By Lin Wenjian and Deborah Choo
People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Desmond Choo made a tearful appeal on Thursday evening for Hougang voters to give him a chance to forge a new future for them.
Speaking in English, Mandarin, Malay and Teochew at the Hougang stadium during the party’s last rally for the Hougang by-election, Choo said that he had continued his work in the single member constituency despite losing in last May's General Election (GE) because "I care and I want to serve you".
The last speaker for the night, the 34-year-old PAP candidate talked about the improvements he has brought to the residents since the GE -- including toilet upgrades and tuition programmes -- but added that there remains work to be done in Hougang.
Urging voters to give him the mandate to serve them, Choo pledged, "I will defend your interests and make sure that the Government hears you. I will speak up to get the Government to take action. I will stand up for you. This is my promise to Hougang."
In his speech, the deputy director at National Trades Union Congress noted the 21-year support enjoyed by the Workers' Party (WP) in Hougang, and said that he respected residents who had stood by their values and principles and "who feel uncomfortable with change".
Still, Choo said this by-election is "not an election to determine if there will be an opposition presence in Parliament" but is instead about choosing the candidate who can best serve their interests and needs.
Reminding the near-4, 000 strong crowd that Hougang belongs to the people and not the WP nor the PAP, he said, "I need your mandate, so that we can work together for a stronger and better Hougang -- a Hougang that we can all call home; a Hougang that we will all be proud to pass on to our next generation."
Choo emphasised that after 21 years under the WP, the time is right for a change.
"On Saturday, as you go to the polls, I humbly ask you to let me serve you and your family. Give me your support. This is your time to make a difference. Vote for change, vote for a new beginning in Hougang."
As he neared the end of his speech, Choo turned emotional when he promised to take the journey with Hougang residents.
"We can build a future for Hougang together," he urged one last time, as tears rolled down his cheeks.
Earlier on, PAP bigwigs Heng Swee Keat and Khaw Boon Wan also called on residents to cast their votes for Choo in their addresses.
Describing Hougang as being at a turning point, the two ministers emphasised the importance of choosing the right candidate in Saturday's polls.
Education Minister Heng, who spoke first in Teochew and then in Mandarin, said Choo is efficient and has leadership abilities.
Party chairman Khaw also gave an impassioned speech, praising Choo's character and said he is "not a quitter but a stayer" for remaining in Hougang despite the GE loss.
In his speech, Khaw said that the PAP is not perfect and the government has its faults, but he added that he is confident the situation will improve significantly within the next four or five years.
Calling the WP's negative messages of the past 21 years effective rhetoric, he also questioned if they are fair. "It is easy to criticise but it is hard work to come up with solutions. And there are no solutions which can satisfy everyone."
Finally, he urged Hougang voters to stay united as one people, and to give Choo a chance to serve them.
Other PAP speakers include Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Halimah Yacob.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching also lent their support to Choo, but neither spoke at the rally.
By Lin Wenjian and Deborah Choo