SINGAPORE: The Workers’ Party on Friday (Jun 26) introduced five more candidates that it plans to field in the 2020 General Election.
There are three familiar faces, including former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Dennis Tan, as well as Mr Dylan Ng and Mr Ron Tan who both contested in the 2015 polls.
The other two are new to elections: 44-year-old associate professor of economics Jamus Lim and 26-year-old social activist Raeesah Khan, who is the party’s youngest candidate.
This was the WP’s second candidate introduction session. At the first session on Thursday, it unveiled four candidates, including former NCMP Yee Jenn Jong and advertising associate director Nicole Seah, who ran in the 2011 election under the National Solidarity Party.
Two others were first-time candidates: 33-year-old equity research analyst Louis Chua Kheng Wee and 33-year-old gig economy worker Muhammad Azhar Abdul Latip.
The WP said it will be contesting two Single Member Constituencies (SMC) and four Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) for a total of 21 seats in Parliament come Jul 10. The constituencies are Hougang SMC, Punggol West SMC, Aljunied GRC, East Coast GRC, Marine Parade GRC and Sengkang GRC.
The WP had also said its former party chief Low Thia Khiang and his fellow Aljunied GRC team member Chen Show Mao, as well as former Hougang MP Png Eng Huat will not be standing as candidates in GE 2020. This is as the party pushes ahead with renewal.
Former NCMPs Gerald Giam and Leon Perera will stand in Aljunied GRC in the coming polls, while Mr Tan is the prospective WP candidate for Hougang SMC.
READ: GE2020: Workers' Party to contest 4 GRCs, 2 SMCs; Low Thia Khiang, Chen Show Mao and Png Eng Huat to step down
Speaking at the virtual press conference on Friday, party chief Pritam Singh said he will stand in Aljunied, together with party chairman Sylvia Lim and Mr Faisal Manap.
WP will unveil its election manifesto this weekend, Ms Lim said in response to a question.
WP has not announced where any of the other candidates will be fielded. Mr Singh has said this will be made known “in days to come”.
Shipping lawyer Dennis Tan, 48, first ran under the WP flag in 2015 when he was fielded in Fengshan SMC. He lost to the People's Action Party's (PAP) Cheryl Chan after garnering 42.5 per cent of the votes. But as one of the best performers among the losing candidates in the 2015 polls, he secured a seat in Parliament as an NCMP and has spoken out on issues ranging from public transport to climate change.
He said his time as an NCMP has made him even more convinced that PAP's “super majority in Parliament is bad for Singapore and Singaporeans”.
The world after the pandemic will be a “brave new world”, he said, adding that a diversity of ideas and a more balanced Parliament will be needed to deal with issues such as jobs, cost of living, retirement adequacy and the future economy.
Mr Tan said he began assisting Mr Png in Hougang three years ago with the running of the estate and constituency matters.
“I just want to say that Hougang constituency knows more than any other constituency in Singapore the importance of having an alternative voice in Parliament.
“I will continue to persuade as many Hougang voters as possible in this coming election, including new residents who have moved in,” he said.
The Hougang seat has been held by a WP MP since Mr Low Thia Khiang won it in 1991. When Mr Low moved to Aljunied GRC in 2011, Mr Yaw Shin Leong retained the seat but later stepped down due to a personal indiscretion, triggering a by-election. Mr Png won the seat in the 2012 by-election and again at GE2015.
Ms Raeesah Khan, 26, is the founder and director of programmes at Reyna Movement, a non-profit organisation that seeks to empower underprivileged women. The youngest candidate for WP has been spotted helping out at Sengkang GRC.
She is the daughter of one-time presidential hopeful Farid Khan, who had wanted to run in the 2017 Presidential Election but did not qualify for the contest.
Ms Khan credited her parents, who came from a humble background and worked hard to provide for the family, for her decision to become an activist and now, run for elections.
"Because of what they taught me growing up, I've always known that for far too many people hard work alone isn't enough to get past the hurdles they face."
She said she has worked with people from all walks of life, including underprivileged families, survivors of sexual abuse, youth activists and migrant workers.
Through her course of work, she often wondered why it is "getting disproportionately harder for working class families to live a decent life" and why do "only the elites get a seat at the table" when it comes to planning the future of Singapore after the COVID-19 pandemic.
She hopes for Singapore to become a country where the marginalised are cared for, with accessible housing for all and better protection for workers.
DYLAN NG FOO ENG
The 45-year-old will be running under the WP flag for a second time come Jul 10.
Mr Ng joined WP eight years ago as a volunteer and was fielded as part of the party's slate of five candidates for Marine Parade GRC. The WP team garnered 35.9 per cent of votes cast and lost to the ruling PAP.
Asked what he has learnt from his campaigning experiences in the past, he said: “Basically it’s about having the heart to serve the residents, once you have the heart to serve and you hear their pain points, you can truly empathise with them … It’s about having a listening ear.”
The potential candidate said he hopes for a “balanced” parliament with diverse views and voices, and one that engages in robust policy debate.
Mr Ng has spent the past 20 years in the banking and finance sector. He is currently a director in a wealth advisory firm.
Dr Jamus Lim, 44, is Associate Professor of economics at Essec Business School. He had been a lead economist with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and a senior economist with the World Bank before that.
His academic credentials include a doctorate from the University of California, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Queensland. He also did a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University.
Dr Lim has been seen on the ground in the newly formed Sengkang GRC.
During the press conference, he spoke about the local education system which he described as a “pressure cooker” with children attending extra tuition and supplementary classes after school. While Singapore has "one of the world's best performing school systems", he questioned what the focus on outcomes has meant in terms of opportunities for Singaporeans.
“I believe that we have allowed superficial success in our educational system to blind us to the fact that this system isn't working and our education system is not preparing our children to actually take on and create good jobs for the future,” he said.
“I want to ask these kind of questions for the sake of my eight-month-old daughter but I also want to ask them for the sake of all children."
Dr Lim also raised questions about retirement adequacy, difficulties faced by the sandwich generation, how to raise productivity of workers and whether there are ways to spend government budgets "more wisely" and find alternative sources of income other than taxes.
"I believe that these are real problems and we can only resolve these most difficult questions when there is actually a healthy, active debate and an honest debate about solutions," he said.
"Today this debate does not occur because there isn't enough opposition voice in Parliament."
RON TAN JUN YEN
Mr Tan, 35, is a senior assistant manager at the NUHS Research Office.
He began volunteering with WP in Hougang in 2012 before assisting in constituency matters at Aljunied in 2017. He has been Mr Low's legislative assistant since 2017.
Mr Tan was part of the 5-member WP team that contested Nee Soon GRC in the 2015 polls, but lost to the People’s Action Party.
Mr Tan said it is a “bittersweet” moment for him to be Mr Low’s last legislative assistant.
“The last three years have been very meaningful serving as Mr Low’s (legislative assistant),” he said.
“The best lesson I learned from him is that you have to be responsible to your residents, you’re elected to take on the responsibility to look after them, to be the voice for them in Parliament and to assist them with their day-to-day issues.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said that Dr Jamus Lim has two doctorates. That is incorrect. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and has a PhD from the University of California. We apologise for the error.