Friday, 28 August 2015

GE2015: PAP introduces 2 new faces in Nee Soon GRC

Shanmugam on need for new voices
PAP needs candidates who represent each generation, or risks becoming irrelevant
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2015

The People's Action Party (PAP) must field candidates who give voice to each generation, or risks becoming irrelevant, said Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday.

"The Parliament has to be representative of those generational changes. Otherwise, you get disconnected," he said at a press conference to introduce the party's candidates for Nee Soon GRC, which he leads.

To that end, Mr Shanmugam has on his slate one of the party's first candidates from an activist background, animal-rights champion Louis Ng, 37.

The vocal chief executive of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) replaces unionist Patrick Tay in the slate, who will run in West Coast GRC instead. The other new face in the group representation constituency is fund manager Henry Kwek, 39, who will be fielded in retiring MP Inderjit Singh's place, while two incumbent MPs, Ms Lee Bee Wah and Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, round out the team.

Mr Shanmugam said that Mr Ng was one of the "young people who come in representing a new ethos and a changing value system."

He added: "That is the only way a political party can stay well ahead.

"(The new candidates) don't represent the universe of the new generation, but if you look at the younger generation, people are much more interested in causes."

Mr Ng, the father of an 18-month-old girl, said he was keen to join politics as it was "a chance to do more" for both animals and people. In particular, he sees politics as a larger platform to mobilise Singaporeans to volunteer.

Volunteer rates are dropping, he noted, a trend which worries him.

Mr Ng has often found himself on opposing sides with the Government on animal-rights issues, but he said Mr Shanmugam taught him that "change can come from collaboration, not from a fight."

"I think being collaborative provides win-win situations for all," he said, adding that his previous combative tactics yielded ACRES publicity, but was "not very effective in terms of legislative or mindset change".

"We activists have to be constructive. If we 'die-die' want to stand firm on a position, then we cannot progress," he said. "The ball is in our court - it is our job to engage and convince."

Mr Shanmugam also used his two candidates' different profiles to illustrate how the PAP is broad enough to be where "diverse viewpoints meet".

Mr Kwek, who comes from an economics and management background, said that one of his concerns is how Singapore businesses are faring in the uncertain global economic environment.

"Henry comes from a family with fairly extensive business interests (and) runs his own fund management," said Mr Shanmugam.

"When I first met him, I saw a young man who (could) look at the future and, with his economics background, understand immediately the challenges," he said. "I felt someone like that has got to come in (to politics)."

But politics is also about heart, he said, which is why Mr Kwek spent several years making house visits and writing letters for residents in his Chong Pang ward. He was also the branch secretary for two years.

Mr Shanmugam's Chong Pang ward has been the launching pad for several PAP hopefuls in this general election, as it was in the past.

New faces like Chua Chu Kang GRC candidate Yee Chia Hsing and Sembawang GRC candidate Amrin Amin were also first spotted and groomed by Mr Shanmugam.

"I take very seriously this process of bringing in people," he said.

"We need to bring in fresh blood all the time. And unless you at the top actively do it, it won't happen by itself."

The PAP team in Nee Soon GRC is likely to face the Workers' Party (WP) at the September polls.

In 2011, it beat the WP team there with 58.4 per cent of the vote share.

Today, we introduced the PAP team for Nee Soon GRC, for the upcoming GE. Joining me, Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim...
Posted by K Shanmugam Sc on Wednesday, August 26, 2015

'Most feel Govt has got major social policies right'
By Rachel Chang, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2015

Most Singaporeans feel that the Government has got major social and economic policies right since it began moving towards greater state support, Law Minister K Shanmugam said yesterday, though he added that it did not necessarily mean an increased vote share for the PAP.

Speaking at the introduction of new candidates for the PAP's Nee Soon GRC slate, which he leads, Mr Shanmugam said even though most people acknowledge that the Government is doing its best to respond to long- and short-term issues, local factors and intangibles may still come into play at the coming polls.

Answering a question on how the party would win back the "protest vote" that saw its vote share sink to 60.1 per cent in the 2011 polls, he said economic factors like the 2008 global economic crisis played a role in the 2011 election result.

No incumbent government around the world went through an election in the 2008 to 2012 period without suffering losses, said Mr Shanmugam.

But he emphasised that the PAP Government's shift to the left in social policies was not a "kneejerk reaction" to the elections, echoing a point made by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in a speech earlier this month, when he said that "the world did not start in 2011".

Referring to the 2007 Workfare scheme which tops up wages of low-income workers, Mr Shanmugam said: "From 2007, those changes were made, and they were made with a view to impending social, demographic, substantive economic change.

"And you see over the last eight years those changes being put in place one at a time."

He recognised, however, that there were issues which the Government acted on, such as resentment over the long wait and high prices for housing, that were "specific to 2011".

"The key is that the Government showed that it is trying its best to deal with the issues that arise," said Mr Shanmugam.

"The critical thing is, have we got the major policies right starting from 2007?"

Given ground reaction, the answer is largely positive from Singaporeans, he said.

Asked about the likely Workers' Party (WP) challengers in Nee Soon GRC, Mr Shanmugam referenced the opposition party's troubled management of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council.

"What I will say is our town council has never had its accounts qualified. It's always run a surplus because we husbanded the resources carefully. We spent $26 million on helping our residents and nevertheless ended up with surplus," he said.

Both the WP's own auditors and the Auditor-General's Office could not give AHPETC's accounts a clean bill of health.

Mr Shanmugam added: "The voters will have to decide whether they want to subsidise any of the town councils that's in deficit."

"I am sure that issue will come up, because when there's a deficit, as has happened before, one way of covering the deficit is merging it with another town council that has got a healthy amount of money."


In my speech at the press conference yesterday, I said that since 2011, I've been the most outspoken MP in Parliament....
Posted by Lee Bee Wah on Thursday, August 27, 2015

Projects of the Govt ' likely to go on as planned'
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2015

Whether constituency plans will come to fruition if the PAP team is not elected depends on the type of project, said Law and Foreign Minister K.Shanmugam at a press conference to introduce candidates for Nee Soon GRC.

He was responding to a question about whether PAP candidates - many of whom are rolling out constituency plans ahead of the September polls - would fulfil their promises if they were not elected.

Some, like the upcoming Thomson East Coast MRT line which runs through part of the GRC, are "the plans of the Government" and are likely to go on as planned.

But some projects are planned by the town council, and others depend on the extent individual MPs engage the various agencies involved, he said.

Projects by the town council "depend on who runs it, how much money there is, and how well you run it", he said, in a thinly-veiled reference to the ongoing spat between the Government and the Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council.

He cited the role played by PAP slate-mate Lee Bee Wah, an engineer, in the design of an upcoming town centre as an example of how some projects are influenced by the working relationship between agencies and MPs.

"We wanted an integrated bus station different from the original plans. So even if it is the Government's plans, you can, in Bee Wah's words, 'fight about it' and make some changes," he said.

This depends on an MP's ability to persuade agencies that such changes are good, he added.

As for whether PAP candidates would stay on to push such plans if they were not voted, he said that it would be up to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the ruling party's secretary-general.

"But I've served here for 27 years, and even the new candidates have been here for several years. And I'm sure we will want to serve the residents."

Adding diversity to team
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2015

Louis Ng, 37

Occupation: Chief executive of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES).

Family: Married to a stay-at-home mum, 38, who also works part-time in ACRES. They have a daughter, 18 months old.

Education: Bachelor of Science in biology from the National University of Singapore, Master of Science in primate conservation from Oxford Brookes University.

Hobbies: Jogging, reading, travelling and watching wildlife.

Why politics?

I'm not leaving the animal movement. In fact, I want to do more. Politics gives me the chance to bring the whole movement up another level.

I can catch pythons and monkeys, but I am also more than that. I want to be the bridge between the Government and the people, and engage and mobilise people for change.

Why you?

As an activist for the last 14 years, I've gained significant experience in how to engage, empower and mobilise people. I've walked the talk and I'd like to bring the experience into politics now. I also bring diversity to the team.

What issues will you focus on?

Animal welfare is a cause I will always champion, if elected. But I also want to encourage volunteerism , as well as promote the positive aspects of parenthood.

It's good that new measures like the increased Baby Bonus and extra paternity leave will be implemented. I want to see how we can go one step further to help support people who want children but are afraid they don't have time to look after them.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

West Coast Park. My daughter loves sitting on the swings there, you push her and she just laughs, it's one of the nicest sounds .

It's also important to have green areas near us so we can rest and relax, and not become this fast-paced city.

Ability to see many perspectives
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2015

Henry Kwek, 39

Occupation: Executive director of an investment, trading and management consulting company

Family: Married

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Economics, and Masters of Science in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University

Hobbies: Reading, sports, exploring different cultures

Why politics?

Because I feel Singapore is at a crossroads. On the one hand, we're going into the future with resources former generations could only dream of.

On the other hand, we face a lot of significant challenges, like an ageing population and uncertainty on the global economic front.

How can our society deal with the promises and the challenges? It is important that future generations come forward to be of service.

Why you?

I have a combination of public-sector and private-sector experience, as well as a few years in the grassroots. I think I see things from different sides and that would be useful.

What issues will you focus on?

If the the global economy continues to deteriorate, we must step in quickly because jobs are at risk. One possible way is to launch a cost-cutting committee to look at all the cost factors businesses face.

A second policy is about motorcycle costs. There's room for us to apply what we've done for cars to motorcycles; to distinguish between the average motorcycles used by many Singaporeans, and the Harley Davidsons.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

Casuarina prata shop, which I've been going to from a very young age. I also particularly love the prawn mee in Mayflower hawker centre and the chwee kueh in Sembawang Hills hawker centre.

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