SDP unveils first batch of candidates for GE

SDP's chief introduces the party's first batch of six candidates for the impending general election. (Yahoo! Photo).
SDP's chief introduces the party's first batch of six candidates for the impending general election. (Yahoo! Photo).

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has unveiled its first batch of six candidates on Thursday for the upcoming general election (GE).

They are 46-year-old academic James Gomez; Vincent Wijeyasingha, 40, who is an executive director of a social welfare organization; academic John Tan, 49; 35-year-old educator Michelle Lee Juen; retired lawyer Teo Soh Lung, 62; and entrepreneur Jarrod Luo, 27.

The candidates were introduced by the party's secretary-general Chee Soon Juan at a press conference held on Thursday afternoon. The SDP will be fielding a total of eleven candidates for the coming election.

Within the slate of candidates, Mr Gomez is the only one with past electoral experience. In the 2006 polls, he was part of the 'A-team' which contested under the Workers' Party (WP) banner in Aljunied GRC.

While the party refused to disclose where the candidates will be standing, it is likely that Mr Gomez, Mr Wijeyasingha, Mr Tan and Ms Lee could be fielded in the four-member Holland-Bukit Timah group representation constituency (GRC).

On the other hand, Ms Teo and Mr Luo could be potential candidates in the single-member wards of Yuhua and Bukit Panjang respectively. In addition, the party has also confirmed that it will be contesting in Sembawang GRC and will be introducing its candidates on Saturday.

For first-time candidate Ms Lee Juen, who has worked at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) for about three years, she acknowledged that "there are many aspects of the government and civil service that are admirable".

However, the former graduate of the London School of Economics (LSE) emphasized on the need for a change in the government's mindset in which its main priority is to serve the people rather the opposite taking place.

"I believe it's the entire mindset that needs changing. The idea that the government works for the people, serves the people rather than the people working for the government.

"And I think when that changes, a lot of the policies will be addressed. Because once the people take priority, then it becomes the government's aim to make housing, food prices and transportation affordable. Whereas its aim now is economic growth at all costs," said Ms Lee Juen who is also a mother of three children.

What is more worrying she added is that Singaporeans are working longer and harder but yet making less than ever before and being less able to purchase the things that they need, such as housing.

On the other hand, former WP member James Gomez who was embroiled in a controversy which marred the then 2006 election said he feels confident going into the polls this time round and that the electorate will be seeing a "new" him. Gomez joined the SDP in 2010.

"This is a new James Gomez, it's not the old one. This is a stronger, faster, better and definitely politically stronger.

"I've been through one strong political battle and I've found my political legs and it keeps me in good grounding. So I feel very confident, moving forward, to take on the issues more firmly," he said.

One of the likely issues to be brought up in the party's campaign is holding Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) Dr Vivian Balakrishnan accountable for the "over-blown" budget for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) held last year.

The party has made calls for a debate with the minister to address on the topic and other issues concerning the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC where Dr Vivian is the anchor MP.

It is likely that Ms Teo Soh Lung, 62, (left) and Mr Jarrod Luo, 27, will be standing in the single-member wards of Yuhua and Bukit Panjang respectively. (Yahoo! Photo).
It is likely that Ms Teo Soh Lung, 62, (left) and Mr Jarrod Luo, 27, will be standing in the single-member wards of Yuhua and Bukit Panjang respectively. (Yahoo! Photo).

Although she called for the Internal Security Act (ISA) to be "abolished", Ms Teo who was imprisoned without trial in 1987 said that this will not be the main agenda in her election campaign, preferring to focus on the bread-and-butter issues.

When asked what prompted her to step into politics, she said, "Well, so many things have gone wrong, so many things are going wrong. It is important to have an alternative voice in the country, in parliament.

"The PAP cannot go on forever, sometimes, somewhere, something may happen and you have to rise up to the challenge. Cannot be just sleeping around and do nothing right?"

On why she chose to join the SDP, Ms Teo said that she was drawn to the party's vision which is towards a more equal society. "I think that is very important. We should not be having so much of an income gap between the rich and poor," she said.

Meanwhile, the party's youngest candidate Mr Luo who heads the party's youth wing said that he is "very excited" at the prospect of contesting in his first ever election.

"I'll be working with a very, very progressive team of members with much expertise in various aspects and I'm sure we can give the incumbent a run for their money ion this coming election," he said.

Mr Luo's candidacy also adds up to the growing number of candidates below the age of 30 both from the ruling PAP and the opposition who will be contesting in the upcoming election.

They include 27-year-old PAP candidate Ms Tin Pei Ling and Ms Nicole Seah, 24, of the National Solidarity Party (NSP) and also the youngest to take part in the coming GE.

Weighing on this issue, Mr Luo who joined the party in 2008 said that the participation of much younger candidates is an "encouraging sign".

"Younger people are beginning to seed the need to be much more concerned and active and taking part in the developments that shape their country because ultimately they themselves are the ones that are facing the consequences for their action or inaction," he said.

Since it was formed in 2006, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC has not received a contest but the scenario is set to be different this time round.

When asked what the party's expectations are going into this contest, Mr Gomez said, "The people will decide, essentially right now Holland-Bukit Timah is made up of walkover MPs and that's got to change and will change with the SDP going forward in the contest."

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