SINGAPORE: The Workers' Party's (WP) Sengkang GRC team has reached out to the managing agents of existing town councils to facilitate the handover, team leader He Ting Ru said on Sunday (Jul 12).
WP leaders also said in a virtual press conference that going forward, there will be opportunities to work with other political parties, including the Progress Singapore Party (PSP).
"We’d like to thank the residents from Sengkang for putting their faith in us. We will be working hard over the next four or five years to make sure that they are well-served," said Ms He, a 37-year-old lawyer.
"Meanwhile, we are also working with the existing town councils - Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol – to ensure a smooth handover (with) the managing agents. We’ve also reached out to them and asked for a handover meeting to take place as soon as possible."
It was the first time the team addressed questions on the management of the town after the General Election. Sengkang GRC, a newly formed ward of more than 120,000 voters, is only the second Group Representation Constituency to be won by an opposition party in Singapore’s history.
It is made up of the former Punggol East SMC, part of Sengkang West SMC and the Sengkang Central division of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. Sengkang West was managed together with Ang Mo Kio GRC.
The team of Ms He, economist Jamus Lim, 44, equity research analyst Louis Chua, 33, and social activist Raeesah Khan, 26, beat a People's Action Party (PAP) team that included labour chief Ng Chee Meng, 51, and two other political office holders - Dr Lam Pin Min, 50, and Mr Amrin Amin, 42, as well as first-time candidate Raymond Lye, 54.
When asked about whether the team will be full-time Members of Parliament, Ms He said that they were still discussing the issue within their "personal and professional capacities", and will release information about it soon.
WP chief Pritam Singh also said that Sengkang GRC was likely to have its own town council, separate from the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council.
"Sengkang, we believe, has the economies of scale that will allow it to stand as a standalone town council. That's our approach and our preference going forward but like I said, subject to whatever further meetings we have with the existing managing agent," he said.
Meanwhile, the town had yet to be gazetted by the Ministry of National Development and municipal issues are still managed by existing town councils, he said.
He did not give details on a timeline for the handover but added: "We’ll be in a position to say more after those meetings (with the managing agents) take place and most importantly, after the town has been gazetted and the MP-elects are councillors on the new town council."
Ms He said that due to the prevailing COVID-19 situation, Meet-the-People sessions were suspended, but she encouraged residents to write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org if they had questions or faced problems.
In response to a question on what were some of the key factors that contributed to her team's victory in Sengkang GRC, Ms He said that there was a "match" between the team and residents of Sengkang, many of whom are young families.
"We also spoke our hearts – we did communicate our message to the ground and we did walk and speak to all the residents ... We believe that Singapore needs change, we believe in a better future for Singapore, and it appears that some of these messages resonated with the voters of Sengkang," she said.
OPEN TO WORKING WITH OTHER PARTIES
WP had made significant gains after winning Sengkang GRC in the General Election, increasing the number of seats it will hold in Parliament from six to 10.
Immediately after the election, Mr Singh was recognised by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as the official Leader of the Opposition. In response to reporters’ questions on this, Mr Singh said this was a first for Singapore since independence and he is awaiting details from Parliament on what this entails.
When asked if WP will be working with other opposition parties, in particular PSP, which will be offered two Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) seats, Mr Singh said: "We are grateful for anybody who supports us and I thank him (PSP chief Dr Tan Cheng Bock) for some kind comments that he made through the campaign."
WP chair Sylvia Lim said that with PSP in Parliament, there will opportunity to work together.
"There will be ample opportunity, I believe, in the coming years, for us to work collaboratively as much as possible with any party who should decide to pick up the NCMP seats if it's not WP, to move the agenda forward and to play our role as constructive opposition."
Mr Singh also touched on a similar point when responding to a question on how the party would work with the PAP.
Noting that the country was in "turbulent waters" due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said: "The whole country has to unite to come out of this situation and that means our focus really has to be on good outcomes for Singapore and Singaporeans."
"And if it means we work with anyone to get that outcome, we will do so because there are people on the ground who are suffering."
He added: "So I think we should be very focused on what is at stake here, rather than think about the political position that the party should take or should hedge. I don't think that would be the right way forward."
FRESH MP-ELECTS IN ALJUNIED
Ms Lim also announced that MP-elect Gerald Giam, 42, will be taking over former WP chief Low Thia Khiang's Bedok Reservoir-Punggol division in Aljunied GRC.
Mr Singh will remain in Eunos and Mr Faisal Manap in Kaki Bukit, while Mr Leon Perera will takeover Ms Lim's former division of Serangoon as she moves over to Paya Lebar - formerly under Mr Chen Show Mao’s charge.
The GE2020 results, which saw a vote swing towards opposition parties, in particular WP, has prompted senior PAP leaders to speak of a need for “soul searching and reflection”.
A “flight to safety” due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was predicted by some political analysts, did not occur. Instead, the ruling PAP’s share of the popular vote fell by about 9 percentage points to 61.24 per cent - near its record low in 2011, when WP had won Aljunied GRC.
The party not only retained Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, it improved its performance in both wards. In the Group Representation Constituencies it lost - East Coast and Marine Parade, it also improved on its 2015 showing.
In total, the vote share in the 21 seats that WP contested edged above 50 per cent.
Mr Singh said the party had run a "tight" and "strong campaign which was not grounded on ... shooting from the hip".
Instead, the WP has consistently put across a message to voters that it was in the self interest of Singaporeans to have more opposition MPs in Parliament, he said.
"I’m glad that voters in Aljunied, Hougang and Sengkang considered that message," he said.