Friday, 14 August 2015

GE2015: PAP introduces new candidates for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC; Wong Kan Seng retires

Succession depends on Singaporeans' choice: Ng Eng Hen
By Rachel Chang, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 13 Aug 2015

Rolling out its first group of new candidates for the coming general election (GE), People's Action Party organising secretary Ng Eng Hen said yesterday that political succession depends ultimately on the people's choice, not only on the Government.

Characterising this GE as bringing in "the next half" of the fourth-generation leadership, after the 2011 polls saw the entry of four new ministers into Cabinet, Dr Ng sought the people's endorsement.

"If the country feels that the candidates we put up can measure up to those responsibilities and capabilities required of ministers, then we would have the succession plan.

"Ultimately, succession depends not only on the Prime Minister and the incumbent Cabinet ministers. Succession depends on Singaporeans' choice."

Dr Ng, who is Defence Minister, was speaking a day after the Government disclosed that Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew would be bowing out of politics after only his second term.

The group of three new candidates introduced yesterday, who will stand in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, includes a potential young minister: former top civil servant Chee Hong Tat, 41.

The other two are Maybank economist Saktiandi Supaat, 41, and real estate corporate chief Chong Kee Hiong, 49.

In a departure from previous practice, the trio were introduced yesterday by the retiring MPs whose divisions they would be taking over.

The three retiring are backbenchers Zainudin Nordin and Hri Kumar Nair, and former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng.

Mr Wong, who entered politics in 1984 and left the Cabinet in 2011, was honoured with a bow and applause from his teammates.

The new candour on where the candidates would be fielded was by design, said Dr Ng, in order that residents can size up their prospective representatives.

"We believe this is good politics for Singapore, and the main message is that it puts Singaporeans rightly at the centre of the elections," he said, adding that both Mr Chong and Mr Saktiandi have been volunteering at the GRC's branches for more than two years.

New, too, was the setting. All eight politicians squeezed into a coffee shop in Toa Payoh Central for the press conference, knee-to-knee amid a media scrum.

"It reflects our message that this is what elections are about," said Dr Ng. "We want to do it in the heartlands to put across that elections are about electing MPs who can take care of you and be of help."

Asked if the ruling party was capitalising on Golden Jubilee celebrations and the death of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew by holding the elections now, Dr Ng said: "We began preparations for GE in earnest four years (ago)... We did not cobble up this team at a whim. We thought very carefully about where we put our candidates, who best fits the profile but we still have to govern in the meantime."

Ex-DPM Wong Kan Seng to retire from politics
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 13 Aug 2015

Former deputy prime minister and veteran politician Wong Kan Seng, 68, will not stand in the coming general election.

His decision to leave politics was announced yesterday by People's Action Party organising secretary Ng Eng Hen at a press conference, where the party introduced its candidates for the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

After it was announced, Mr Wong's PAP colleagues surprised him by standing up and bowing to him as a gesture of thanks for his contributions over 30 years.

Two other MPs in the constituency will also be retiring at the next polls: Mr Zainudin Nordin, 52, and Mr Hri Kumar Nair, 49, both backbenchers known for their hard-hitting speeches in Parliament.

Mr Nair is leaving politics because his wife had been ill with lymphoma, while Mr Zainudin wants to focus on his family as well.

Dr Ng, in lauding Mr Wong, noted that he is one of the longest-serving MPs. "He has mentored a string of MPs, including myself," he said.

Mr Wong, in reply, joked that it seemed like yesterday when he was a rookie candidate introducing himself to the media in 1984.

"Over the subsequent elections, I sat at party headquarters introducing new candidates. Today, I am introducing but also (announcing) I'm no longer standing after seven terms," he said.

He introduced his replacement, who is chief executive of OUE Hospitality Trust Chong Kee Hiong.

Said Mr Chong, 49: "He has left me a huge pair of shoes to fill."

My colleagues and I in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC have always delivered what we promised to do. In the last 4 years alone,...
Posted by Wong Kan Seng on Saturday, August 15, 2015

Before leaving the Cabinet in 2011, Mr Wong held various positions, including home affairs minister from 1994 to 2010 and deputy prime minister from 2005 to 2011.

With his retirement, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong would be the only one from the 1984 group still in politics.

Referring to the PAP's policy of self-renewal, Mr Wong said: "I'm doing my part now to find people who will succeed me... to carry on the work the PAP started in 1959."

He thanked residents and grassroots leaders for their support.

As for Mr Nair, Dr Ng praised the quality of his contributions in Parliament: "Many of us, including myself, are always impressed with his stirring and piercing speeches."

Mr Nair said: "I have never held back. The ministers don't always agree with me but they've always respected my right to speak up and to say what I want to say."

The senior counsel is chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Law and Home Affairs. He spoke for the first time in public about his wife's battle with cancer of the lymph nodes.

It was diagnosed in 2012 and while she is doing well now, the condition "is not the sort of thing that really goes away", he said.

"I've had to refocus my priorities,'' he said.

He is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and his eight-year-old daughter.

"She's a great little girl. I'm looking forward to spending more time at home annoying her, which is what she accuses me of doing all the time," he said of his only child.

The two-term MP has been chairman of the Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council since 2011, a position he will relinquish when Parliament dissolves ahead of the polls.

He added that he was proud of the town council's record and its rating as one of the best here.

Mr Zainudin was the town council's immediate past chairman and former central district mayor. He was also chairman of, a national body focused on promoting racial and religious harmony, from 2007 to 2011.

A three-term MP, he is known for championing the cause of the less privileged. "As a party, as a team, we have always been very clear. We need to continue to serve, to develop the people.

He said: "I'd like to say 'thank you' to all the residents of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, and of course the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore, for giving me the opportunity to serve."

2 Bishan-Toa Payoh residents on PAP slate
Ex-civil servant, corporate chief hope 'local expertise' will help them serve people better
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 13 Aug 2015

Two Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC residents could become MPs on their home ground, if the People's Action Party slate is elected in the coming general election.

Both former civil servant Chee Hong Tat, 41, and real estate corporate chief Chong Kee Hiong, 49 - two out of three new faces on the slate - hope their "local expertise" will help them be better MPs.

The third new face is Maybank economist Saktiandi Supaat, 41.

Mr Chong, who lives in a semi-detached house in Bishan East, told reporters yesterday that his regular meals in the neighbourhood have yielded valuable feedback from residents. "Informal chit-chat sessions at the coffee shop are as important as Meet-The-People sessions or formal settings," he said.

He has been shadowing former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng for more than two years in the Bishan East division. Yesterday, Mr Wong described Mr Chong as a man with "strong values and a heart for the less well-off, having come from a humble family".

Mr Chee, who lives in a Bishan North condominium, expressed his delight at being fielded in his constituency: "I've a fond attachment to this place - this is my home and I would like the opportunity to serve the residents here."

Mr Chee was introduced as a candidate a day after he officially left his post as Second Permanent Secretary for the Trade and Industry Ministry, and will replace two-term MP Hri Kumar Nair on the GRC slate.

The father of four is seen as a potential minister if he is elected, but Mr Chee waved aside talk about his possible future in the Cabinet. His focus for now, he said, is on serving residents, and he wants to see changes such as having more exercise corners for the elderly.

The third new face, Mr Saktiandi, lives in Pasir Ris but has been volunteering in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC for the last three years. He replaces three-term MP Zainudin Nordin on the slate.

"Toa Payoh has a rich history, with many interesting heritage sites," he said. "There are a lot of elderly folk who have been staying here for the longest time, and the people here are close-knit. The ward is not short of the 'gotong royong' spirit."

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo will round up the PAP's five-member slate for the GRC.

Dr Ng said he welcomed the challenge from a joint opposition team of the Singapore People's Party and Democratic Progressive Party.

He said: "Bishan-Toa Payoh residents are very savvy. They have witnessed many elections since this town was built and they are not easily enamoured of, or easily gulled by, platitudes or aspirations.

"They vote from enlightened self-interest and that's indeed how they should. And the party that convinces the voters here that it can best take care of them will win their support."

Caring, inclusive society his goal
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 13 Aug 2015

Chee Hong Tat, 41

Occupation: Former senior civil servant. His last post was second permanent secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Family: Married to a 41-year-old housewife. They have a son, 15, and three daughters, 12, nine and four.

Education: Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and computer science, and Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of California at Berkeley

Hobbies: Travel, reading and jogging

Why politics?

Going into politics is not an easy decision. I have four young children and my wife and I were concerned about how this will affect our family and the time I have with them.

I eventually managed to persuade my wife to support my decision. I explained that we are at a very critical juncture of our nation's development. And this is a time when we need people who can contribute to step forward.

Why you?

I have useful experience in the civil service and community work. I volunteer with Score (Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprise) where I help inmates, provide training for them and help them look for work after their release from prison.

So there are areas where I can make use of my past experience, both from the civil service and also from my community work, to benefit residents of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

What issues will you focus on?

I would like to see a caring, inclusive, harmonious society because it is the necessary criteria that will hold us together as a country.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

Toa Payoh West Market (in Toa Payoh Lorong 1) because it is very vibrant and has many famous hawker stalls. We have Tian Tian Lai Hokkien Mee, we have Chey Swa Carrot Cake, we have famous handmade Teochew bao... There is also a range of shops nearby: acupuncture, a Chinese medicine hall, clinics. It is a vibrant HDB heartland.

'A platform to do more for people'
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 13 Aug 2015

Chong Kee Hiong, 49

Occupation: Chief executive of OUE Hospitality Reit Management

Family: Married to a housewife, 46. They have four sons aged between nine and 17.

Education: Bachelor of Accountancy from the National University of Singapore

Hobbies: Jogging, soccer, golf

Why politics?

I have been involved in charity fund-raising, social enterprise and the labour movement.

I am chairman of NTUC Foodfare, which provides low-cost meals for the low-income.

I've also had two years in the grassroots, as vice-chairman of the Citizens Consultative Committee for Bishan East.

Going into politics gives me a different, bigger platform to do more for people. You can help to shape policies by gathering feedback on how policies affect people on the ground.

Why you?

I feel my private sector experience (is a plus). I've spent time working with people from all levels, nationalities and cultures and I've been in the hospitality industry for 15 years. I think this will be very useful on the ground when I interact with residents.

What issues?

The key role I want to play is to understand how policy impacts the ground. You can't change the policy for an exception. But if more and more people have the same issues with a policy, then you know the policy does not benefit the majority. That's when you give feedback and say, it has to change. If not, tell us why it cannot change.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

Bishan Park, as it's good for relaxing and exercise, both on my own as well as with my family.

'To be a voice for the less fortunate'
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 13 Aug 2015

Saktiandi Supaat, 41

Occupation: Executive vice-president and head of foreign exchange research at Maybank

Family: Married to a senior child welfare officer, 41. They have a daughter, 12, and two sons aged eight and five.

Education: He has a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) from the University of Melbourne, and a Master of Business Administration from Cambridge University

Hobbies: Photography, reading and rugby

Why politics?

I have been involved in community work since 2004.

In 2009, I started my grassroots work, helping at Meet-The-People sessions.

I also sit on various advisory boards, like the Central Provident Fund Advisory Panel which recommended the CPF changes that were implemented this year.

I realised during these stints that there are many people who fall through the cracks. I want to help plug these gaps in policy, and bring up the problems of the less fortunate in Parliament.

Why you?

As an economist, I travel around South-east Asia for work, so I think I bring a global perspective to the table.

I believe I also have the necessary skills to assess economic policies.

What issues will you focus on?

A lot has been done for Institute of Technical Education and diploma holders, but I'd like to see more being done to ensure they have jobs and face fewer difficulties in looking for a job.

I also think more can be done for singl parents, especially unwed mothers.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

Wherever my kids like to go, that's my favourite place.

At the moment, they like the playground at Paris Ris Park, near where we live.

From MNC to mamak shop: The PAP goes local
By Chua Mui Hoong, Opinion Editor, The Straits Times, 13 Aug 2015

I turned up yesterday morning at the People's Action Party (PAP)'s branch office at Block 187 Toa Payoh Central, expecting the party's press conference to introduce its first slate of candidates to be held there. Instead, I was directed to the coffee shop next door.

I had two thoughts.

The first was that the PAP is going back to its local roots, eschewing the previous style of introducing its new candidates at the party headquarters at Bedok. Is this grassroots PAP just a change in style, or substance? Time - the election campaign and the next five years - will tell.

My second, more cynical thought was: "Let's see how welcoming the stallholders are of this 'invasion' by the PAP." I recalled stories from the past, of hawkers sullenly putting up with such events that rob them of tables and affect their business.

At the Kim San Leng coffee shop at Block 177, two coffee shop tables were set up, with microphones set up on them. Many reporters were thronged around the tables, in ringside seats. I ascertained that candidates would arrive only at 10.30am, and spent the next 30 minutes walking around the coffee shop, talking to whoever would talk to me. I got lucky. The coffee shop's big boss, Mr Hoon Thing Leong, was there with his son, and a business partner. Someone from the merchants' association was also present. Mr Hoon and the coffee shop manager were not just okay with the PAP folks taking up one-third of the coffee shop space. They were welcoming, not just to the PAP but also the media present. When the press conference ended and I was having bak chor mee for lunch, Mr Hoon walked over to my table and handed me two otak and said: "It will taste better with this!"

So much for cynical doubts about whether coffee shop stallholders might resent the intrusion.

Clearly, the PAP team had done the essential and prepped the ground and picked friendly territory. Throughout the hour-long press conference, residents from pre-schoolers to retirees stopped to gawk, take photos and point out their MP to one another. A few aunties took selfies with the debonair Dr Ng Eng Hen, the lead minister in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and the PAP's organising secretary in charge of this election.

It is clear the PAP will be fighting this election at the local level.

Introducing candidates within the constituency, not at the party HQ, is just the start. The PAP is clearly moving away from MNC-style, top-down decision- making - where a coterie of top party leaders keeps cards close to their chest, leaving the rest of the party and country guessing.

Instead, it has decentralised and is giving the initiative to the equivalent of the corner mamak shop - the branches and candidates at the local level.

And if yesterday's event is any guide, expect local connections and local plans to be highlighted, and views on national policies muted.

It was stressed yesterday that two of the new candidates - Mr Chee Hong Tat and Mr Chong Kee Hiong - live in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

As Mr Chee noted: "I have a fond attachment to this place, this is my home." The man who was, until Tuesday, Second Permanent Secretary at the Trade and Industry Ministry and once served as Mr Lee Kuan Yew's principal private secretary and has helmed the Energy Market Authority, did not talk about national policies.

Instead, on his to-do list, if elected, are exercise corners for the elderly and more walkways.

And he sounded amazingly sincere, as though it is the opportunity to do these things that would persuade a high flier to give up a steady career in the civil service for the world of politics in the "new normal", where ministers face harsh scrutiny from voters online and off, and can be in Cabinet one day and out the next.

Dr Ng explained the choice of Toa Payoh town centre as the venue to introduce candidates - because elections are about the heartland, and voters choose MPs who can take care of the estate.

At the strategic level, of course, the PAP is also affirming that it is a party connected to the ground, in touch with day-to-day realities of residents. So Dr Ng told about how he and his team worked with the Housing Board to come up with plans for 66 lifts for the four-storey shophouses that form the spine of Toa Payoh Central.

In an indirect comparison with the opposition team eyeing the ward, he added: "Bishan Toa-Payoh residents are very savvy. They have witnessed many elections since this town was built and they are not easily enamoured of, or easily gulled by platitudes or aspirations. They vote from enlightened self-interest and that's indeed how they should. And the party that convinces the voters here that they can best take care of them will win their support."

The PAP wants to play down its top-down image, and play up its grassroots appeal.

But as Dr Ng said, voters are savvy. They are not easily enamoured or easily gulled by platitudinous changes in style.

To win hearts and minds, the PAP has to show that in the things that matter, policy substance, not just in grassroots political style, it is genuinely for the heartland.

A New Look for PAP Website! We are pleased to announce that the PAP website ( has a new look now! The...
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