harder,” he said.
In response to a reporter's question, Mr Singh said that the unveiling of four Budgets over the past few months amid the COVID-19 pandemic showed the PAP as a party with “very deep resources”.
“That has an impact on the ground - a very significant impact - and by its very nature … it favours the incumbent but does not favour those who are challenging the incumbent,” he said.
But Singaporeans want to see “some semblance of balance” in Parliament, added Mr Singh. “So then the onus is on us to ensure that we can put up a good slate of people out there who are prepared to fight for Singaporeans.”
Before speaking to reporters, Mr Singh, together with the five WP candidates standing in East Coast GRC, were out and about at Bedok 85 Market and Food Centre where they gave out flyers and interacted with residents and stall owners.
READ: GE2020: DPM Heng contesting in East Coast GRC an ‘important signal’ that PAP takes WP’s challenge seriously, says Pritam
WP’s line-up for East Coast comprises former National Solidarity Party member Nicole Seah, lawyer Terence Tan, Singapore Cancer Society deputy director Kenneth Foo, wealth advisory firm director Dylan Ng and former researcher Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim.
During the walkabout, many stopped to take photos of Ms Seah, who is contesting under the WP flag for the first time. The 33-year-old rose to fame during the 2011 General Election, when she was the youngest candidate.
Only two candidates from the WP’s East Coast team – Mr Terence Tan and Mr Kenneth Foo – joined Mr Singh for the doorstop with reporters.
When asked about Ms Seah’s “star power” and how the other candidates will look to prove themselves, Mr Foo said in Mandarin that such an appeal is “short-lived”, and that Ms Seah is focused on interacting with residents and understanding their needs.
With the team hailing from different backgrounds, they will be able to bring to the table different perspectives that Singaporeans need, he added.