SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the withdrawal of potential candidate Ivan Lim is “regrettable”, but said the People’s Action Party (PAP) is now focusing on the key issues of people’s jobs, lives and future.
“Secretary-general Mr Lee Hsien Loong has already made his stance clear; you can see the exchange of letters (between the two),” said Mr Heng, who is also PAP’s first assistant secretary-general, on Sunday (Jun 28).
The important thing for PAP is to focus on the key issues facing Singapore as set out in the party's manifesto, he said.
“We are facing enormous challenges and let us keep our minds very focused on this issue, bring everyone together and deal with this decisively and effectively.”
Mr Lim, 42, announced on Saturday night that he had decided not to contest in the General Election, after online criticism about his conduct during his time in National Service, among other accusations.
In a PAP statement on the same day, Mr Lee said he accepted Mr Lim's decision to withdraw.
READ: GE2020: PAP prospective candidate Ivan Lim will not contest in election after online criticism
Criticism surfaced online after Mr Lim, a general manager with Keppel Offshore and Marine, was introduced on Wednesday as one of the PAP's 27 new potential candidates. He was the first batch of new faces unveiled by the party for the 2020 General Election.
When asked on Sunday whether the PAP would conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations against Mr Lim, and whether he had quit the party entirely, Mr Heng replied: “As the PM has said, there is no time for that.
“We will deal with those issues like we always do after the General Election, (when we can) do a review,” he said during a walkabout at a Compassvale food court in the new Sengkang GRC.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who was on a walkabout in Woodlands on Sunday, said Mr Lim has "done the responsible thing" by withdrawing.
“We don’t know whether the allegations are founded or not,” he said. Referencing Mr Lee’s letter, Mr Wong said there is “no time to do a proper and full investigation”, and that they “really do not have any reason to believe that these allegations are true.”
"FIERCE COMPETITION" EXPECTED IN SENGKANG
With Mr Heng on Sunday were labour chief Ng Chee Meng, Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin and new candidate lawyer Raymond Lye.
The four are all but confirmed to stand for the PAP in Sengkang, which is expected to see a tough contest with the Workers’ Party (WP).
While former Sembawang Member of Parliament (MP) Mr Amrin said he expected “fierce competition”, he said what is important is prioritising the community.
“We need to assess the programmes, suggestions and manifesto by all political parties, and think of how we can fulfil and execute our promise,” he said. “We have track record and capability to fulfil it.”
Sengkang GRC has a younger demographic, the candidates said, with key concerns involving jobs and the “sandwich generation” of residents in their 40s and 50s who might need to care for both children and elderly parents.
READ: GE2020: PAP launches manifesto focusing on jobs, economy and keeping lives safe amid COVID-19 pandemic
Former Pasir-Ris Punggol MP Mr Ng said his team will organise job fairs on Jul 2 and 3 and eventually set up a satellite job centre in the constituency.
“What we want to do in Sengkang is to move these government policies onto the ground, so residents can access these possibilities that the Government has provided, including what NTUC has done,” he said.
“We’ll be bringing in job fairs to match displaced workers to new jobs. The community centre and different agencies will help to bring government initiatives to the ground to help residents.”
Mr Ng also said he wanted to create better living conditions in Sengkang. This includes building an aquatic playground in Sengkang West and two new community centres for family activities.
It is important that Sengkang isn’t just "an advanced cosmopolitan town", Mr Ng said, but one that has “the friendships and neighbourliness to take care of each other, especially in a crisis like this”.
Mr Ng said regardless of what happens on Nomination Day, the PAP will field a “strong team” in Sengkang with candidates who listen to residents.
Mr Amrin said he is sad to be leaving Sembawang, but pledged to bring the same dedication to serving residents in Sengkang.
READ: GE2020: New Sengkang GRC likely to see keen contest between PAP and WP, say political observers
“Sengkang and Woodlands are slightly different,” he said. “Sengkang is a relatively newer town with more younger families who are very affected by this crisis.”
The WP, the only opposition party to say it will contest Sengkang, could field former Punggol East MP Lee Li Lian, and new candidates economics professor Jamus Lim, Credit Suisse equity research analyst Louis Chua and Raeesah Khan, who founded a movement that runs programmes to empower women.
When asked about a potentially fierce contest with WP, Mr Ng said: “In our democratic process, we welcome competition for the good of the GRC.
“But my focus and my team’s focus will be on our residents, regardless of the different issues or politics in the next two weeks,” he said.