Sunday 13 March 2016

MP David Ong resigns due to extramarital affair; joins growing ranks of Political ASSHOLEs

PAP MP for Bukit Batok David Ong resigns; by-election to be called
Reported affair with married party volunteer the reason for decision; opposition eyes Bukit Batok seat
By Janice Heng and Rachel Au-Yong, The Sunday Times, 13 Mar 2016

People's Action Party MP for Bukit Batok David Ong resigned as both an MP and party member yesterday after admitting to a "personal indiscretion".

Mr Ong, 54, is believed to have had an extramarital affair with a married woman, who is a grassroots activist in his constituency.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said a by-election will be called "in due course" in Bukit Batok, which the PAP won with 73 per cent of the votes in a three-way race in last September's general election.

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said it will be contesting the seat and will hold a walkabout in the area this morning.

Mr Ong, who is married with three teenage children, told The Sunday Times: "I feel that it's the right thing to do to step down for the best interests of the party, my constituents and family. There is personal indiscretion on my part, which I deeply regret."

He added: "I would appreciate if you can give me and my family the privacy to heal and rebuild."

He is the third MP in five years to resign from his seat because of an affair. The Sunday Times has learnt that the woman in question is Ms Wendy Lim, 41, a PAP member who works in a logistics firm.

Yesterday, many residents and volunteers said they were surprised at Mr Ong's sudden resignation, adding that they appreciated his hard work in the constituency and were sorry to see him go.

In addition to the SDP, which contested the seat at the Sept 11 general election, several other opposition parties could also stand in the by-election.

It would be the third by-election following Hougang in 2012 and Punggol East in 2013.

PAP leaders assured Bukit Batok residents that their needs would be attended to in the meanwhile.

PM Lee said Mr Ong "has worked hard as an MP and served his residents diligently", and Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee, an MP for neighbouring Jurong GRC, would take care of residents in the meantime.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam also told reporters the party's first priority is taking care of Mr Ong's constituents.

"I want to say to Bukit Batok residents, on behalf of the party, that we are deeply sorry this has happened," said Mr Tharman.

Although it is a single seat, Bukit Batok is "part of the Jurong family", and Mr Lee will take over Mr Ong's Meet-the-People sessions. Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng will take over Mr Ong's role as Jurong-Clementi Town Council chairman.

Asked when the PAP found out about the matter, Mr Tharman said it was "totally unexpected, very sudden". As for whether there had been rumours before the general election, he said: "Certainly not."

Mr Ong is managing director of a publishing company. He was a long-time PAP and grassroots volunteer in Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng when he was asked to contest the 2011 general election, where he was among the oldest of the new faces.

He was elected MP for Jurong GRC, and his Bukit Batok ward was made a single seat for GE 2015.

In his letter to PM Lee, Mr Ong said he was resigning "for personal reasons, and with a heavy heart". He said he was grateful to his residents and apologised for having to step down prematurely.

PM Lee noted Mr Ong's diligent service, his parliamentary speeches on issues such as the retirement age, and his other community roles.

"However, having considered the matter carefully, I believe that your decision to resign is in the best interest of your constituents, the party, your family and yourself," he wrote.

"There is personal indiscretion on my part which I deeply regret," David Ong said.
Posted by The Straits Times on Saturday, March 12, 2016

JUST IN: MP for Bukit Batok SMC David Ong has resigned, according to a statement from PMO.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Saturday, March 12, 2016

Bukit Batok residents shocked by MP David Ong's resignation
Some say David Ong was a hard-working MP; others worry that his resignation will affect their estate
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Sunday Times, 13 Mar 2016

Bukit Batok residents yesterday said they were shocked and saddened by the news that their MP David Ong had resigned, saying it was a pity to see him leave.

They said he had done a good job of running their estate as the chairman of the Jurong-Clementi Town Council, and was always on the ground helping residents.

The Prime Minister's Office announced yesterday afternoon that Mr Ong had stepped down as MP and quit the People's Action Party (PAP), where he had been a longtime member before being fielded to contest the 2011 General Election.

Shortly after his resignation was made public, Mr Ong admitted that it was over "a personal indiscretion on my part which I deeply regret".

The dozen residents The Sunday Times spoke to yesterday were surprised at the news that he had quit.

MP David Ong resigns: Bukit Batok residents speak up
Posted by The Straits Times on Saturday, March 12, 2016

Taxi driver Thomas Lim said: "Who doesn't make mistakes? He shouldn't have to quit. He should just apologise and stay on."

His sentiment was shared by several other residents, such as clerical worker Lim Soon Hiang, 59, who said: "I am not very concerned about his personal life. He is a very good MP and has helped my family a few times. I will still support him if he stays."

Some, like retiree Leow Leong Hai, 90, were however concerned about their MP quitting just months into his term, and having to vote again so soon after the general election.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that a by-election will be called "in due course".

Others were concerned their estate would be affected.

Asked a 45-year-old resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim: "Are our toilet upgrading programmes and neighbourhood renewal programmes going to continue? Will there be changes?"

The PAP said yesterday that Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee, an MP for Jurong GRC, will take over Mr Ong's Meet-the-People Sessions. Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng will take over Mr Ong's role as Jurong-Clementi Town Council chairman.

Mr Ong, 54, has been an MP for the area since 2011, when Bukit Batok was a ward in Jurong GRC. It was made a single seat last year.

But most residents painted a picture of a hard-working MP who was friendly and approachable.

Madam Lim said that although her family moved to the area only seven months ago, she would often see Mr Ong around her block. "He's very hard-working. His Meet-the- People Sessions end very late, and I see him walking around again early in the morning," she said. "During Chinese New Year, he was greeting residents at the market at 6am."

Mr Arul Raja, 39, is among the residents whom Mr Ong has helped. The manager at a heavy equipment manufacturing company said Mr Ong wrote a letter to appeal to a nearby school to take his daughter in, so she could go to a school close to home.

"She was sent to a school in Jurong and was carsick on the school bus every day. Mr Ong helped us and she was transferred after one month," he said. "I have three other friends he has helped," he added.

Retired cleaner Tan Nan Hiang, 71, said Mr Ong was obliging and quick to respond to residents. "He was very willing to solve our problems and listen to our suggestions. When we asked him to fix this or that, he will always do it," she said.

Many of the residents noted that Mr Ong won over 70 per cent of the vote in a three-way fight last year.

Said pre-school principal Catherine Wong, 43: "Let's hope we choose the right MP again."

Posted by Lianhe Zaobao on Saturday, March 12, 2016

UPDATE: An extramarital affair with a fellow PAP member led to Mr David Ong's resignation as the Bukit Batok MP,...
Posted by TODAY on Saturday, March 12, 2016

David Ong: Long-serving grassroots man who became MP
By Janice Heng, The Sunday Times, 13 Mar 2016

Mr David Ong had just begun his second term as an MP when he resigned. But his time in the grassroots movement goes back to the late 1990s, when he was a grassroots leader in Kreta Ayer.

First fielded in Jurong GRC at age 50, he was the second-oldest of the People's Action Party's new faces in the 2011 General Election.

Mr Ong is managing director of RedDot Publishing, which produces publications for the tourism industry. But his grassroots background drew more attention when he was a new candidate.

He was then chairman of the Citizens Consultative Committee in Jalan Besar GRC's Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng ward.

His three sons - then aged 12, 14 and 16 - occasionally accompanied him to community events, he revealed in an interview ahead of the 2011 elections.

Mr Ong's dedication to residents as their MP was commended by PAP leaders yesterday.

Said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam: "Mr David Ong has worked extremely hard for Bukit Batok.

"He's a really hard-working MP. He spends four to five times a week in Bukit Batok - weekends, weekdays, nights."

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, replying to Mr Ong's letter of resignation, noted that he had "served diligently as an MP" in Jurong GRC and after his ward was carved out as a single seat last year.

"As an MP, you worked hard to strengthen the Bukit Batok community, building up a team of volunteers and community partners to help residents in need," he said.

He cited programmes that Mr Ong introduced to help needy families with groceries, provide job and healthcare support, and give a fresh start to individuals with repeated problems.

Mr Lee also noted how Mr Ong spoke up for the elderly in his parliamentary speeches - on issues such as the retirement age and Central Provident Fund policy.

Back in 2011, Mr Ong was chairman of the People's Association's Active Ageing Council.

Mr Lee also noted Mr Ong's contributions outside his MP duties, such as being involved in organising the annual River Hongbao Festival - something he had been doing even before joining politics.

Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao last night identified a group sales director at a logistics company, Ms Wendy Lim, 41, as...
Posted by The New Paper on Saturday, March 12, 2016

Woman who allegedly had affair with MP David Ong is a grassroots leader in Bukit Batok
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Sunday Times, 13 Mar 2016

People's Action Party (PAP) Bukit Batok MP David Ong, who resigned suddenly yesterday, is believed to have had an extramarital affair with a woman who is a grassroots leader in his ward.

From accounts of those who knew them, it seemed the reported affair started some time after the general election. The woman is understood to be Ms Wendy Lim, 41, who works in a logistics firm and has been active in the constituency for some time.

A source said Mr Ong and Ms Lim, who are both married, were spotted together at last year's Formula One race.

Photographs on the Facebook page of Bukit Batok PAP Women's Wing showed that she had been participating in grassroots activities in Bukit Batok and supported the party during last September's general election campaign.

Ms Lim, who has children, had also posted photos of her and Mr Ong, taken at Keming Primary School during last year's general election, on her own Facebook page.

Identity of married woman believed to have had affair with Bukit Batok MP David Ong revealed
Posted by Stomp Straits Times on Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sources told The Sunday Times that Ms Lim was active in constituency events.

Mr Ong's affair with her was also said to have gone on for several months, but came to light only recently.

After news broke yesterday of his resignation, Ms Lim made her Facebook page private, then later removed it completely.

A short profile of her on her company's website was later also removed. She holds a management position in her company and is in charge of sales.

A short curriculum vitae that was on the site before it was removed listed her as a former flight stewardess who graduated with a degree in management from the University of London in the United Kingdom.

When The Sunday Times visited Mr Ong's home in the east, a domestic helper said he was not in.

At Ms Lim's condominium in the west late last night, a young girl was at the door. When asked if a Ms Wendy Lim lived there, the girl closed the door immediately.

A few minutes later, a woman came by the flat and asked to be let in. Asked if Ms Lim lived there, she paused before saying no.

Bukit Batok by-election to fill David Ong's seat could be as early as May
By Janice Heng, The Sunday Times, 13 Mar 2016

The Bukit Batok by-election to fill the seat vacated by Mr David Ong could be held as early as May, soon after Parliament completes its debate on the Budget on April 15.

But observers doubt the People's Action Party (PAP) will be in such a rush, even as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he will call for one "in due course".

Institute of Policy Studies deputy director for research Gillian Koh said the ruling party "may even take some time to ensure that no local issues pop up to make things more difficult for them".

National University of Singapore political scientist Bilveer Singh said this "classic case of moral deficit" - Mr Ong resigned citing an affair - comes at a bad time "for a party that talks so much about ethics, cleanliness, uprightness, leadership".

He expects the PAP to allow some "cooling down" time first.

David Ong won the seat last year with 73% of the votes in a three-way fight with SDP's Sadasivam Veriyah and independent candidate Samir Salim Neji.
Posted by The Straits Times on Saturday, March 12, 2016

Although Mr Ong won 73 per cent of the vote in last year's general election, this by-election will likely see a closer fight, said observers.

The single seat has not always been a safe bet for the ruling party.

Prior to GE2015, the last time Bukit Batok was contested as a single seat, in 1991, the margin was slimmer. PAP candidate Ong Chit Chung defended his seat with 52 per cent of the vote against the SDP's Kwan Yue Keng.

Ahead of GE1997, the seat was absorbed into Bukit Timah GRC, and later became part of Jurong GRC.

Dr Ong died in 2008, sparking a debate on whether a by-election had to be held. As the ward was part of Jurong GRC, the conclusion was that there was no need for one.

This time, there will be one, and the SDP intends to contest it.

The likely result will depend on who is fielded and how many players enter the fray, said Associate Professor Eugene Tan of the Singapore Management University. Of the SDP's choice, he said: "I think it will boil down either to Dr Paul Tambyah or Dr Chee Soon Juan."

Both were in the SDP's four-man team in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC in GE2015, where the SDP had its best showing with 33 per cent.

Political observer Derek da Cunha said on Facebook the by-election is a chance for Dr Chee to aim for Parliament, but said "it will be more of a referendum on his relative popularity instead of anything else".

Experts noted that Bukit Batok's western location puts it outside traditional Workers' Party territory. WP did not say what its plans were.

People's Power Party leader Goh Meng Seng said he will discuss with the SDP whether to contest. The Singapore Democratic Alliance, National Solidarity Party and Reform Party all said they had yet to decide.

Said Dr Singh: "I don't think the PAP is in danger of losing the seat."

Prof Tan said the upcoming by-election will be a "very different scenario" from the 2013 Punggol East by-election, which PAP lost to WP candidate Lee Li Lian amid residual anti-PAP sentiment from GE2011. Dr Koh said Ms Lee was helped by unhappiness over local issues such as incomplete renovations of a wet market and shopping mall and a lack of childcare.

Public housing accounts for 95.7 per cent of Bukit Batok households, with four-room flats the most common. Voters will "be mindful" of the fact that their ward will no longer come under Jurong-Clementi Town Council if the PAP lose, said Prof Tan. The SDP has not run a town council since the 1990s.

Bukit Batok's history as part of Jurong GRC could be to the PAP's advantage, said Dr Koh. "Perhaps the PAP can ride some way on the strength of political capital that Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Speaker Madam Halimah (Yacob) have built up over the years in that area," she said.

The past two by-elections
The Sunday Times, 13 Mar 2016

The last two by-elections were both prompted by MPs stepping down due to personal indiscretions.


Late January, 2012: Rumours of an extramarital affair between first-term Workers' Party MP Yaw Shin Leong and a fellow WP member begin to spread online. Feb 14: WP expels Mr Yaw, who had won the Hougang seat in the 2011 General Election, rendering the seat vacant. May 9: Writ of election issued. May 16: Nomination Day May 26: By-election held. WP candidate Png Eng Huat wins with 62.1 per cent of the vote against PAP's Desmond Choo.

Punggol East

Dec 12, 2012: People's Action Party MP Michael Palmer, who was then Speaker of Parliament, resigns after admitting to an extramarital affair with a People's Association constituency director. Jan 9, 2013: Writ of election issued. Jan 16: Nomination Day Jan 26: By-election held. In a four-way fight, WP candidate Lee Li Lian wins with 54.5 per cent of the vote.

PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon garners 43.7 per cent of the vote, while Reform Party candidate Kenneth Jeyaretnam receives 1.2 per cent and Singapore Democratic Alliance candidate Desmond Lim gets 0.6 per cent.

Opposition parties came forth to state their intentions to contest an upcoming by-election, following the resignation of PAP's David Ong.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Saturday, March 12, 2016

"It's unfortunate" Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan reacts to MP David Ong's resignation.
Posted by 938LIVE on Saturday, March 12, 2016

JUST IN: Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Sec-Gen Chee Soon Juan may contest Bukit Batok by-election.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Saturday, March 12, 2016

Democratic Progressive Party-Singapore chief Benjamin Pwee confirms he will run in the Bukit Batok by-election.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Saturday, March 12, 2016

#GE2015 independent candidate Samir Salim says he will "very likely" contest the Bukit Batok by-election.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam says the party's CEC will decide whether to contest the Bukit Batok...
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Workers' Party cites Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) interest in Bukit Batok as one of the reasons why it will not contest the by-election.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Monday, March 14, 2016

David Ong's resignation: PAP has standards to uphold, says Chan Chun Sing
Very decisive action taken from time party knew of David Ong's indiscretion, says Chan Chun Sing
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 14 Mar 2016

Bukit Batok MP David Ong had to step down after he admitted to a personal indiscretion as the People's Action Party (PAP) has standards to uphold, party Whip Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

"We have taken very decisive action from the time we knew of this very unfortunate incident," he said.

"At this point, our focus is on the residents of Bukit Batok - to make sure we continue to serve the residents and maintain the high standards that residents and Singaporeans have come to expect from the PAP."

Mr Chan, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), was speaking to reporters at a Chingay event in Tanjong Pagar GRC.

He was asked, among other things, about how the PAP views an MP's personal conduct and its impact on his constituency work.

Mr Ong, 54, is said to have had an extramarital affair with a married woman, a grassroots activist in his constituency.

UPDATE: "We hope that the children involved are not harmed. I hope the media can take care of this aspect of your...
Posted by TODAY on Sunday, March 13, 2016

In a statement on Mr Ong's resignation last Saturday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said it was in the best interest of the constituents, the party and Mr Ong's family.

PM Lee also said that a by-election will be called "in due course" in Bukit Batok.

Last night, Mr Chan said the PAP acknowledged that Mr Ong and his team "served the residents to the best of their abilities".

"But there are standards that the party also wants to uphold, and we have been consistent all this while," he added.

When asked about the PAP's candidate selection process, given that Mr Ong's resignation comes six months after the September 2015 General Election, Mr Chan said there is always room for improvement.

"As a system, we must never be complacent. We must make sure that we continue to keep our eyes and ears on the ground and make sure we check our blind spots constantly," he said.

He added that while the PAP aims to minimise such incidents, equally important is how the party reacts when faced with such wrongdoing.

"Circumstances themselves will not necessarily define us - how we respond to circumstances will define us. We want to do the right thing for the residents, for the country. That is what people have come to expect of us," he said.

Mr Chan said this was also why the PAP moved quickly to make sure residents are taken care of by appointing Jurong GRC MP Desmond Lee as the PAP branch chairman in Bukit Batok, as well as adviser to its grassroots organisations.

Party activists and MPs from the adjacent divisions will also chip in to help, Mr Chan added.

He declined to comment on the timing of the by-election to fill the seat, who will be fielded or on opposition interest in the seat.

He said the focus should be on serving the residents at the local level, as well as keeping an eye on national challenges such as economic and security issues.

"The economy is slowing down. We have the latent security challenges. There are many things we have to focus on in building the infrastructure for the next lap," he said.

Mr Chan added that he was sure PM Lee will pick an appropriate date for the by-election, taking into account national priorities that the country has to grapple with.

He did not specify when the PAP got wind of Mr Ong's problems, saying only that the party acted "in a very short time".

Mr Chan also hoped that the children involved in this episode will not be affected, and urged the media to be mindful of this.

He said: "Whatever the adults do, we should try our very best to never harm the children's interest."

Before we focus on the by-election, we have to ask - is it okay for People's Action Party MP David Ong to just disappear like that?
Posted by on Monday, March 14, 2016

After the resignation of PAP MP David Ong, Deputy Director (Research) at the IPS Dr Gillian Koh discusses the potential challenges and take-aways for the coming by-election.
Posted by IPS Commons on Monday, March 14, 2016

The People's Action Party activist who allegedly had an extramarital affair with former Bukit Batok MP David Ong has resigned from the party.
Posted by The Straits Times on Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tharman visits Bukit Batok residents
He says their needs will be taken care of despite MP's resignation; PAP studying 'strong candidates'
By Chong Zi Liang and Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 15 Mar 2016

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam assured Bukit Batok residents last night that their needs would be tended to even though their MP had resigned.

"We will make sure that problems are solved, that their needs are taken care of, that all the projects that are ongoing carry on smoothly and are completed," he told reporters.

He also said that the People's Action Party (PAP) had a few "very strong candidates" it was looking at to replace Mr David Ong, who stepped down two days ago over an alleged affair.

"We are quite fortunate to be in that position. When we finally announce the candidate, I can assure you it will be someone committed to the interest of Bukit Batok residents, and who will be able to also speak for them and Singaporeans in Parliament," he added.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had, in announcing Mr Ong's resignation last Saturday, also said he would call a by-election for the single seat "in due course".

Speaker Halimah Yacob also confirmed she had received Mr Ong's resignation and declared his seat vacant at the start of yesterday's Parliament sitting.

PAP is looking at a few "very strong candidates" for the Bukit Batok by-election, says DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam. VIDEO: PEARL LEE
Posted by The Straits Times on Monday, March 14, 2016

Yesterday, Mr Tharman, an MP for neighbouring Jurong GRC, turned up at the weekly Monday night Meet-the-People Session at the PAP Bukit Batok branch, which began at 7.30pm as usual.

Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng was there to see to residents who needed help, accompanied by PAP Bukit Batok branch secretary Leow Boon Swee, who some see as a possible candidate. Senior Minister of State Desmond Lee, who has been tasked to look after the constituency for now, is abroad for work.

At least 30 residents turned up at the Meet-the-People Session last night, some of whom were not aware that Mr Ong had resigned.

One of them was factory worker Aesha Amat, 64, who said: "If you made a mistake, you should come out and say 'sorry'. You cannot just suddenly quit and then go missing in action."

Technician Francis Ng, 51, however, noted that he had approached Mr Ong in person a few times.

"He's very polite, quite easy to talk to and can connect with residents. He doesn't give off a haughty vibe," he said in Mandarin.

But Mr Ng added that he did not think Mr Ong handled the matter well, and that he should have come out to apologise publicly.

Told that some residents had hoped Mr Ong would address them and explain his actions, Mr Tharman said Mr Ong needed his privacy now and would have to decide for himself when to reappear in public.

Mr Ong yesterday told The Straits Times via e-mail: "I have expressed my deep regret and acknowledged my personal indiscretion. It would be best to leave it at that."

He also thanked the Bukit Batok residents for the strong support they had given him.

"I have done my best to perform my responsibilities, and deeply apologise to them for having to step down prematurely," he added.

Yesterday, Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim told reporters at her Meet-the-People Session in Aljunied GRC's Serangoon ward that her party will not contest the Bukit Batok by-election.

She cited two reasons: The WP is not active in that area, and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) had declared at the weekend its intention to run, having contested the single-member constituency in last year's general election.

The SDP received 26.4 per cent of the vote in that contest. It held a walkabout on Sunday in Bukit Batok, and party chief Chee Soon Juan said there was a possibility he might run as the SDP was still considering who to field.

Holding the moral line in politics

Editorial, The Straits Times, 18 Mar 2016

The public will sympathise with the family of former PAP MP for Bukit Batok David Ong, and indeed with another family drawn into the public eye by what he described as a "personal indiscretion". They are collateral victims of actions that he now regrets deeply, and deserve a chance to "heal and rebuild", as he put it .

The People's Action Party and Mr Ong believed that an immediate departure from his MP's post and from the party was in order, given the nature of the indiscretion - an extra-marital affair. That reflects the political accountability that the Singapore system demands of its MPs when the moral code, which society expects to be upheld, is breached.

What this sorry episode reaffirms is that morality does matter in politics here, unlike the blurring of lines elsewhere. In many countries, infidelity is no bar to politicians who spring back not just from extra-marital affairs but also sexting and prostitution scandals. Forgiving such indiscretions is rightly seen here as a step down the slippery slope of moral decline, which would undermine the high standards of integrity set by the nation's founding fathers.

Mr Ong's request for privacy during this difficult period should be accorded due consideration, of course. There is general acceptance that political leaders and their families require private space to conduct their personal lives, without which the burden of public service would prove onerous. However, there is also a public expectation for elected officials to behave honourably and to come clean if and when their conduct goes beyond the pale. It does them and their political colleagues no good when details of their unfortunate personal choices emerge from other sources, gaining wider currency in the process. In the Internet era, it would be unwise for those in public life to believe they can remain spartan with details when personal predicaments of their own making arise.

Members of Parliament would be aware that moral misjudgments on their part have an impact that go beyond their personal lives. Arising barely six months after 73 per cent of Bukit Batok voters had entrusted Mr Ong with the job, his sudden departure leaves them with no elected MP, forcing them to return to the polls. In tiny Singapore, where even a by-election contest cannot easily be separated from national politics, this poses an unnecessary distraction at a time when the nation needs to hunker down to tackle larger issues amid global uncertainty.

Being the third such affair involving MPs in the past four years, sections of the public might tire of erring MPs precipitating by-elections in this manner. It would be a pity if the actions of these few tarnish the good work of the many who have devoted years in serving the public.

"The constant exhortation to vote for candidates with 'character' and 'integrity' during each General Election means...
Posted by Inconvenient Questions on Monday, March 21, 2016

Not all who err deserve a second chance

Mr Seah Yam Meng ("Everyone deserves a second chance"; Wednesday) seems to portray MP David Ong as a societal victim, who should be forgiven by society for repenting for his "personal indiscretion".

The People's Action Party (PAP) prides itself on its moral high ground ("PAP has standards to uphold: Whip"; Monday), which cannot be compromised. And rightly so, as this is important and necessary for people in political office.

PAP MPs are fully aware of this. They are also aware of the consequences, should they falter, as there are ample precedents. So, repenting as an aftermath, having deviated knowingly, cannot be a mitigating factor.

Similarly, the performance of the MP, even though stellar, is no grounds for mitigation. The central issue is one of morals and the value system.

Even though it is human to err, the nature and severity of mistakes are extremely varied. Hence, they cannot be viewed and dealt with homogeneously.

A mistake is an act or judgment made as a result of a misconception or misunderstanding. When one commits an act by knowingly flouting a rule, policy or law, it is no longer just a mistake.

Although the focus seems to be on the offending couple, we must be cognisant of the collateral damage inflicted on the innocent spouses and children of both families, who have to suffer anguish and embarrassment.

The circumstances of this case are sufficiently serious to render it unpardonable. So any sympathy or call for a second chance is certainly misplaced.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan
ST Forum, 19 Mar 2016

"If someone is capable of doing that, would it not give you pause and make you think, 'What else would he do?' Is this...
Posted by Inconvenient Questions on Monday, March 21, 2016

Chee Soon Juan to contest Bukit Batok by-election
SDP chief says his priority, if he is elected, would be to ensure town council is well run
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 21 Mar 2016

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan will contest the upcoming Bukit Batok by-election.

He was introduced as the party's candidate by SDP member Sadasivam Veriyah, who contested the seat in last year's general election, at a walkabout yesterday morning.

Dr Chee, 53, and his party members have been making their rounds of the single seat over the past week since former MP David Ong stepped down over an alleged affair with a volunteer. Mr Ong, 54, resigned as MP and a People's Action Party (PAP) member on March 12.

The date for the by-election has not been announced, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said it will be called "in due course".

The SDP announcement comes a day before the PAP is set to name its candidate later today.

Dr Chee is making his fifth bid to enter Parliament, after having had to sit out the 2006 and 2011 general elections as he was an undischarged bankrupt.

At GE2015, he led the SDP team in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, which won 33.4 per cent of votes.

He said yesterday that should he be fortunate enough to be elected this time, his priority would be "to ensure the efficient and productive management of the town council".

"The SDP's goal is to surpass current levels of performance of PAP- run town councils," he said.

He added that the SDP will not engage a managing agent, but will "employ qualified and experienced professionals" to run it.

He promised to retain the bulk of the existing staff from the current Jurong-Clementi Town Council's Bukit Batok office for a smooth handover should he win.

He also said he intends to hold regular townhall meetings to ask residents about their concerns and issues to raise in Parliament.

"I will be a competent, constructive and compassionate MP, one Bukit Batok voters will be proud of," he told reporters at a media conference near a coffee shop in Bukit Batok West Avenue 8.

Asked to explain why he was the party's choice, Dr Chee would only say SDP had internal discussions and details could not be disclosed.

But he said Bukit Batok "is no new territory" for SDP. It contested the seat in 1988 and 1991, before it was drawn into a GRC, and again when it became a single-member constituency last year.

In GE2015, SDP's Mr Sadasivam Veriyah won 26.4 per cent of votes, while PAP's Mr David Ong got 73 per cent and independent candidate Samir Salim Neji got 0.6 per cent.

Mr Samir has said he will not contest the by-election, which is likely to see a straight race between Dr Chee and the PAP candidate.

The Workers' Party said last week it would not contest the seat.

Yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party chief Benjamin Pwee, People's Power Party chief Goh Meng Seng and Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam all said they were glad Dr Chee was standing, and hoped for a straight fight.

Asked about his chances in the coming contest, Dr Chee said he was up against an "undemocratic system" where it was "tremendously difficult" for his party to get its message out in the media.

"We don't talk about our chances. We come down, we work, we persuade, we convince and try to see how we can overcome the obstacles despite all these barriers."

Residents like driver Teo Lai Choon, 59, who has lived in the area for over 30 years, said he was not surprised at the SDP's choice of candidate. "More people know Dr Chee. I am not sure about their chances of winning, but I think they will improve from last year's result," he said.

Lawyer Murali Pillai is the PAP's candidate for Bukit Batok by-election
Murali Pillai back where he started work in grassroots
Lawyer's service in Bukit Batok dates back to 2000, giving free legal aid to residents
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 22 Mar 2016

Six months after coming within a whisker of winning a seat in Parliament, lawyer Murali Pillai is getting a second shot.

Mr Murali, 48, returned to his old stomping ground of Bukit Batok yesterday, where he was unveiled as the People's Action Party candidate for the by-election.

The head of commercial litigation at law firm Rajah & Tann, who is known also as K. Muralidharan Pillai, has been PAP branch chairman for Paya Lebar since May 2012, and was part of the PAP team that won 49 per cent of the votes in Aljunied GRC at the 2015 General Election.

But it was in Bukit Batok where he first got involved in grassroots work, in 2000. He gave free legal aid to residents, was roped in to help then MP Ong Chit Chung, and became branch secretary in 2007.

When Mr Murali took on his new post in Paya Lebar, he maintained his ties to his old ward by remaining on the Bukit Batok Citizens Consultative Committee until last year.

"I have a record of service in Bukit Batok for Bukit Batok residents. I pledge to serve with all my heart."

Press Introduction of Mr Murali Pillai
Mr Murali Pillai addresses the media in all four languages! He also spoke about how he started his political journey in Bukit Batok.#SGByElection
Posted by People's Action Party on Monday, March 21, 2016

Bukit Batok single-member constituency will have a by-election after former MP David Ong resigned on March 12 over an alleged affair.

The date has yet to be called, but Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who introduced Mr Murali at a press conference, said there was no reason to hold back announcing a candidate the PAP was "very comfortable with".

He praised Mr Murali for having been a galvanising force for activists when the late MP Ong Chit Chung, who oversaw Bukit Batok when it was then in Jurong GRC, died suddenly in July 2008.

"Jurong MPs were all involved, helping out in taking care of Bukit Batok, but Murali was the one who held everyone together, all the volunteers, the activists, and in fact strengthened the team," Mr Tharman said.

DPM Tharman endorses Murali Pillai
WATCH: 2nd Assistant Secretary-General Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam introduces Mr Murali Pillai and endorses him as the intended candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election.“I have the highest regards for him!”#SGByElection
Posted by People's Action Party on Monday, March 21, 2016

Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu said Mr Murali was the party's "first choice and the best choice for residents".

Mr Murali said that if he is elected, his focus will be on helping the elderly and needy, given that Bukit Batok is a mature town.

He also noted that the constituency has a number of rental flats, and he wanted to make sure children living in them get the same basic opportunities that others get.

"We must ensure social mobility and guard against a permanent underclass from forming in our society," said Mr Murali, who has been married to educator N. Gowri for 20 years. They have four children.

Mr Murali would be the second minority candidate PAP has fielded in a single seat in recent years. Asked about this, he said he had spent years helping out in Bukit Batok and Paya Lebar, areas with a larger proportion of Chinese residents than the national average.

He acknowledged that he had to deal with a language barrier, "but so long as I showed that I was sincere in wanting to solve their issues, I could surmount it".

“We decided on him before we knew who the opposition candidate would be, and we’re still very comfortable in our choice of Murali”: DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam on People's Action Party Bukit Batok candidate.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Monday, March 21, 2016

Weighing in, Mr Tharman said: "Race is never absent in politics anywhere and we did consider this very carefully. And I can tell you we are very comfortable with our choice of Murali."

He noted that when PAP leaders met grassroots leaders and residents in Bukit Batok last week, Mr Murali's name came up readily.

"One elderly Chinese lady I met asked: 'What about that Indian man?'" Mr Tharman recalled.

"When people look at Murali, they see Singapore in him. They see someone who is with them, not someone who is above them in any way... They see someone who represents our multiracialism."

Mr Tharman also acknowledged that PAP would have to contend with the so-called by-election effect, where voters are more willing to elect an opposition MP as the ruling party is already in power.

But he reiterated that the party was confident about its choice.

Asked about competing against Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan, Mr Murali said: "Politics is really about serving residents. And I consider myself seasoned because I have put in quite a bit of time serving the residents' needs. That is really the focus."

His late father P.K. Pillai was a former political detainee arrested during Operation Coldstore in 1963, who later credited the Government for Singapore's prosperity.

Mr Tharman said Mr Murali also worked extremely hard in Aljunied GRC's Paya Lebar ward in the GE: "He worked the ground very hard and swung the votes around."

Mr Murali said his time in Aljunied taught him a valuable lesson: "One thing I learnt from my experience in Aljunied GRC is to fight hard for every vote. I am not taking anything for granted. I am going to fight hard for every vote in Bukit Batok."

Bukit Batok contest takes shape with 2 contenders named
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 22 Mar 2016

Bukit Batok's nearly 27,000 voters now have a measure of two contenders who will vie in an upcoming by-election there, after the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) yesterday named lawyer and veteran party activist Murali Pillai as its candidate.

A by-election date has not been set, but Mr Murali's introduction came a day after Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan said he would contest.

PAP second assistant secretary-general Tharman Shanmugaratnam told reporters that the party had decided on Mr Murali in the course of last week, before knowing who the opposition candidate would be.

"There's no reason to delay the announcement of a candidate that we feel very comfortable with," said Mr Tharman, who is Deputy Prime Minister, at a press conference at the PAP's Bukit Batok branch.

Mr Murali, 48, who was fielded as part of the PAP's Aljunied GRC team at last September's general election, recalled that he attended his first Meet-the-People Session in 2000 at the very same branch, and said that "much of my thoughts on community service and politics are shaped by my experience here".

He has been a grassroots volunteer and leader for 16 years at the single-seat ward, and was appointed the PAP's Paya Lebar branch chairman four years ago.

This is not to our minds, a mismatch at all, said DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam, speaking about the PAP's choice of lawyer Murali Pillai for the Bukit Batok by-election. He will be facing SDP chief Chee Soon Juan.
Posted by The Straits Times on Monday, March 21, 2016

The Bukit Batok single-seat constituency became vacant after MP David Ong stepped down just over a week ago after admitting to a personal indiscretion.

Mr Tharman said yesterday that residents liked Mr Ong as an MP, but understood that he had to resign. The party had to let him go as it is important to uphold high standards in politics. He also said he did not know when the by-election would be held. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said he would call it in due time.

While campaigning has not started, the area has been abuzz with activity, with PAP MPs from neighbouring Jurong GRC visiting residents at coffee shops and their homes and the SDP, too, making its rounds in the area.

After his introduction, Mr Murali attended the weekly Meet-the-People Session and started on house visits.

Dr Chee, 53, was at a walkabout on Sunday and was introduced as the SDP candidate by party member Sadasivam Veriyah, who contested the seat last September.

On pitting Mr Murali against a seasoned politician, Mr Tharman said: "I think we've chosen the right person with regard to character, the way people know him, the way people have worked together with him in the past."

Dr Chee did not respond to queries about Mr Murali's candidacy by press time.

Mr Tharman said the PAP would frame the election in a way that "makes sense for voters", adding that the first priority for any MP is to serve residents well.

Among opposition parties, only the National Solidarity Party has not said if it will contest. Its secretary-general Lim Tean said it is still "studying the situation carefully".

Quite a few unknown factors at play in Bukit Batok
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 22 Mar 2016

Another by-election so soon after a general election. It is a situation the People's Action Party does not relish - it lost two such contests within two years of the 2011 General Election.

The by-elections in Hougang in 2012 and Punggol East in 2013 were triggered by the incumbent MPs - one from the Workers' Party and one from the PAP - vacating their seats after extramarital affairs.

The by-elections, both won by the WP, also came after a heated general election in 2011 that saw the PAP's share of the popular vote dip to its lowest since independence.

This time round, Bukit Batok is seen as a much safer seat.

Former MP David Ong, who stepped down over an alleged affair, won 73 per cent of the votes in a three-way contest.

The seat is also in the west, an area that has given strong mandates to PAP slates in the last few elections.

It also comes soon after GE2015, which saw the PAP gain a near-10 percentage point swing in votes.

Will these be enough for the PAP to avoid the potential challenges that lie ahead?

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam acknowledged the opposition has a natural advantage in by-elections.

This by-election effect comes about when voters feel they can vote for an opposition candidate without worrying about voting the PAP out of power inadvertently.

In Hougang, the WP retained its seat but saw its vote share slip by 2.7 percentage points in 2012. In contrast, the PAP lost Punggol East in 2013 with a 10.8 percentage point erosion of its vote share.

This time round, there might be residual unhappiness over Mr Ong's sudden resignation just six months after voters had overwhelmingly backed him.

Mr Tharman said that in his rounds of the constituency over the past week, residents told him they liked Mr Ong as an MP but understood why he had to go and why the PAP acted swiftly once it found out about his issues.

But this does not address concerns that it is the second time in four years that voters are being put through the inconvenience of a by-election due to the personal indiscretions of a PAP MP.

Some who supported the PAP may feel the need to register their dissatisfaction at the ballot box.

National University of Singapore political scientist Hussin Mutalib said the PAP was hurt in Punggol East as a result of former Parliament Speaker Michael Palmer's affair. "The majority of Singaporeans by and large still do not condone such misdemeanours by politicians," he said.

Some also feel the PAP runs the risk of losing some votes by fielding a minority candidate.

The PAP has long argued that elections are not colour-blind, and GRCs are needed to ensure minority representation.

Mr Tharman recognised as much, saying that "race is never absent in politics anywhere", but added that the PAP was comfortable with its choice of Mr Murali Pillai.

That the party is putting faith in a minority candidate in a single seat amounts to a significant vote of confidence in Mr Murali's years of grassroots experience and his strengths as a candidate.

Up against him is Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan, whose electoral impact cannot be discounted.

Singaporeans of an older generation might be wary of voting for Dr Chee given his past political conduct and brushes with the law, but he has sought to set aside his confrontational politics and cultivate a moderate image.

Dr Chee was a draw on the campaign trail last year, as supporters packed rally sites to hear him speak and formed long queues to buy his books and get his autograph.

But his star power did not carry over to the voting booth, and his team got 33.4 per cent of votes in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

To stand a chance this time round, Dr Chee would have to engineer a very big swing - of at least 24 percentage points.

When the SDP contested Bukit Batok in GE1991 before the ward was drawn into a GRC, it got 48.2 per cent of the votes.But that was also the year when the SDP was at its peak and won three seats in Parliament.

The PAP has worked hard to win over 73 per cent of voters since.

But the road ahead will not be all easy and Mr Murali says he is bracing himself for a tough fight and no doubt knows a thing or two about close contests. His Aljunied GRC team almost pulled off an upset and scored 49 per cent of the votes against the WP incumbents last year.

Even before the by-election is called, Bukit Batok is shaping up to be a contest between two politicians who know what it is like to be the underdog.

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