SINGAPORE: With the prospect of a General Election growing, the recent resignations of a number of senior officials in the public sector have taken on added significance, as in past years, with the expectation that they will stand as People’s Action Party (PAP) candidates.
Soon to join the growing list of former public servants is chief executive of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) Tan Kiat How, whose impending movement was announced on Monday.
All eyes will now be on these potential candidates who have already been spotted, either on the ground or engaging residents at community events online.
Political observer Eugene Tan said that before the “circuit breaker” the PAP focused on “soft introducing” potential candidates from the private sector. As the election draws nearer, candidates who are formerly from the public sector are now in the spotlight.
"The public sector, including the military, remains a favourite ‘hunting’ ground for the PAP,” said the Associate Professor of Law from Singapore Management University. “However, we can expect more candidates from the private sector this time. Anecdotally, it would appear that the candidates with a private sector background will outnumber the public sector ones.
"The preference for candidates with some public sector experience and expertise remains strong for the PAP, especially for those earmarked for political appointments after being elected."
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Political analyst and SIM Global Education associate lecturer Felix Tan said there appears to be "no huge deviation" from the PAP's pre-election modus operandi this time.
"This has always been a tried and tested formula that the PAP can rely on," he said. "They have the necessary competence and experience in the public service, which will be important in the running of the governmental bureaucracy. So, it comes as no surprise that the PAP will once again tap on such resources."
Here’s a look at the potential candidates and where they may be contesting:
TAN KIAT HOW, 43, OUTGOING CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF IMDA
Mr Tan is stepping down as chief executive of IMDA on Jun 20.
In response to CNA's queries, the outgoing chief executive said on Monday (Jun 15) that he will be taking "a short break".
"My plans are still being firmed up. It would be premature to share them now," said Mr Tan, adding that he and his wife are expecting their first child in August.
"I would like to spend time with her and prepare for the baby’s arrival.”
Mr Tan was appointed IMDA's chief executive in January 2017 to lead the merger of what was the Infocomm Development Authority and the then-Media Development Authority to form IMDA.
He has been engaging residents in East Coast during recent webinars on digitalisation. On Jun 13, he was a guest speaker in a webinar for East Coast GRC residents and on Jun 6, he was a panellist in a webinar hosted by Member of Parliament Lee Yi Shyan, who oversees Kampong Chai Chee in the GRC.
In the Jun 6 webinar, Mr Tan said: “Kampong Chai Chee is very close to my heart, every weekend I’m at Block 216 market. In fact, this morning I was just there tabao-ing (buying takeaway) peanut pancakes for my parents.”
Mr Lee, along with former Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, are the two incumbent MPs from East Coast who are expected to leave the GRC. East Coast GRC, which the Workers’ Party contested in the last election, was the GRC where PAP had its closest winning margin in GE2015.
DESMOND TAN KOK MING, 49, FORMER PEOPLE’S ASSOCIATION (PA) CHIEF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Mr Tan stepped down as PA chief on Jun 15, after a stint of three-and-a-half years. Mr Tan led PA’s ground operations as part of the whole-of-government COVID-19 response, said PA in announcing his departure.
Before joining PA, he was a brigadier-general and his last appointment was Chief of Staff of the General Staff in the army.
Mr Tan was tagged on May 31 by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, anchor minister for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, in a Facebook post which said that they had a meeting with 150 activists from Punggol.
Pasir Ris-Punggol, one of two GRCs with six seats, shrank to become a five-member GRC with the release of the Electoral Boundaries report in March. It was contested by the Singapore Democratic Alliance in the last election.
GAN SIOW HUANG, 45, FORMER REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE AIR FORCE BRIGADIER-GENERAL
Ms Gan was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general in 2015, becoming the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) first female general.
When she resigned from the SAF in March, she held the position of Chief of Staff-Air, and she is now the deputy chief executive of e2i, the employment and employability institute under the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). She is also chief commissioner of the Girl Guides Singapore.
In March, she was spotted in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who is the GRC’s lead minister. She has also been distributing masks and food to residents there.
Bishan-Toa Payoh, which currently has five MPs, will become a four-member GRC in the upcoming election after part of the it was carved out to form Marymount SMC. The GRC was contested in 2015 by the Singapore People’s Party.
FAHMI ALIMAN, 43, FORMER MUIS DEPUTY CHIEF EXECUTIVE
Mr Mohd Fahmi Aliman joined the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) last year but left on Mar 24.
The former colonel was in the SAF for 26 years and at one point, served as director of the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Coordination Centre. He is now with NTUC.
On Mar 22, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who helms Marine Parade GRC, posted a photo of himself with Mr Fahmi, former IHH Healthcare CEO Dr Tan See Leng, Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan and MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling.
“My dream team for West Coast GRC or anywhere,” he wrote.
Last month, Mr Fahmi was also out and about with Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, another MP from Marine Parade GRC.
Marine Parade GRC, which was contested by the Workers’ Party in 2015, has had part of it hived off to Potong Pasir SMC but remains a five-member GRC.
NG LING LING, 48, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL AT MINISTRY OF HEALTH
Ms Ng, who was Her World's Woman of the Year in 2018, left the health ministry’s Office for Healthcare Transformation (MOHT) in March. She is now a consultant for MOHT, the Straits Times reported.
She joined the National Council of Social Service in 2001 from the banking sector, and had led the Community Chest from 2013 to 2018.
She is to be the speaker for a Zoom webinar with Jalan Kayu residents on Jun 20 hosted by Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Intan Mokhtar, who has been introducing Ms Ng to residents online.
Ms Ng was at Ms Intan’s virtual Meet-the-People session on Jun 11, and has been part of other Zoom sessions for residents in the area. She is also the co-chairman of the Social & Financial Resilience Committee of Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sengkang West SMC Grassroots Organisations.
Ang Mo Kio GRC is the other six-member GRC to be downsized to five members. It is led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and was contested by the Reform Party in 2015.
YIP HON WENG, 43, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL AT AGENCY FOR INTEGRATED CARE
The former group chief of the Silver Generation Office under the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) left the public service on Jun 12, AIC said in a statement, adding that he has also left his concurrent role as Advisor (Care Integration) in the Ministry of Health.
"He has left the Public Service to pursue other career opportunities in line with his professional goals and interests," said AIC.
At AIC, Mr Yip led the nationwide Merdeka Generation outreach, and put in place key initiatives to support vulnerable seniors during this COVID-19 situation, the agency said. Before this, he worked in several ministries, including the Ministry of National Development and the Ministry of Defence.
The Straits Times reported that he took part in a meeting with Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon and Silver Generation Ambassadors earlier in June.
Mr Koh is one of the MPs for Ang Mo Kio GRC, but his Yio Chu Kang division has been carved out as an SMC in the coming election.