Saturday, 29 August 2015

GE2015: PAP introduces East Coast GRC, Fengshan & Punggol East SMC candidates

Singapore faces challenge of 'three peaks': Swee Say
By Jeremy Au Yong, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2015

The leaders who emerge from the Sept 11 General Election will have to tackle key challenges posed by peaks in Singapore's workforce, population and the elderly.

Calling them the "three peaks", Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said yesterday that much is at stake at the polls because strategies will have to be found to address the implications of these issues.

"The way we grew our economy in the past... is no longer sustainable. It was the right strategy for the last decade, but it would not be the right strategy for the next decade and beyond," he said.

This is why it is important that voters back candidates who can help take the country forward over the next 50 years, he added.

"It's important to make sure that at the local level, we're electing people who can serve the community at the local level," he said.

"But I think it's even more important for us to put together a team to ensure that we can lead; we can serve Singapore at the national level for the next 10, 20, 50 years."

He was speaking at the People's Action Party's (PAP) Bedok branch, where the PAP candidates for East Coast GRC and Fengshan, the single-member constituency carved out of the group representation constituency, were introduced.

Ending speculation over who it would field in Fengshan, the party named long-time grassroots worker Cheryl Chan, 38. She replaces former minister Raymond Lim, who is quitting politics, and is expected to face a Workers' Party (WP) opponent, who is yet to be named.

The four remaining East Coast GRC incumbents will run again - anchor minister Lim Swee Say, 61, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan, 53, Minister of State for National Development and Defence Mohamad Maliki Osman, 50, and two-term backbencher Jessica Tan, 49. In 2011, they won with just 54.8 per cent of the vote, a nine-point drop from 2006.

Meanwhile, PAP veteran Charles Chong, 62, settled another question by announcing that he will try to take back Punggol East SMC from WP incumbent Lee Li Lian. He issued a statement, breaking from the PAP tradition of holding a press conference.

The WP, Singapore Democratic Party and Reform Party (RP) introduced candidates as well.

While introducing his candidates for West Coast GRC and Radin Mas SMC, RP chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam said the party believes every Singaporean below 16 should get a $300 monthly child benefit, and everyone over 65, a $500 monthly pension.


We believe that this GE is especially important. Why so? What keeps some of us awake at night? I think if you look at Singapore today, it is a nation in transition. The way we grew our economy in the past... is no longer sustainable. It was the right strategy for the last decade but it would not be the right strategy for the next decade and beyond.

"What keeps us awake at night?"
"This is a nation in transition. The transition is very challenging. The economy is in transition. Our population is also in transition," says People's Action Party candidate for East Coast GRC Lim Swee Say. "I'm committed to do whatever I can to help Singapore through transitions"
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Wednesday, August 26, 2015

So the economy is going through a transition, a very challenging one. Our workforce growth will reach a peak at some point in time in the near future. Our population will reach a peak at some point in time in the near future. Our ageing, likewise, will reach a peak in the not-too-distant future - I believe it will be in my lifetime.

So we are confronted with how to overcome these three peaks: the workforce peak, the population peak and the ageing peak.

At the end of the day... it is important to make sure that we are electing people who can serve the community at the local level. But, I think (it is) even more important for us to put together a team to ensure that we can lead, we can serve Singapore at the national level for the next 10, 20, 50 years.

- MANPOWER MINISTER AND PAP CANDIDATE FOR EAST COAST GRC LIM SWEE SAY, on the "three peaks" that Singapore must contend with in a challenging economic transition

Lessons learnt from close fight: Swee Say
By Rachel Chang, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2015

The People's Action Party team in East Coast GRC has learnt lessons from the 9-percentage-point drop in vote share it saw in the 2011 General Election, anchor minister Lim Swee Say said yesterday, and is heading to the coming polls "fighting to win".

Speaking at the unveiling of a PAP slate that many political watchers see as its most politically vulnerable, the Manpower Minister made pitches at the national, local and personal level for voters' support.

At the local level, he said the PAP team has learnt that "people don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care".

"It's not good enough just to know how to solve problems, how to improve situations," he said. "More importantly, you must make sure people on the ground understand we know what they care about, and we care about what they care about."

Besides Mr Lim, the other three in East Coast GRC are Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan, 53; Minister of State for National Development and Defence Maliki Osman, 50; and two-term backbencher Jessica Tan, 49.

All are standing for re-election.

The Fengshan division, carved out as a single seat, will be contested by newcomer and long-time grassroots volunteer Cheryl Chan, 38. She replaces retiring MP Raymond Lim.

All five candidates have spent the past four years in "deep engagement" with small groups of residents, explaining new policies and hearing ground concerns, they said.

With this approach, they have seen breakthrough connections with residents, declared Mr Lim, saying that after four years, he feels a bond with his Bedok residents as deep as what he had with Buona Vista residents after 15 years there.

Mr Lim moved from Buona Vista to East Coast GRC in 2011. In that election, the PAP won 54.8 per cent of the vote against a Workers' Party team - its narrowest win for a GRC.

On whether the improvements the team made give credence to the WP's argument that its 2011 showing helped keep the ruling party on its toes, Mr Lim said it has already learnt its lessons. "We make our changes, we make our improvements. We do not need another drop of 5 percentage points for us to continue to improve. In fact, if there's another drop of 9 percentage points, we won't be their MP any more."

Mr Gerald Giam is likely to mount a return challenge in the polls as leader of the WP's slate.

Yesterday, Mr Lim would not speculate on what increased voteshare the slate hopes their deep engagement strategy would yield.

Mr Lim also emphasised this GE's significance at the national level.

Singapore is undergoing a transition, nearing "three peaks" of workforce growth, population growth and ageing, he said.

These would all put pressure on opportunities for economic growth and required adept leadership to steer Singapore through, he said.

Thus, beyond local issues, he said, it is even more important that the PAP be allowed to "put together a team to ensure that we can lead, we can serve Singapore at the national level for the next 10, 20, 50 years".

Looking back, he said that Singapore has succeeded in the last 50 years because of a combination of "good policies and good politics".

The PAP government's policies have not stayed static, but evolved to meet the changing needs of people, he said, citing changes in social policies over the years.

This was made possible by "good politics" - unmired in confrontation between political parties.

Mr Lim, 61, turned personal as he spoke about wanting to complete the work he has started in the Manpower Ministry, which he took over only in May, and to groom a younger successor in Cabinet.

"I believe I still have a lot of energy, a lot of ideas to contribute," he said, adding his decades in the labour movement attuned him to workers' anxieties and aspirations.

"I think there's a lot more that we can do and want to do, especially (in) strengthening the Singaporean core (in the workforce)," he said. "And I really hope the voters of East Coast will give me the privilege."

The PAP now has just one more round of introductions to go - its team for the WP-held Aljunied GRC will be revealed today.

Transport Minister's a thankless job, Mr Lee told Raymond Lim
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2015

Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew once told former transport minister Raymond Lim that helming the transport portfolio was "a thankless job".

In "quintessentially Lee Kuan Yew fashion", he then added: "But someone here has to do it."

Mr Lim recounted this encounter at the introduction of the PAP's East Coast GRC slate for the coming polls yesterday. He is retiring from politics, and his successor in the Fengshan division, Ms Cheryl Chan, will be making a historic bid as a new candidate in a single-seat constituency.

Mr Lim would not be drawn into why he asked to leave the transport portfolio after five years, nor why his successor, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, has announced that he will do the same.

Mr Lui will not be contesting the coming elections, and is leaving politics after nine years - four of those spent helming the transport portfolio. "Transport is a challenging ministry," said Mr Lim yesterday. "I think each transport minister faces his own set of challenges."

During his tenure, the issue was crowdedness on trains because of the rapid rise of the population, while for Mr Lui, it is the reliability of the train network which has come under the spotlight, he said.

"I believe that each transport minister, from Yeo Ning Hong all the way to Lui Tuck Yew, tries his level best to deal with the issues," said Mr Lim. "And in Tuck Yew's case, I'm very sure that, as he said, he gave his utmost. And I wish him all the best."

Mr Lim's strong bond with his East Coast GRC teammates was evident at the introduction session yesterday - his last public appearance with his political colleagues.

He told reporters that it has been an honour and a privilege to be an MP and minister. Mr Lim entered politics in 2001 and was made a minister of state after he was elected. He became a full minister in 2005.

"I've always believed that in life, there are causes much greater than ourselves, and that there's no greater cause than that a man be called upon to serve his country and its people," he said.

While Mr Lim spoke, East Coast GRC's anchor minister, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, became teary-eyed. He later said they were "tears of gratefulness to Raymond".

Earlier, Mr Lim Swee Say praised Mr Raymond Lim as a bright, sharp and serious-minded political leader, who built up a strong and committed team of activists in Fengshan.

Mr Lim Swee Say added that he had feared Mr Raymond Lim - a former Straits Times political journalist and founding member of civil society group The Roundtable - was "just another armchair critic".

"But all my doubts disappeared when he stepped forward to serve," he said.

First-timer runs solo in new SMC
Long-term PAP volunteer to contest Fengshan and will likely face WP opponent
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2015

For the first time in nearly three decades, the People's Action Party is fielding a first-time candidate to run solo in a new single-member constituency.

Ms Cheryl Chan, 38, who has been a party volunteer for 10 years, will contest Fengshan, which was carved out from East Coast GRC.

She is the first new PAP candidate to be fielded in a new SMC since the group representation constituency system was introduced in 1988.

She is expected to face an opponent from the Workers' Party who has yet to be named, and the Fengshan contest is already being talked about as a hot contest in this year's general election.

Ms Chan was introduced officially yesterday, putting to rest months of speculation over who would succeed incumbent MP Raymond Lim, who is quitting politics after 14 years.

Mr Lim told reporters at the PAP Bedok branch that she is a new candidate but not an unfamiliar face in Fengshan: "She lived in Fengshan for many years and has been an active volunteer for more than a decade... She knows the ground well."

During this time, Ms Chan was actively involved in branch activities, supported Meet-the-People Sessions and conducted house visits. As chairman of the community club management committee, she also started a befrienders programme for lonely senior citizens.

Political observers said the work she has done and the rapport she established with residents will stand her in good stead against her opponent in the contest for votes.

"If she has been successful, she will have built up a good deal of political capital to tap on," said Dr Gillian Koh, senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies.

Questions about Ms Chan's candidacy in Fengshan dominated much of the two-hour press conference, which also jointly presented the PAP's slate for East Coast GRC.

Among them: Why Fengshan was hived off and whether Ms Chan was being offered up as a "sacrificial lamb".

The suggestions were dismissed by Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, the East Coast GRC's anchor minister.

"I'm aware that out there there's still speculation that Fengshan is being cut off because Fengshan is the weakest link in East Coast GRC. Completely untrue," he said.

He said that in the 2011 General Election, the level of support for the PAP in all five wards of the GRC was "fairly even".

His team won narrowly, beating the WP team by securing 54.8 per cent of the vote.

Mr Lim Swee Say said Ms Chan was being sent to Fengshan because the party has "strong confidence" in her and she was the "best person" for the SMC, given her deep engagement there.

Ms Chan herself was unfazed by who the WP would field, and the talk that the PAP is prepared to sacrifice the SMC to the opposition.

She told reporters that she and her team of activists have worked the ground and are focused on the residents' interest and welfare.

A move into the political arena was the logical next step , she said, adding that she has "full confidence in the team because at the end of the day, it's the residents who really matter to us".

The last time the PAP fielded a first-time woman candidate in an SMC was in 1988. Dr Seet Ai Mee ran in Bukit Gombak, which was formed ahead of the 1988 polls.

Ms Chan's candidacy also appeared to signal a change in the way PAP inducts new blood.

"It may be the PAP trying to explore this new recruitment route of letting long-term party supporters have the chance to stand as candidates in the GE," Dr Koh said.

Sending a woman to Fengshan may also be an astute move.

Said Associate Professor Eugene Tan of the Singapore Management University: "There is much to be said that the PAP's best performers in GE 2011 were both women!"

That year, Dr Amy Khor, now Senior Minister of State, garnered 70.6 per cent of votes at Hong Kah North, fending off Singapore People's Party's Mr Sin Kek Tong. And Ms Grace Fu, now minister, took Yuhua, with a 66.9 per cent vote share, against Singapore Democratic Party's Ms Teo Soh Lung.

Prof Tan said the large number of women contesting in SMCs this year is a sign of the times: that they can hold their own in the political arena and be as competitive as their male counterparts.

Plans to focus on the elderly and needy children
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2015

Cheryl Chan Wei Ling, 38

Occupation: Head of Secondary Industries at The Linde Group, a multinational gas and engineering company

Family: Single. She has an older brother.

Education: Master in Business

Administration from MacQuarie Graduate School of Management, Bachelor of Applied Science (Materials Engineering) from Nanyang Technological University

Hobbies: Cooking, reading, jogging and yoga

Why politics?

Volunteer work has always been meaningful and fulfilling for me. But if elected, I'd be able to reach out to an even broader group of people as I can help shape and implement policies.

Why you?

When the party looks for a candidate, they would look for a person with the values the party upholds. I think they found that I would be able to bring extra value to the team.

What issues will you focus on?

Two specific areas: the elderly and less privileged children.

The seniors have contributed a lot to nation-building and they have a wealth of knowledge that is invaluable to the next generation.

I hope to put in place more projects that will be the bridge between the young and the old.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

The community gardens in Fengshan, where the grassroots volunteers and I spend time with residents.

Will Fengshan take some heat off East Coast GRC?
Marine Parade GRC may pose a tougher fight for PAP in the east
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2015

Over the past two days, the People's Action Party (PAP) has named its line-ups for two GRCs it won by the closest of margins in the 2011 General Election.

With both Marine Parade GRC and East Coast GRC expecting a tight contest at the Sept 11 polls given the likely strong challenge from the Workers' Party (WP), the PAP has stuck with incumbents in both GRCs.

Two key questions on the minds of voters, pundits and yes, bookies, over the next 15 days will be: Who will win, and by how much?

The contest for both GRCs in eastern Singapore cannot be seen in isolation from equally hard fights expected in two adjacent SMCs carved out by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee: Fengshan and MacPherson.

The PAP is headed for a far tougher fight in Fengshan than in MacPherson. As a result, the party may find some of the heat cooling off from East Coast GRC, while Marine Parade GRC is headed for a fiercer contest.

Why should the state of play in Fengshan, with 23,404 voters, and MacPherson, with 28,481 voters, matter to its larger neighbours?

Four-MP East Coast GRC has 99,015 voters, and five-MP Marine Parade GRC has 146,087 voters.

Observers note that voters tend to be affected by developments in neighbouring constituencies, just as residents in Aljunied GRC in areas bordering WP stronghold Hougang before 2011 have tended to be more supportive of the WP.

A key factor for some voters in giving the WP its first-ever GRC in 2011 was the fact that they felt the PAP would otherwise win all the other constituencies it contested.

But Singapore voters also appear to prefer gradual, rather than stark, change. And such an effect might just be at work come Sept 11.

As Dr Gillian Koh of the Institute of Policy Studies notes, if the WP fields someone seen to be strong in Fengshan, this "may make voters in other parts of the island think that since Fengshan might fall, the need for an opposition voice in Parliament is satiated".

There will then be less need for them to seriously consider electing non-PAP politicians into Parliament, she adds.

In other words, East Coast GRC voters may well opt to retain their MPs if they feel voters in Fengshan might give the WP a shot.

Will they? When votes were counted in the 2006 and 2011 general elections, counting agents reported that some polling districts that are now in Fengshan SMC saw a lower vote share for the PAP compared to other areas of East Coast GRC, where the PAP garnered 54.8 per cent of the votes against the WP.

Hence some might now believe that the PAP rates its chances of winning Fengshan this year as slim, given that it is fielding a new candidate there - the first time it has done so in a new SMC since GRCs were introduced in 1988.

No candidate or team enters an election expecting to lose, not least the PAP. Indeed, East Coast GRC anchor minister Lim Swee Say said yesterday he has strong confidence in Ms Cheryl Chan, 38, the PAP's candidate in Fengshan.

"Without that confidence, we would not have placed Cheryl in Fengshan," he said. But the party could be just hedging its bets. Even if that were so, the PAP has a strong candidate in Ms Chan, who has been active on the ground there over the past 10 years.

The WP has yet to announce its candidate for the ward, but law firm partner Dennis Tan, 44, who joined the WP after the 2011 general election, has been actively doing house visits in recent weeks.

As for MacPherson SMC, PAP candidate Tin Pei Ling, 31, is a full-time MP who is popular among residents in spite of a rocky start at the 2011 General Election. That year, widespread criticism of her age and inexperience, and over her entering politics on the coat-tails of her teammates, saw the PAP get 56.6 per cent of votes in Marine Parade GRC against the National Solidarity Party (NSP).

However, in areas that have now come under MacPherson SMC, the PAP pulled in more votes in the 2011 elections than in other areas of the GRC, with the exception of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong's Marine Parade ward.

The WP has not named its candidate for MacPherson, but it could be funeral services company executive Bernard Chen, 29. The NSP has also maintained it intends to contest MacPherson.

How hot might Marine Parade get? The PAP won Marine Parade GRC by a comfortable margin of 18,360 votes in 2011. Without MacPherson, there is no guarantee this may not be chipped away.

The PAP won East Coast GRC by 10,653 votes in 2011 - a drop of 18,405 votes from its margin of 29,058 in 2006. Then, Marine Parade GRC was uncontested.

The PAP teams in both GRCs have been working hard on the ground to engage voters in recent months, especially in Joo Chiat, which as an SMC saw the PAP win by just 388 votes in 2011 and which is now part of Marine Parade GRC.

ESM Goh staying on has further shored up the Marine Parade GRC team led by Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, and deterred the WP from sending a top leader there.

The WP's team there is set to be led by Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, with its East Coast team led by NCMP Gerald Giam.

The WP's leaders seem to have calculated that this contest may be a tough one for them as well.

The battle ahead is still set to be tight. But an added factor may yet work in the PAP's favour in both SMCs: some studies suggest a female candidate may well have a slight edge in winning over undecided voters, especially if she has been on the ground far longer.

Charles Chong to take on WP in Punggol East SMC
PAP veteran confirmed as candidate, says he is aware that he is the opposition there now
By Aaron Low, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2015

Veteran politician Charles Chong was confirmed as the PAP candidate for Punggol East yesterday, ending weeks of speculation on whether he will be the person to challenge Workers' Party's (WP's) Ms Lee Li Lian in the single-member constituency (SMC).

The battle will pit one of the People's Action Party's (PAP's) longest-serving MPs against a relative newcomer from WP.

Mr Chong, 62, former MP of single-seat Joo Chiat, has fought in six general elections since he entered politics in 1988. He started in Sembawang GRC, before moving to Eunos GRC, Pasir Ris GRC and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

In the last polls in 2011, he beat WP's Mr Yee Jenn Jong in Joo Chiat by no more than 388 votes. Joo Chiat is now part of Marine Parade GRC.

Unlike his past contests, this is Mr Chong's first in opposition territory, after Ms Lee, then 34, wrested the SMC from the PAP in a by-election in 2013.

She beat PAP newcomer Koh Poh Koon, among others, in a four-cornered fight for the seat vacated by former Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer, following revelations of his extramarital affair.

Ms Lee got 54.5 per cent of the vote - a result showing a vote swing of 13.5 percentage points to the WP.

Asked about his chances, Mr Chong said they were "50-50".

"I have been here before because part of my old ward, Punggol South, is here," he said. "I see some of the residents who were previously in my ward and they come by to wish me well. But Ms Lee has been here a couple of years and I am well aware that I am the opposition now."

He told The Straits Times that about 40 people have been turning up for his Meet-the-People sessions, a rise from the three to five that came when the meetings were held by the branch chairman.

He believes Punggol East residents are getting a raw deal because it is now part of a town council that is not in good financial shape.

"When the PAP handed the ward over, it was part of Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council which had a surplus," he said. "Do the residents want to subsidise Aljunied and Hougang?"

Punggol East SMC, with Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, joined forces and formed Aljunied-Hougang- Punggol East Town Council, whose accounts are found to have lapses.

Mr Chong acknowledged that some residents might point to the cleanliness of the estate and say it is not an issue.But he added: "I spoke to some cleaners in the past week and they said they have been very busy. I asked them why and they said that it is election time."

Finances, however, are an important issue, he stressed. "It is up to us to make it relevant to residents here for them to decide."

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