New WP candidate breaks down at unveiling

Liyana Low
Watson Chong (extreme left), financial consultant Mohd Fazli Talib, businessman Png Eng Huat, party chairman Sylvia Lim, social worker Frieda Chan and Sajeev Kamalasanan. (Yahoo! photo)

Worker's Party new candidate Watson Chong broke down during a press conference on Sunday, saying he was afraid joining the opposition would "bring his family down".

The 53-year-old aviation consultancy managing director said that his wife, 41, afraid of trouble caused by lawsuits, once threatened to divorce him after he joined WP in 2006.  His father-in-law was also worried for his safety.

With two children aged 10 and 12, the MBA holder, who is likely to be fielded in Nee Soon, said, "It took a lot of courage for me to join because it's not about me, it's about my loved ones, and how they would suffer if I were to go down."

"My wife objected to it. Why is it so? Because of fear of getting involved in lawsuits and such things like this," he said.

He recounted how his father-in-law had questioned him and, with his voice breaking, said, "Watson, you know, you're a married man. You have two young children. Why don't you spend some time with them?"

After composing himself for a few seconds, Chong said, "If I fall, I will drag them down. I'm emotional not because of (my own fear). If I had fear I wouldn't have joined... but seeing my family go down with me makes me cry, you know? It's not about me, but my loved ones and how they would suffer."

Chong said his family had eventually come round to his decision. In fact, he even feels that with the increase in the number of qualified people joining the opposition, the political scene today has "progressed and matured."

But he remains cautious.

"We won't know... How hard is the lightning bolt going to be on me? We have some taste of it already with our Mr Chen (Show Mao)," he added.

However, unlike Chong's initial family fears about joining the opposition, the family of another new candidate Png Eng Huat, was very supportive of his plans.

In fact, the former Raffles Institution student, whose father was an ex-gambler, "Even my 10-year-old daughter went 'Vote for my dad!' and told her friends that her father was running for the elections."

Chong and Png -- who joined the Workers' Party after donating his growth dividend shares from the government to Low Thia Kiang in 2006-- were two out of the five new candidates who were unveiled at a press conference on Sunday.

The other three are Sajeev Kamalasanan, 41, Frieda Chen, 35, and Mohamad Fazli Bin Talip, 29.

Kamalasanan, who owns an interior design company, together with both Chong and Png, are the entrepreneurs in the group of five newcomers.

Chairman of the WP, Sylvia Lim, said that one of the reasons that the party was able to attract entrepreneurs was because they had more freedom with their time management.

Semi-retired businessman Png, who grew up as the youngest in a family of six, feels that having an entrepreneurial background  helps in being more resourceful on the ground, especially when it comes to organising grassroots events without funding from the PA.

"We are actually able to have Hari Raya Puasa and Lantern Festival events through raising funds from donors," Png, who used to work as a cook in a Chinese restaurant during his student days in university.

Where businessmen are able to bring to the party their resourcefulness, Frieda Chen feels that her 15 years as a social worker has helped her in understanding the social problems faced by many families who fall through the gaps in the system.

On why she wanted to run as a candidate, she said, "Politics and social work are closely-knit. I've seen how government policies have affected families whom I've worked with, and I hope that future policies can get translated into practical help for these families."

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