SINGAPORE — The Workers’ Party (WP) on Friday (26 June) unveiled its second slate of five candidates to contest at the 10 July General Election.
Three of them are not new to the political scene: former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) and shipping lawyer Dennis Tan, 48; Dylan Ng Foo Eng, 45, director at a wealth advisory firm; and senior assistant manager at National University Health System (NUHS) Research, Ron Tan Jun Yen, 34. All had contested in GE2015.
Rounding up the five are 26-year-old Raeesah Begum Farid Khan, founder and director of programmes at Reyna Movement – the party’s youngest candidate – and 44-year-old associate professor of economics Jamus Jerome Lim Chee Wu.
The five are part of 21 candidates that the party plans to contest across Hougang and Punggol West single-member constituencies (SMCs) as well as Aljunied, Marine Parade, Sengkang, and East Coast group representation constituencies (GRCs). Four other candidates – including former election candidates Nicole Seah and Yee Jenn Jong – were unveiled on Thursday in the party’s first round of candidate introductions.
“We have a good slate for this general elections. I look forward to all these candidates representing the party well, and persuading Singaporeans to vote for us. We will continue on track to ensure that we can at least have one-third of the house of parliament in opposition hands,” said party chief Pritam Singh, who was speaking at the virtual press conference on Friday.
He also said that he will continue to run for the five-member Aljunied GRC, along with party chairman Sylvia Lim and vice-chairman Faisal Manap. Pritam had announced on Thursday that former Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) Gerald Giam and Leon Perera will contest for the sole opposition GRC.
When asked about whether they have confidence in retaining the GRC, Pritam said the performance of Aljunied-Hougang “has not had any issues come up of concern or matter which residents ought to be worried about” from 2015 through this term.
“If you look at the financial performance, for example, I mean it's comparable to any other GRCs in Singapore. More importantly, residents, the MPs, and the town councillors have all worked together to deliver good outcomes to residents. And our commitment is to continue. And to strive for greater heights,” he said.
In response to a media query about the degree of the involvement in the GE by the party’s former chief Low Thia Khiang, fellow former Aljunied GRC MP Chen Show Mao and ex-Hougang SMC MP Png Eng Hua, Pritam said the party “has to see what happens in the days that come”. The trio will not be standing for this year’s election.
“I don't want to speculate as to what will be the degree of engagement, but I'm pretty sure that all of them will support the campaign in one way or another,” he added.
In response to media queries, Lim said the party intends to release its election manifesto this weekend.
Tan had contested in the Fengshan SMC during GE2015 in his first time running at an election. While he lost to People's Action Party's (PAP) Cheryl Chan, he was appointed an NCMP and has spoken out on issues ranging from public transport to climate change.
“My years as an NCMP has made me even more convinced that the PAP super-majority in Parliament is bad for Singapore and Singaporeans,” said Tan.
No ruling party can say they “have been there” before in a “brave new world” post-COVID-19, he added.
“We, therefore, need more diversity of ideas and less groupthink in Parliament. We need a much more balanced parliament with constructive elected opposition to deal with important issues affecting Singaporeans such as jobs, fair hiring, cost of living, retirement adequacy and future economies,” said Tan.
Tan is set to run for Hougang this upcoming election, where he said he has been helping Png three years ago with the running of the estate and constituency matters.
Khan, the daughter of 2017 presidential hopeful Farid Khan, said she came from a background of parents with humble roots who worked hard to provide for the family.
“Because of what they taught me growing up, I've always known that for far too many people, hard work alone isn't enough to get past the hurdles they face,” she added.
Khan said she has worked with people from all walks of life, including underprivileged families, survivors of sexual abuse, youth activists and migrant workers.
“In the course of my work, I often ask myself why is it getting disproportionately harder for working-class families to live a decent life?...This is not the Singapore we deserve. What we deserve, is a country of marginalised are cared for, including senior citizens and people with disabilities.”
“We have a right to accessible housing for all, for low cost of living and better protection for workers.”
Like Tan, Ng will be running for election for the second time this year. In GE2015, he ran as part of a team for the five-member Marine Parade GRC.
The father of two, who has 20 years of experience working in the finance and banking sector, joined the party as a volunteer eight years ago.
“I hope for a balanced house with diverse views and voices, engaging in robust debate, which will benefit Singaporeans,” said Ng.
The father of one has an extensive educational record: He earned a doctor of philosophy from the University of California, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, a master of liberal arts at Harvard University, a master of arts at the University of California and a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Southern Queensland.
Prior to entering academia, he worked on policy issues at the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, international development at the World Bank, and portfolio management at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
Lim returned to Singapore after two decades abroad with a desire to serve his country.
He described the local educational system as a “pressure cooker” with children attending extra tuition and supplementary classes after school.
Lim said: “Even PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) questions become memes, and of course, this shows that internationally, Singapore boasts one of the world's best-performing school systems. But the question I want to ask is: what has this focus on outcomes actually brought us in terms of opportunities?”
He spoke of his belief that Singapore has allowed superficial success in its educational system “to blind people to the fact that this system isn't working, and our education system is not preparing our children to actually take on, and create good jobs for the future”.
“I want to ask these kinds of questions for the sake of my eight-month-old daughter but I also want to ask them for the sake of all children,” Lim said.
He also brought up issues of retrenchment, the sandwich generation, and the low productivity of workers as well as whether government budgets can be spent more wisely.
“I believe that these are real problems, and we can only resolve these most difficult questions when there is actually a healthy, active debate,” said Lim.
"Today, this debate does not occur because there isn't enough of an opposition voice in Parliament."
Tan had contested in the five-member Nee Soon GRC in GE2015. He started volunteering with the WP at the Hougang Constituency Committee since 2012 and has been assisting with the Aljunied Constituency Committee since 2017.
“Young Singaporeans should step up and take on more responsibilities and be the voice speaking up for their seniors, cohort, and children,” said Tan.
Their choices and their actions will shape and change Singapore for the future, he added.
Tan considered the last three years serving as Low’s last legislative assistant as very meaningful but “bittersweet”.
“The best lesson I learnt from him is that you have to be responsible to residents. You’re elected to take on the responsibility to look after them, to manage the estate, to be the voice for them in Parliament and to assist them with their day-to-day issues,” he added.
“It can be as simple as ‘the lightbulb outside my unit is not working, can you please help me?’...Low does it himself. He will personally follow up to ensure the issues are fixed.”