Sunday, 30 August 2015

GE2015: PAP unveils Aljunied GRC team

PAP team has a fighting chance, says Tharman
Candidates can stand up to WP with 'mindset of being underdogs'
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2015

The People's Action Party's Aljunied GRC team has a fighting chance of winning the constituency back from the Workers' Party, second assistant secretary-general Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday as he unveiled its candidates.

The team comprises four-term veteran MP Yeo Guat Kwang who moves in from Ang Mo Kio GRC, insurance firm manager Victor Lye, lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai, private banker Chua Eng Leong and former teacher Shamsul Kamar.

"I think this team has a fighting chance. They go in with the mindset of being underdogs because they've got incumbents at present. They go in with a mindset of being humble at everything they do," said Mr Tharman, who is Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister.

Former PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng also suggested why the PAP reckons the team can stand up to the WP's "A" team of incumbents that includes WP chief Low Thia Khiang and chairman Sylvia Lim.

Mr Lim recounted how residents in the GRC were hostile to PAP activists in 2011, after the WP won Aljunied at the polls with 54.7 per cent of the vote.

But things have not been going well in the GRC, he said at a press conference at the PAP's Serangoon branch, citing issues from town council finances to estate maintenance.

Residents have noticed and have become friendlier and more welcoming towards the PAP, he added.

"People told us that they were disappointed with the performance of their (WP) MPs in Parliament. They didn't make any major contributions to the creation of national policies in Government," said Mr Lim.

The PAP candidates zoomed in especially on the WP's management of town council finances as being an issue that is of concern to residents. Asked if such lapses have gained traction with residents, Mr Lye said that going by feedback from residents and non-residents that he met on walkabouts, they had.

"There is obviously a sense on the ground, not only in Aljunied but throughout Singapore, that something isn't quite right," he said.

Although it is difficult for most people to understand the nitty-gritty details of the town council accounts, those who are able to do so "came away with a very different sense that there is indeed something wrong", he added.

Mr Tharman also underlined the gravity of the town council lapses.

"I think you know me. You know my personality, you know my views. You know that I've never been against the idea of an opposition in Singapore. People know," he said.

"So when I speak about an issue, it is because I'm really worried. It is not because I'm trying to put an opposition down or the WP down.

"The town council issue is, for us, not a political game. I want to make sure we have responsible and honest politics in Singapore."

This applied to the PAP and the opposition alike, he added.

"When the Government does wrong, expose us, criticise us. We must get it right and we expect the same of everyone else," he said.

On a similar note, Mr Lye urged voters to apply the same standards when weighing candidates from the PAP against those from the WP.

Voters should look at the WP's performance since the 2011 polls and "go by their performance as you would go by our performance", he said.

"Be objective, recognise the sacrifices and the willingness of our candidates to serve you and do better for you. Don't be taken in by other people's ambitions. You have done it for 41/2 years. It's time to bring us home to Aljunied."

He added: "I only ask that you measure all of us by the same yardstick that you measure others. It's only fair."

RECAP: "When I speak about an issue, this is because I am worried and I want to make sure a responsible and honest...
Posted by People's Action Party on Friday, August 28, 2015

PAP team 'no suicide squad'
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2015

The People's Action Party (PAP) candidates for Aljunied GRC rejected being labelled a "suicide squad" in their face-off against the Worker's Party's "A" team, and asked voters to measure them with the same yardstick as that applied to the incumbents.

In response to questions about why the PAP had not fielded a "heavyweight" in the Aljunied slate, candidate Victor Lye took issue with the traditional definition of heavyweight as a minister or well-known politician.

A true heavyweight "should be defined by how much he is willing to sacrifice", said the insurance firm director, who has been on the ground in Bedok Reservoir-Punggol ward for 16 years.

Referring to the WP incumbents led by party chief Low Thia Khiang, he said: "With all due respect to the other team, why do we anoint them and say that they are the heavyweights?"

Both slates should be measured according to the same yardstick, he said: "Judge their performance as you would judge ours."

His teammate, lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai, noted that traditional "heavyweights" on the PAP slate had not prevented votes from swinging against the ruling party in the 2011 General Election.

Then, residents chose the WP team over two ministers, a senior minister of state and a potential minister, he noted.

"What they want are people who can connect with them, who know their concerns, and that's what we've been doing," the longtime grassroots volunteer said.

Former PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng, who has been advising the candidates for the past few years, emphasised their credentials and ability.

Mr Pillai heads the commercial litigation department at Rajah & Tann, one of Singapore's biggest law firms, and has 100 lawyers reporting to him, said Mr Lim.

"You're telling me he is not a heavyweight?"

The rest of the slate comprises labour MP Yeo Guat Kwang, private banker Chua Eng Leong and former teacher Shamsul Kamar.

They were introduced yesterday at the PAP's branch in Paya Lebar by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a gesture to show how much the party cares for Aljunied, said Mr Lim.

Mr Tharman, who is the PAP's second assistant secretary-general, said that the candidates were chosen "because they are credible, honest and dedicated people, and each of them knows the people of Aljunied well".

Besides being able to tackle local issues and advance areas of concern in Parliament, he said the candidates would also be able to "straighten out the town council finances in the interest of residents".

This was a reference to the lapses in governance and compliance found by the Auditor-General at the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council.

Veteran politician Mr Yeo, for example, was once the chairman of the Aljunied Town Council, when the constituency was under the PAP, Mr Tharman noted.

Speaking about his and his teammates' abilities to run a town council earlier, Mr Lye said he was adroit with accounts.

He added that Mr Pillai would handle the legal aspects and Mr Chua was well-placed to make decisions on what funds to invest in, due to his career in the finance industry.

Mr Lye added that Mr Shamsul would "bring heart" to the policies the team hopes to put in place, if elected.

Making a final pitch to voters, he said: "Be objective, recognise the sacrifices and the willingness of our candidates here to serve you and do better for you."

"It is time to bring us home to Aljunied."

Turned down chance to enter politics in 1996
The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2015

Victor Lye, 52

Occupation: Chief executive of Shenton Insurance

Family: Married to a 46-year-old housewife. They have two children aged 17 and 21.

Education: Bachelor of Economics, first-class honours, from University of Adelaide

Hobbies: Cycling and jogging

Why politics?

I had the chance to enter politics in 1996 but I declined. I believe in stepping forward on my own time and of my choosing. In 1999, I helped then minister George Yeo in Aljunied GRC because I saw how Singaporeans were affected by the Asian financial crisis. After 2011, when Aljunied was lost to WP, it would have been easy to walk away but I said to myself I was here for the people.

Why you?

I have looked after many businesses in leadership positions. I've looked after the welfare of my employees and the interests of my customers. For Aljunied GRC, I have the financial background and business experience. And I know what is wrong with the town council. I believe I can contribute, with my comrades, to do better for the people of Aljunied GRC.

What issues will you focus on?

The widening income gap and helping lower-income groups. I grew up in a poor family and we didn't have a permanent home. As a full-time national serviceman, I actually asked for guard duty so that I could stay in camp with a bed to sleep on and some quiet time. I could not afford a university education but the Government gave me a Colombo Plan scholarship.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

Home, eating and chatting with my family.

Serving the people through positive change
The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2015

Chua Eng Leong, 44

Occupation: Executive director at Standard Chartered Private Bank

Family: Married to a housewife, 44. They have two sons, aged nine and 14

Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from University of San Francisco

Hobbies: Playing and watching soccer

Why politics?

Politics is really service to the nation. I think being able to make changes, positive changes, is the main thing I want to do. I make it a point to meet more residents outside my Meet-the-People Sessions. For those who can't come down, I go to their homes.

Why you?

I bring to the table sincerity... wanting to serve. The passion to serve is very much a higher calling. I take this lesson from my late father (former Cabinet minister Chua Sian Chin). I want to fulfil his wish that his children give back to society and the community. This is the best way to pay tribute to him.

What issues will you focus on?

I have a soft spot for youth, being a young parent myself. More help can be given to such parents. And with both husband and wife working, who looks after aged parents? We need more eldercare facilities.

I'd like to do this in Eunos, but I'm constrained by space. If we win, I'll be able to get more space and serve residents better by providing such facilities.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

Petal Garden in Eunos. In the morning, the elderly do qigong; in the evening, kids and teenagers come for sports. It pulls the Eunos community together.

Reaching out to disadvantaged kids
The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2015

Shamsul Kamar Mohamed Razali, 43

Occupation: Previously head of student management at Spectra Secondary School. Now unemployed and focusing on the elections.

Family: Married to a travel agency coordinator, 39.

Education: Master's in South-east Asian Studies from National University of Singapore

Hobbies: Snorkelling, swimming, watching movies

Why politics?

About 30 per cent of the residents in Kaki Bukit are elderly and many of their children have moved out.

I'm bringing back the Wellness Bus Programme (where) we bring healthcare services to the residents, and doing a Befrienders project targeted at the elderly.

As a politician, you may be able to make a difference, by making the right connections and connecting with the right agency and people.

Why you?

I am passionate and sincere about making a difference.

What issues will you focus on?

As a volunteer with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, I found that many children from dysfunctional families are residing in welfare homes, juvenile homes and orphanages. As an educator, I also taught Normal (Technical) kids.

So how can we ensure they finish their education, reach a certain level and live a life of their own?

I feel there is still some disconnect (in reaching out) despite us having a many-helping-hands approach and the programmes available.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

I go to this Indian-Muslim restaurant in Joo Chiat called Al Aziz. It is very quaint and quiet.

Keen to help families who are dysfunctional
The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2015

K. Muralidharan Pillai, 47

Occupation: Head of commercial litigation at Rajah & Tann

Family: Married to Dr N. Gowri, 43, a geography teacher in Innova Junior College. They have twin sons, aged 15, and two daughters, aged seven and five.

Education: Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Master of Laws from the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Master of Business Administration from the University of California, Los Angeles and NUS.

Hobbies: Hockey

Why politics?

This is not a career advancement. Aljunied residents should not be treated as political football. Rather, it's about getting to know their families and see how their futures can be improved.

Why you?

I didn't volunteer for this post but I agreed to serve when asked, without hesitation. By then, I felt that I understood the residents well enough to identify their concerns. I'm also honoured that the party decided to field me despite my background as the son of former political detainee P.K. Pillai.

What issues will you focus on?

Social mobility. The Government has done a lot to enhance social mobility but I've encountered some families who are so dysfunctional that they cannot help themselves.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

I love walking in MacRitchie Reservoir. There's no better place to contemplate things.

Lawyer's late father was a political detainee
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2015

With a left-leaning, former political detainee for a father, lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai is an unlikely candidate for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

After all, his late father P.K. Pillai was a unionist who counted leftist Barisan Socialis leader Lim Chin Siong among his closest friends. "They were so close that he shed tears when Mr Lim died in 1996," said Mr Pillai yesterday. "My father didn't even cry at his own brother's funeral."

He said his father and Mr Lim, a bitter foe of Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, were against the merger with Malaya. On Feb 2, 1963, hundreds of armed policemen raided the homes and offices of leftist leaders like Mr Lim and trade unionists, detaining 107 of them. Among them was Mr Pillai's father.

The operation, codenamed Coldstore, was a major crackdown on communists and leftists, in the name of national security. Some, however, have always maintained it was politically motivated.

Mr Pillai's father was to have been banished to India, but he was released by Malaysia's then Home Affairs Minister Ismail Abdul Rahman, before Singapore separated from Malaysia in August 1965.

In 2001, a 34-year-old Mr Pillai became serious about joining the PAP, but he was concerned that his father, then 75, would have reservations. But his father surprised him. "He just wanted to make sure I wasn't doing it to enhance my career, or any such collateral reasons," said Mr Pillai. " 'Just make sure you leave with the shirt on your back,' he said to me, and it's been my motto ever since."

In his later years, his father credited the PAP Government with Singapore's prosperity, said Mr Pillai. "It was clear to him that if Barisan was in charge, we would have 'Robin Hood economics' - taking from the rich to give to the poor," he said.

The older Mr Pillai passed away in 2007.

Yesterday, his son was introduced as a PAP candidate for Aljunied GRC. Former Cabinet minister and mentor Lim Boon Heng choked up as he described Mr Pillai as a committed volunteer who served with a heart, and who also had the potential to be an office- holder.

Mr Pillai said he did not know how long his political career would last. "If I get to the start line, it could be over in 10 days. It could be longer," he said, adding that he was not fazed by the odds.

"I will fight this election with all my heart. I hope Aljunied residents give us a chance."

He is not the only one in the latest crop of PAP candidates to be fielded at the coming polls with a former Barisan Socialis father.

The fathers of Sembawang GRC candidate Ong Ye Kung and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC incumbent Janil Puthucheary were also Barisan Socialis members.

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