SINGAPORE: The People’s Action Party (PAP) officially introduced its first batch of new candidates for the coming General Election (GE) on Wednesday morning (Aug 12).
Joining the five-member Group Representation Constituency (GRC) are Mr Chee Hong Tat, Mr Chong Kee Hiong and Mr Saktiandi Supaat, who were unveiled at a coffeeshop at Toa Payoh Central.
The three new PAP faces who will contest Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC: Mr Chee Hong Tat, Mr Chong Kee Hiong and Mr Saktiandi Supaat.
The five PAP candidates for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC will be:
Dr Ng Eng Hen, 56, Defence Minister
Dr Ng is the current Defence Minister as well as the Leader of the House in Parliament. He previously served as the Manpower Minister from 2004 to 2008, and Education Minister from 2008 to 2011. He has been a Member of Parliament (MP) with the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC since 2001.
Mrs Josephine Teo, 47, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Finance
Mrs Teo is the Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transport. She has been an MP with the Bishan Toa-Payoh GRC since 2006.
Mr Chee Hong Tat, 41, former Second Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry
Mr Chee, a resident of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, is married with four children. He joined the Civil Service in 1998 and worked in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Finance, Transport and Education, before being appointed as Principal Private Secretary to Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 2008. He became Chief Executive of the Energy Market Authority in 2011, and was appointed Second Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 2014.
"I am a resident of Bishan-Toa Payoh, so I'm very happy that the Prime Minister has decided to field me here. I have a very fond attachment to this place. One of my priorities is to meet as many residents as I can through house, market visits. I want to hear from residents how we can improve their living environment, improve their lives, for both HDB and private estates," he said.
"We have quite a significant elderly population. Residents tell me they want more walkways to make it more convenient for them, and more green spaces.
“I have much to learn but I will work very hard and do my best to serve my residents. Together, we can build a stronger Singapore and a better future for all of us and our children."
Speaking in dialect, he added: "If you have a job to do, do it well."
Mr Chong Kee Hiong, 49, Chief Executive Officer, OUE Hospitality Trust
Prior to joining OUE Hospitality, Mr Chong was the CEO of The Ascott from February 2012 to May 2013 and CEO of Ascott Residence Trust Management from 2005 to February 2012. From May 2001 to September 2004, he was with Raffles Holdings as their chief financial officer.
Married with four school-going children, Mr Chong is also the vice-chairman of the Bishan East CCC and chairman of NTUC Foodfare.
“We should also bear in mind that policies are not one-size-fits-all but we must be inclusive. By paying attention to the ground, we can then ensure that help reaches those who need it so that everyone has a fair chance of succeeding and no one is left behind," he said.
"The last two years have given me plenty of opportunities to interact with residents. I'm a Bishan East resident myself."
On taking over Mr Wong Kan Seng's ward in Toa Payoh, Mr Chong said he had "big shoes to fill".
Mr Saktiandi Supaat, 41, Head of Foreign Exchange Research, Maybank
Mr Saktiandi is the Executive Vice President and Head of the FX Research team in Global Markets, Global Banking of Maybank. Prior to joining the private sector in 2010, he was a Lead Economist in the Economic Policy Department of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Married with three young children, Mr Saktiandi is the chairman of the Malay/Muslim Community Leaders’ Forum Labs Steering Committee, and is currently a board member in SPRING and the Civil Service College.
“No man is an island. We are all part of a whole. By coming together, especially in difficult times, we will become stronger against challenges and adversity. We need to live in that gotong-royong spirit and be selfless in lifting the community in both good times and turbulent ones," he said.
On why he decided to stand for elections, Mr Saktiandi, who grew up in a kampung, said: "I've seen Singapore progress since my childhood. I believe in the Singapore dream."
He added that his years helping out at the grassroots level showed him that there are "people who fell between the cracks".
"The role of the dedicated MP has three parts: Raising and debating issues at the national level; fixing issues at the municipal level; and keeping alive the community spirit within Bishan-Toa Payoh."
The three new candidates will replace lawyer Hri Kumar Nair, Singapore football chief Zainudin Nordin and former Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng, who will not be contesting the upcoming elections. All were present at the unveiling of the new candidates on Wednesday morning.
"Bishan-Toa Payoh will always have a place in my heart," said Mr Wong, who entered Parliament in 1984 in Kuo Chuan SMC, before becoming part of a 3-member GRC team that scored a walkover in what was then known as Toa Payoh GRC in 1988.
Mr Zainudin, who was elected to Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC in 2001, said: "It's been a wonderful and enriching experience serving the residents. That brings me the most satisfaction and joy. But we know that as a party we must continue to be relevant to the people. I requested not to stand at the next GE because the time is right for me to focus on my family. It's been a long time."
Said Mr Hri Kumar: "I have had to refocus my priorities because my wife is ill. She's doing well, but she's compelled me to rethink how I spend my time.
"You never quite retire from politics. We are all citizens and so we all have stakes in how the country is run, by the most capable team possible. Honesty and integrity are all we ask of our politicians."
RECAP: The People's Action Party’s three new candidates in Bishan-Toa Payoh recap what exactly they hope to achieve for residents if they are elected. http://bit.ly/1N2wS5e(Video by Lee Gim Siong)Posted by 938LIVE on Wednesday, 12 August 2015
This leaves Dr Ng and Mrs Teo as the only remaining members of the PAP team which contested Bishan-Toa Payoh at the 2011 GE. The PAP won 56.93 per cent of the vote against a Singapore People’s Party (SPP) outfit comprising Mr Chiam See Tong, Mr Lee Yeong Wee, Mr Wilfred Leung, Mr Hamim Aliyas and Mr Benjamin Pwee.
For the coming elections, the Opposition intends to send a joint team made up of the SPP - led by Mr Chiam’s wife Lina - and Mr Pwee’s Democratic Progressive Party.
Wednesday’s announcement kicks off the PAP’s unveiling of both new and retiring candidates over the next two weeks.
In a break from tradition, PAP said it will announce its entire slate of candidates for the next General Election over the coming fortnight, before the National Day Rally takes place on Aug 23, according to Dr Ng.
On Wednesday, the PAP Organising Secretary said the choice to unveil the candidates early was "good politics". He added: "It puts Singaporeans at the centre of the elections."
On the venue of the unveiling, Dr Ng said: "It reflects our message that this is what elections are about. This is as heartland as heartland goes. Toa Payoh is the oldest estate. We wanted to do (this unveiling) in the heartlands to put across the message that elections are about choosing MPs who can take care of your town."
He added: "Bishan-Toa Payoh residents are very savvy. They've seen many elections and are not easily guiled by platitudes or aspirations. They vote from enlightened self-interest; the party that can convince voters who can best take care of them will win their support.
"We take the Singapore People's Party and Democratic Progressive Party team in Bishan-Toa Payoh very seriously. We welcome the contest."
Dr Ng was also asked about suggestions that the Government was planning for elections now, by capitalising on the recent groundswell of goodwill among Singaporeans.
Singapore is celebrating its Golden Jubilee, while remembering the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding Prime Minister, who died in March.
"We have been looking for candidates for a full four years. Mr Saktiandi, Mr Chong Kee Hiong, have been on the ground two over years. We have begun preparations for the General Election in earnest for four years. The record speaks for itself. We did not cobble this team on a whim. We thought very carefully about where we put our candidates, who best fits the profile," said Dr Ng.
"But we still have to govern in the meantime. And the Golden Jubilee is the Golden Jubilee. I would say this - it is not easy being Organising Secretary and having to oversee the National Day Parade celebrations, so I just ask for a little sympathy. But since the National Day celebrations and the Parade went off well, that's a huge sigh of relief. And after that, I could really ask the party to focus on the election because we are in election season," he added.