Tuesday, 13 October 2015

One month after GE2015

Cue a reality check, whether winner or loser. For the PAP, it means embracing the nitty-gritty; for the opposition, it's home-truth time.
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Sunday Times, 11 Oct 2015

It has been exactly one month since the Sept 11 General Election, and whatever shock or surprise the results delivered have worn off for many of the political parties.

With the polls firmly behind them, the parties have got back into the swing of things.

The People's Action Party has hit the ground running, setting up a number of new party branches and securing locations for its weekly Meet-the-People Sessions. It seems the party believes that it was the tireless grassroots efforts of the last five years that helped clinch its 69.9 per cent vote-share victory, and 83 out of the 89 seats for elected MPs.

The Workers' Party, the No. 2 player on the scene, is also looking ahead and has moved on from its unexpected disappointment at the ballot box, where it narrowly held on to Aljunied GRC. The party has gone into soul-searching mode, even as it presses on with its plans.

Despite not getting its younger members into Parliament, the WP has gone ahead with renewing its leadership ranks, and has held a meeting to appoint some candidates to its top decision-making body.

The rest of the opposition camp, meanwhile, have found the results a sufficient wake-up call to reach out to discuss a possible merger or coalition. So far, the National Solidarity Party, People's Power Party, Singaporeans First and Reform Party have met up. Talks are still in the preliminary stage, but party leaders say something needs to be done to give opposition players a better chance at electoral success.

Insight looks at the parties' plans for moving ahead, a month from the general election.

For the PAP, the real work begins now
After big win, it's business as usual, setting up new party branches and finding locations for the weekly MPS, and serving residents' needs
By Charissa Yong, The Sunday Times, 11 Oct 2015

It was nearly 4am by the time People's Action Party (PAP) activists in the Limbang ward of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC reached home after polling night. They were exhausted but ecstatic, their throats hoarse from cheering news of their party's 69.9 per cent win.

The heady flush of victory didn't last long. For there was little time to rest. Three hours later, they regrouped to get ready the party flags and vehicle that would take their MP-elects on a victory parade through their group representation constituency. In the afternoon, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work, readying their temporary branch office for the Meet-the-People Session (MPS) that would take place two days later.

Limbang branch secretary Johnny Lim recalls how he and a team of volunteers painted walls, scrubbed floors and moved furniture that day. "This is the reality of the PAP's work. This is what you call really being on the ground to serve residents," he tells Insight.

Parliament reopens in January, and the new Cabinet will set out the Government's path for the future then. But the ruling party doesn't wait that long to get back to work.

Its well-oiled machinery of grassroots activists and MPs, so crucial to its success at the ballot box, have spent the last month tackling immediate issues they have encountered.

PAP MPs and activists have hit the ground running, setting up new party branches and finding locations for their weekly MPS.

This is how an election is won - by beginning the work of serving residents and preparing for the next polls the day after the previous one, say party members. Insight catches up with three new MPs - lawyer-turned-parliamentary secretary Amrin Amin, civil servant-turned-junior minister Chee Hong Tat and deputy chief executive Cheng Li Hui - to find out how they are settling into their roles.


If the PAP has learnt a lesson from its general election victory this year, it is this: Its strategy of spending more time meeting residents to hear their feedback and needs was a vote-winner. Since this strategy paid off handsomely, the party seems set to continue with it.

Sembawang GRC's Mr Amrin, who is Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC's Mr Chee, Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health, and Tampines GRC's Ms Cheng tell Insight about their regular visits to residents at home, as well as meeting them in markets and coffee shops on weekends. Between recruiting volunteers and distributing masks to needy residents when the haze hit its peak, they have also been drawing up plans for the neighbourhoods they are in charge of.

Ms Cheng is planning a programme for volunteers to accompany elderly folk to clinic visits, while Mr Amrin is promoting social mobility at the local level by encouraging needy schoolchildren in his constituency to work hard for their exams.

"I ask the kids I meet, 'When your final results are out, can you bring your report book? I'd like to see. If you pass all your papers or improve, I'll give you a present.' They were quite excited," recounts Mr Amrin.

"I want to send them a message of hope and encouragement, and tell them help is available," he adds.

In response to the cynic who thinks this is just to win votes, Mr Chee says: "If it were really to win votes, it's a time-consuming way of doing so. It's hard work visiting one house at a time, rolling up your sleeves and getting the work done.

"But we do this because we believe this is an important way of reaching out to our residents and seeing how we can help improve their lives. If this subsequently translates into votes, that's a bonus, but I think as MPs, we have a responsibility to serve them well," he says.

Mr Chee has found that in his new role as a politician, he gets in touch with residents more directly than when he was a public servant.

"You have a responsibility to help to advocate on their behalf for some of the requests," he says.

But his experience and network from his former life as a civil servant comes in handy when he petitions public agencies on behalf of his constituents.

"I know how to present issues to agencies, and surface them to the appropriate people to get their support for some ideas and requests. Having that knowledge of how the system works is useful," he says.

As for Ms Cheng, who had been heavily involved with grassroots volunteering and shadowing MPs before the polls, the number of activities she attends a week has not changed since being elected.

But one difference for her is a pressure to live up to residents' expectations. "When my volunteers gave me residents' letters of appeal to sign, I paused and thought, 'Oh, I'm the one signing now'.

"I felt a sense of responsibility as the MP," she says.


Boundary changes before the last election increased the number of Parliament seats by two.

But several branches had to be reconfigured due to population shifts. This meant that the PAP needed to create several new branches and rename others.

These local headquarters are where the MP meets residents during the MPS, where activists gather and where activities are planned and paperwork is done.

Limbang was one of these new branches. Mr Johnny Lim recalls how his branch's chairman and MP, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, was scheduled to meet his residents at his regular MPS on Monday nights, two days after their victory parade.

"Mr Wong wanted to serve the residents quickly," says Mr Lim.

Despite being short of time and low on resources, the branch members swung into action to set up a small temporary branch office.

"We used a decommissioned PCF (PAP Community Foundation) centre, whitewashed it overnight and got members to help with washing and decoration. We also borrowed tables and chairs from other branches and PCF centres," says Mr Lim.

To notify residents of the new location, Mr Wong and his volunteers posted updates on social media, gave out leaflets at the old branch's location and put up fliers on noticeboards. That night, 40 constituents braved the haze to turn up.

"We had the residents wait in a room meant for interviewing. In the other room, we crammed all our volunteers in charge of registration, welfare, crafting letters, typing them and filing and documenting cases," says Mr Lim.

Limbang activists are looking for a bigger and more accessible location, which should be ready by the year end or next year.

Newbie MP Sun Xueling similarly set up a new Punggol West branch.

The previous Punggol West branch, headed by her Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC teammate Janil Puthucheary, was renamed Punggol Coast. She shares Dr Janil's branch office and MPS site while her branch office - also an old PCF centre - is being renovated.

"One of my top priorities is to ensure that an effective and seamless system of MPS is set up so that there is no break in the provision of assistance to residents," she says.

Her branch office has to comfortably accommodate about 100 people - 60 to 90 constituents who attend each session on average, and 20 to 30 volunteers.

"We also look at the layout of the PCF centre to ensure that people are able to move around freely, as we want to provide our residents with a comfortable and reassuring environment," she says.

"They come to us with problems they hope we can help them solve. The last thing we want to do is to create additional stress for them."

Other tasks include installing an IT system to document cases.

Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and new MP Ong Ye Kung, who heads the new Gambas branch in Sembawang GRC, adopted his IT system from party colleague Lim Wee Kiak in nearby Canberra branch.

Ms Sun is looking to document more of her MPS cases electronically. "It is a fine balance between having a personal touch by using the pen and paper approach, and electronic documentation which allows us to call up background information and make referrals to relevant agencies more quickly," she says.

The new MPs also had to find a branch secretary, who would be their "point man" for many tasks.

Mr Ong turned to the branch secretary he had worked with when he ran unsuccessfully in Kaki Bukit in 2011. "I told him I was starting a new branch and I needed him to help. He readily said yes," says Mr Ong. They then put together an executive committee for the branch and recruited volunteers, including those already serving in Gambas.

"I am thankful that they are prepared to step forward to help me. Then I gathered friends, friends of friends. Together, we have a good base of hard-working volunteers," says Mr Ong.

Mr Wong is also grateful for the many volunteers who joined his branch. "Some are party activists who had helped out in the election campaign. Others are new volunteers who came forward after the election," he says.

All of these had to be done while coping with the traditional post-election surge in MPS cases.

This is because cases build up during the two weeks or so that the sessions are suspended during the campaign period. Some residents also want to meet their new MP.

PAP teams in other GRCs have also restructured internally to distribute more evenly the number of residents served by each MP.

In Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, which absorbed 7,000 more voters under the boundary changes, the wards of the three political freshmen were redrawn and renamed.

Mr Chee's Thomson-Toa Payoh ward was renamed Toa Payoh West-Balestier, while Mr Chong Kee Hiong's Bishan East is now Bishan East-Thomson.

Their teammate Saktiandi Supaat's Toa Payoh East branch became Toa Payoh East-Novena.

Newsletters have been mailed to residents to let them know which MP they can approach.

Similarly in Tanjong Pagar GRC, new MP Joan Pereira's Tanglin-Cairnhill branch became Henderson-Dawson. Her colleague Melvin Yong heads the Moulmein-Cairnhill ward, in place of the old Moulmein division.


These administrative tasks may not be glamorous, but they are the backbone of what goes on behind the scenes for MPs after the elections.

Bukit Batok MP David Ong says: "We cannot just stop and say, 'I got a very good percentage of votes and therefore can take it easy'."

He adds: "There's work to be done getting residents to know you and understand that you can help them with their problems."

Acknowledging the work ahead and the reality of expectations that come with the party's strong showing at the polls, Toa Payoh Central deputy branch secretary Brian Tan says: "We've been very blessed with good results, and it's going to be very tough to improve on them.

"But we will serve residents as best as we can, one resident at a time. There's no magic bullet."

Will this concerted effort pay off at the next polls? Time will tell but, for now, the party is making the most of its mandate.

PAP Aljunied's 'No-hopers' fired up for next fight
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Sunday Times, 11 Oct 2015

Their names aren't among Parliament's list of 89 elected MPs, but that doesn't mean the People's Action Party candidates in the opposition-held Aljunied GRC have gone back to their day jobs and put their political foray behind them.

Far from it. The team dubbed the "suicide squad" remains intact - and hard at work for an election five years down the road, despite not wresting the GRC from the Workers' Party.

Since the Sept 11 General Election, the five-member team and their activists have been on the ground almost every day, making house visits, celebrating festivals, distributing close to 10,000 N95 masks to residents, and working on community projects like tuition for Primary 6 pupils.

"We will continue as any responsible team should. We do not simply appear for elections or 'champion politics'," says candidate Victor Lye, a director of an insurance firm.

He is in it for the long haul, having served in Bedok Reservoir-Punggol ward for the last 16 years. "We do what we can with our livelihoods and definitely have less time for leisure and family. But we are used to it," he says.

We will continue to serve Aljunied GRC residents because You are the Centre of what we do. #PAP #Aljunied #AljuniedGRC #PAPWITHU #PAP4U #PAP4SG
Posted by Aljunied GRC on Monday, October 12, 2015

During the hustings, they were a team of relative unknowns up against WP heavyweights Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim.

As well as Mr Lye, the PAP team included unionist Yeo Guat Kwang, lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai, senior bank officer Chua Eng Leong and then former teacher Shamsul Kamar.

In the end, not only did they improve the PAP's performance in Aljunied by about 4 percentage points, but they had also forced a recount. Mr Low and his colleagues narrowly held on to their seats with 50.95 per cent of the vote share.

Mr Lye is buoyed by the turn of events, but adds that they would be on the wrong path if they made decisions based on whether residents like them. He points to the ongoing town council saga - the Auditor-General found major accounting and governance lapses in the WP's processes - as a factor that affected residents' trust and perception of the opposition's capability: "Singapore must remain special with honest and capable leaders who care for our people, not power. Even the opposition must be held to the same standards of honesty and capability that people expect of the PAP."

And so the team stays on - unless PAP leaders decide otherwise - and their programmes are overwhelmingly self-driven.

"Pre- or post-GE, there has always been a good deal of branch autonomy on what we do for our residents. With the autonomy comes the personal responsibility to raise funds and garner resources," says Mr Pillai, who chairs the PAP Paya Lebar branch. "The motivation is always to make a positive difference on the ground, not to get approving nods or pats on the back from party leaders."

The team attribute their improvement to consistent, faithful work on the ground. "What we're doing now is simply continuing where we left off pre-GE2015," Mr Chua tells Insight. "With the exception of Guat Kwang and Shamsul, we've been here at least about 21/2 years."

Mr Yeo, a four-term MP, was deployed to Aljunied GRC from Ang Mo Kio GRC in a surprise move just before the hustings, while long-time grassroots leader Shamsul replaced Mr Kahar Hassan, the chairman of the PAP Kaki Bukit branch, who was asked to step down two months ago.

In the months and years ahead, the PAP team hope to deliver on the promises they made before and during the election. These include better access for young couples seeking childcare options and providing enrichment and mentorship opportunities that go beyond basic education taught in schools.

Says Mr Shamsul, now a deputy director at the National Trades Union Congress: "Residents have been encouraging when I meet them at markets, block visits and community events. They'd like us to continue our work in Aljunied, and we will continue to serve them to the best of our ability."

Adds Mr Chua: "Considering that Aljunied is still opposition-held, the reception on the ground after GE 2015 has been positive. Residents will wave at us and also acknowledge us when we greet them."

But the candidates would not be drawn into commenting whether the next election would likely be easier.

Nevertheless, political observer and former Nominated MP Zulkifli Baharudin says Singapore can expect political parties serious about winning a GRC to be engaging constituents consistently.

In particular, "the PAP is not about to give up any seat and thus will work hard to capture Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC", he says. "The continued activities are important as residents want to see candidates being committed, and not just appear before elections."

If the PAP retains the team, it could go down well with self-professed middle-ground residents like Mr Donald Yap, 36.

He laments the fact that everyone in the PAP's 2011 team, especially then Foreign Minister George Yeo, left politics, with the exception of current Acting Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung, who was redeployed to Sembawang GRC: "My generation of voters needs some grit in our leaders. If these guys stay, they'll have my vote."

Former minister Lim Boon Heng, who led the PAP's task force in Aljunied GRC, tells Insight the team will continue to work the ground there.

"Considered as no-hopers, they almost pulled off an upset win. It showed that they connected with residents," he says. "Yes, the longer runway helped. It was needed, as the ground was difficult post-GE2011. Unfortunately not all of them had a long runway. Shamsul had only three weeks." 

"After the election, they are known, not just in Aljunied, but nationally. They have begun planning programmes for residents, to meet the needs of residents in the respective divisions. These cover the disadvantaged, the ageing residents, the youth," he adds.

Workers' Party trying to move forward
By Chong Zi Liang, The Sunday Times, 11 Oct 2015

Speak to any Workers' Party activist now, and they are likely to try and find out how you voted in the general election.

It is not that the party does not want to move on, but rather that its performance at the ballot box appears to have dealt a blow to its confidence about how to proceed.

As a volunteer said right after the party's weaker-than-expected poll showing: "I wonder whether what we're doing is worth it if it is not what people want."

Singapore's dominant opposition party had held such high hopes for the Sept 11 polls. But in the end the WP gained no ground and even narrowly lost Punggol East single-member constituency, which it won in a by-election in 2013. As for its crown jewel of Aljunied GRC, it only managed to hang on to this with a reduced winning margin, as was also the case with Hougang SMC.

But while the WP is in soul-searching mode, it is making an effort to look forward.

In the month since that Sept 11 blow, it has trained new volunteers, held a youth wing election, co-opted three new faces into its top decision-making body, and started walking the ground again.

In Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, meet-the-people sessions and community activities have also started in earnest. And work is under way to separate the accounts of Punggol East - which has gone back to the People's Action Party - from the WP's newly reconstituted Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC).

Still, the burning question is, Why the spurning? Activists say that, so far, the reasons thrown up from the ad-hoc conversations include the SG50 effect, the death of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, and the change in government policies over the last four years.

Former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Yee Jenn Jong also said on a Facebook post that the one noticeable difference during campaigning was that voters were less angry compared to 2011.


But one thing missing in discussions is what part was played by the party's handling of town council finances. Following the results, the WP had publicly maintained that it had little impact on voters' choice.

But some senior members now privately concede that voters could have been swayed by the negative news about the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) issues.

Since taking over management of Aljunied after winning the GRC in 2011, independent auditors hired by the town council have been unable to verify its accounts, including the latest statements for financial year 2014/2015.

Party chairman Sylvia Lim, who was also chairman of AHPETC, has said that progress has been made and most of the remaining disclaimers were due to information gaps when the Aljunied Town Council was handed over.

But party insiders are worried that many voters do not have the time for such details and have little patience for lengthy explanations.

Meanwhile, the party has been busy working to close its Punggol East town council office, and plans to redeploy its staff to the other offices under AHTC. It has 90 days from the election to hand over the management of Punggol East to the PAP, and has hired external auditors to work on separating the accounts of the constituency.

Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh - who has taken over as AHTC chairman from Ms Lim - as well as the other Aljunied MPs has pledged to "serve the residents to the best of their ability".

A week after the election, the MPs' weekly meet-the-people sessions had resumed. During the Mid-Autumn Festival last month, the party's town council had also organised parties for residents.


Party leaders have also been analysing the results from polling districts within constituencies to discern the voting patterns of different areas within a ward.

Sources say that support from residents living in private property fell across the board in all constituencies contested by the WP. This was in stark contrast to the 2011 General Election, when those living in condominiums and landed homes gave strong backing to the party. For instance, the WP lost in the Joo Chiat single seat by just 388 votes in 2011. This time, its vote share in the area, which was absorbed into Marine Parade GRC, fell markedly.

Likewise, voters living in larger four-room and five-room Housing Board flats also swung against the WP, signalling that the party may have lost ground with these middle-class voters in general.

In estates comprising mostly smaller flats, the party did not gain or lose ground, compared to 2011.

Some party members lament that they have misread sentiment and vastly overestimated support. This has shaken confidence in the party's ability to read the ground.

Although it has not launched an official fact-finding exercise, party members and volunteers have fanned out on their own to speak to residents. In Fengshan SMC and East Coast GRC, WP candidates fielded there such as shipping lawyer Dennis Tan, 45, and Non-Constituency MP and consultancy firm chief executive Leon Perera, 45, have been spotted making their rounds in the past few weeks, speaking to residents at coffeeshops and housing estates.


Amid this, the WP has pressed on with its renewal plans. During a meeting last Tuesday, Mr Perera, and former librarian Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, 36, were both co-opted into its Central Executive Council (CEC). Both were part of its ill-fated East Coast slate that party leaders had hailed as containing its future leaders. But the team got only 39.3 per cent of the vote, failing to get elected into Parliament as party chief Low Thia Khiang had hoped.

Voluntary welfare organisation manager Kenneth Foo, 38, who was part of the Nee Soon GRC team that polled 33.2 per cent of the vote, was also co-opted into the executive.

He is said to have impressed party leaders with his organisation skills, having guided a team of election rookies in Nee Soon despite being a new face himself. He is also seen as someone with strong grassroots links and is comfortable interacting with residents from all walks of life.

Observers say the party is hoping the trio will project a mix of youth, policy know-how, and minority representation.

It is also, perhaps, trying to send a signal about the importance of party discipline, insiders say.

They point to how its Marine Parade team was also made up of highly-qualified candidates - including crowd favourite, legal counsel He Ting Ru, 32 - none of whom were brought into the CEC. The team was apparently plagued by simmering discord among members, which displeased party leaders, who have always prized tight discipline and frowned upon power play.

Meanwhile, the party has also put sociology professor Daniel Goh, 42, in charge of its media team, one of several changes to membership of its CEC sub-committees. That the outspoken academic was picked signals that the party could be moving away from its old, reticent approach of dealing with the press and publicity.

On the grassroots front, the party has started to train its new volunteers, such as those in Mr Chen Show Mao's Paya Lebar ward under Aljunied GRC.

It has also started recruiting more aggressively, with individual candidates roping in volunteers online, and the party setting up a volunteer network Facebook page giving updates.

With the co-opting done, and two of the party's next-generation leaders - Mr Tan and Mr Perera - in Parliament via the Non-Constituency MP scheme, the party's renewal plans appear to be on track.

The next challenge may well be yet another election - an internal one. Party cadres will elect a new CEC every two years and the next Organising Members' Conference is due in the middle of next year.

While there was post-election talk of possible challenges against Mr Low and Ms Lim, the recent moves in the party show that they still hold considerable sway, say sources close to the party.

With its East Coast and Fengshan candidates - singled out as future leaders by Mr Low and Ms Lim - now all in the CEC, this possibly consolidates the duo's power.

Additional reporting by Tham Yuen-C

Might the other opposition parties merge?
Leaders of four biggest losers in GE2015 met within a week of Sept 11 polls to discuss working together, but talks are at an early stage
By Walter Sim and Lim Yan Liang, THe Sunday Times, 11 Oct 2015

Opposition party members were dismayed at the recent General Election result, especially those from the four parties that found themselves right at the bottom.

But, shortly after, their party chiefs met to discuss possible consolidation among the opposition, which has become more fragmented with the founding of new parties in recent years.

The four biggest losers are: the National Solidarity Party (NSP), which won 25.27 per cent of the vote among the areas it contested; the People's Power Party (PPP), which won 23.09 per cent; Singaporeans First (SingFirst), taking 21.49 per cent; and the Reform Party (RP), garnering 20.6 per cent.

The RP was founded in 2008, and SingFirst and PPP, before General Election 2015. They were among seven opposition parties which made this the first fully-contested election since independence.

On the agenda of the informal meeting, called within a week of the Sept 11 General Election: whether they should form an alliance, or even merge.

SingFirst chief Tan Jee Say tells Insight that some other opposition parties like the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), too, were invited to the meeting but could not make it as they "were not free".

NSP president Sebastian Teo also says that as discussions are at an early stage, it is too premature to discuss possible outcomes.

But the PPP's Goh Meng Seng, who mooted the multi-party meeting, tells Insight: "Of course, morale wouldn't be good, facing such a defeat. A lot of the leaders are not young already... but we must prepare the ground for future political players."

Separately, SDP chief Chee Soon Juan had last month floated the idea of working closer together with the Workers' Party (WP) to "present a more coordinated opposition strategy and message".

The WP and SDP were the second- and third-best performers at the polls after the ruling People's Action Party, which romped home with a popular vote of 69.9 per cent.

For the time being, however, the opposition parties appear to mostly be going at it alone, as they work out internal plans to move forward.


The SDP had placed high hopes on Dr Chee's comeback, hoping that it would reap huge dividends for the party. He was contesting his first election in 14 years after his bankruptcy discharge. Instead, the SDP saw its vote share dip from 36.76 per cent in 2011 to 31.23 per cent.

Since then, talk has started among political watchers about whether he is the best man to lead the party, given the historical baggage.

He no longer practises the brand of adversarial politics that got him sued for defamation - at a rally he had even pledged to find common ground and work with the PAP.

But some say it is hard to change perceptions of the man. Political scientist Derek da Cunha has often suggested that the party will be better off without Dr Chee at the helm. He has been reported as saying that the change in behaviour "does not airbrush out his...conduct since he entered the political stage more than two decades ago in 1992".

Dr Chee's party members dismiss such talk. Bukit Panjang SMC candidate Khung Wai Yeen, 33, says the party has not considered, nor spoken, about the issue. He adds: "We're firmly behind Dr Chee."

Indeed, Dr Chee has been front and centre of the party's post-GE activities. He has taken the lead to engage supporters online and organise a post-GE dialogue. Yesterday he hosted a talk centred on his personal life and ambitions.

The SDP, which arguably has been the most active among the non-WP opposition parties on Facebook, has also launched a recruitment drive for new volunteers, and says on its Facebook page that it is "already regrouping and planning our work ahead".

It adds, in a signal that it will continue to research and draft policy papers as it had done in the lead-up to the recent polls: "We're meeting in groups big and small to further shape the agenda of a positive and responsible party."

The Singapore People's Party (SPP) appears to have more pressing leadership-renewal issues to reckon with. Its leader, opposition veteran Chiam See Tong, is now 80 years old, and his wife, party chairman Lina, is already 66.

The party, which won 27.08 per cent of the vote in areas it contested, has had problems renewing its ranks and so makes it "less attractive in each election", Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan has said.

Mrs Chiam appears cognisant of this, saying last month that she intends to find and groom new blood to take the party forward, and will stay to mentor younger members.

"If the party needs me to lead or to be their mentor, I will still be in politics. I will not quit politics just because I lost this time," she said.

So far, and in the past few years, SPP has not unveiled any young members who have the potential to take over. Academic Loke Hoe Yeong, 31, who wrote the first part of Mr Chiam's biography, published last year, has been touted as a potential leader. But party insiders say the assistant secretary-general has left the central executive committee.

Mr Loke declined to comment when asked, but tells Insight he is currently writing the second part of Mr Chiam's biography, and "am currently not very active in the party".

The other new members who joined just this year, such as lawyer Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, 52, and social activist Ravi Philemon, 47, do not seem to be fully integrated with the party brass. They largely ran their own election campaigns despite contesting under the SPP banner. Mrs Chiam could not be reached for comment.


Meanwhile, Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) chief Desmond Lim Bak Chuan is continuing his party's charity efforts for needy households in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC - where the party contested and won 27.11 per cent of the vote.

Mr Lim, who leads an initiative called the Dedicated Locals' Caring Community, has, among other things, visited low-income households, provided free lunch for the needy, and taken senior citizens for free dental treatment.

"We are looking to expand our community and social activities in Pasir Ris-Punggol," he says.

Two other opposition politicians have launched their own initiatives in the wake of the polls.

One of them is Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chief Benjamin Pwee, who contested Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC as part of a joint team under the SPP banner. He has returned to the DPP.

He tells Insight that he is starting a Bishan-Toa Payoh Community Collaborative, to better reach out to PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) and help both residents and merchants in the GRC.

He is gearing up for a launch by the end of this month. For a start, it will create a job-matching registry for residents, link up volunteer tutors with children in low-income households to provide free tuition, and start a group-buying scheme so that merchants can enhance their bargaining power with suppliers.

The NSP's Kevryn Lim, 26, has also continued to champion equal rights for single parents, which was her pet cause during the hustings.

The single mother said in a Facebook post last month that she has launched a foundation, called Caps (Care, Assistance and Parenting Support), for single parents here.

One of its main aims, she says, is to fight for equal benefits for unwed mothers. It is also seeking donations in the form of daily necessities such as milk powder and diapers to be extended to single parents facing financial difficulties.


The Reform Party (RP) meanwhile has continued to walk the ground, says chairman Andy Zhu. Its focus has been on Ang Mo Kio and West Coast GRCs, where the party contested.

Mr Zhu tells Insight that a party election, which was postponed due to the General Election, is due soon.

The polls saw an injection of new blood for the party, with lawyer M. Ravi, blogger Roy Ngerng and career counsellor Gilbert Goh joining right before the election.

#Overheard: Ever since GG complaint to UN... Mrt broke down, fire explosion etc... He is the curse..opposition logic: ...
Posted by Fabrications About The PAP on Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mr Zhu says the trio have indicated they will remain with the party and have no plans to resign, although Mr Ngerng had told reporters last week, when asked if he would continue in opposition politics: "At this point, I am going to focus on putting food on the table."

For SingFirst, the party has completed its post-mortem and is thinking about how to move forward, says party chief, Mr Tan.

He did not want to comment on whether the party would continue its outreach efforts, saying: "The next General Election is four, five years away. We are not WP. If we are elected, we will then see what we can do."

For the PPP, which is the youngest political party here, Mr Goh's priority is to hold its Ordinary Party Conference by the end of the year.

There, it will elect its central executive committee so that the party can apply for a newspaper licence next year, in order to publish a party organ for distribution.

He says the party will do a review of its new media approach, and hopes to start its grassroots activities by the first quarter of next year.

He adds: "We have a long way to go to win back middle-ground confidence, which we feel we have lost."

Opposition candidate gets helping hand from election rivals
By Lim Yan Liang, The Sunday Times, 11 Oct 2015

During the general election, they were political opponents.

Now, they are quietly helping one of them look out for jobs.

Last month, Mr Ravi Philemon, the Singapore People's Party candidate for Hong Kah North SMC, put out a call on his Facebook page asking friends to alert him to suitable job openings.

He was floored by the outpouring of support, which came not just from opposition circles but also from People's Action Party (PAP) MPs, including two ministers.

They all sent him messages of empathy, saying they would keep a lookout. "It was a very humbling experience," he said.

"I have always believed in constructive engagement and politics and this outpouring of goodwill only reinforces that," he added in a post.

Mr Philemon had to quit his job as director of voluntary welfare organisation Operation Hope Foundation as his employment contract barred him from contesting the general election, where he got 25.24 per cent of votes against Dr Amy Khor of the PAP.

His Facebook post was shared by new PAP MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng, who said he knew Mr Philemon from his activist days. Mr Ng is the founder of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, which has been active in lobbying on animal welfare matters.

"We go quite a long way back and we both come from activism circles, so I thought I'd share his post because there are quite a lot of activist people on my Facebook page as well," said Mr Ng.

"Putting aside which political parties we are from, ultimately, we want to help each other."

Through a grassroots leader, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam also approached Mr Philemon to let him know that he would keep a lookout for any job openings. Both men later chatted over e-mail.

Separately, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan also sent words of encouragement. "He encouraged me to continue finding ways to contribute to our political discourse," said Mr Philemon.

Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan said such gestures showed "exemplary leadership". "Looking out for a fellow Singaporean, even an opposition politician, is the right thing to do," he said. "We should see more of this from our politicians."

While he is still looking for a job, Mr Philemon said he is in discussions with two companies: a local NGO that works with young adults and a media firm.

Also on the job hunt is former Workers' Party (WP) candidate for East Coast GRC Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, who left his job as a librarian with the National Library Board to stand in the general election. A WP member since 2004, the father of three had twice said "no" to standing for election before he took the plunge this year.

While he could not be reached for comment, fellow WP candidate Leon Perera wrote on Facebook that Mr Fairoz had made a big sacrifice when he left his civil service job to stand for election.

"He is currently unemployed. I hope it will not be long before he finds a position that befits his tremendous talent, energy and leadership ability," said Mr Perera.


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