Have Workers’ Party sent their best man in interests of the Hougang residents?
That was the question that People’s Action Party put forth to residents at Hougang stadium on Sunday night at their first by-election rally.
The man in question whose calibre was questioned was none other than Workers’ Party candidate, Png Eng Huat. Png is a 50-year old semi-retired businessman who joined the party in 2006. He came from a media background and had studied abroad for his degree in his younger days.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said, “Png’s message [at WP’s Saturday night rally] was only: send me to parliament. But think about it. WP didn’t send him to parliament when they could have done so. The East Coast team didn’t choose Png. If he is their best man, why not choose him?”
Teo continued, “Voters have a right to ask why WP didn’t send him to parliament when they had the chance to, and yet they ask you to send him in?”
“Your vote today is not for Low Thia Khiang. He’s the boss of Aljunied already.”
Other than PAP heavyweight Teo who voiced his support for PAP's hougang candidate, Desmond Choo, five other speakers -- Tamil speaker Raja Mohan S/O Murugesu Kanagaratnam, Malay speaker Mohd Zulkefly bin Katab, Chinese speaker Ong Sin Lee, party veteran Poh Chin Hua and Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Denise Phua -- also took to the stage during the three-hour rally.
Yaw Shin Leong saga
While former Hougang MP and WP member Yaw Shin Leong’s scandal is a closed chapter to Choo, the rest of the rally speakers clearly capitalized on the episode.
“Low is better at talking and selling. But look at what he sold you last year?” Teo questioned.
Yet, Teo said, that the period when the public was asking questions in the midst of Yaw’s scandal rumours, WP had kept silent.
“One year ago, you [voters] gave the chance to Yaw Shin Leong. Instead, he wasted the precious chance given to him,” DPM Teo reminded.
“Is he [Low] playing on your emotions? Is he taking your support for granted? Residents should consider carefully and not just take any candidate WP sent. You’ve scrutinised Desmond. Scrutinise their candidate too.”
He went on to urge Hougang residents to give Choo a chance to prove his worth, and that his youth puts him in a better position to serve for a longer period of time.
“Give the underdog a chance,” he said.
Can WP bring results?
Talk is cheap, Jalan Besar GRC MP Denise Phua, said when it was her turn to take the stage.
She cautioned, “Politics is only a means to an end; it’s to build a strong country. Politics is not entertainment…It’s not about charismatic speeches and stirring emotions and sometimes hatred. What are the signature programs started by WP? What are the solutions that the WP MPs have brought up in the last one year and can stand the test of time and bring the results we need?”
Phua said more directly, “Listen to the WP rally speech last night. Almost everything they said is bad. Are we Singaporeans so ashamed of our achievements since our independence?”
Referring to the WP's call to have more voices in parliament, she added that political change did not begin a year ago, but it was rather the “PAP who opened the top opposition space for people who lost like Lina Chiam, Yee Jenn Jong, Gerald Giam. Political space was opened by the PAP.”
All three are currently non-constituency members of parliament.
‘I will not walk away from my family’: Choo
When it was Choo’s turn to finally take the stage, he spoke to the crowd in Malay, Teochew, Chinese then last in English.
“You [Hougang residents] have become my family. I will not walk away,” pledged Choo.
The 34-year old thanked voters who voted him for the last GE, and said he only wished to talk about his heart to serve Hougang.
Choo mentioned his initiatives such as a free legal clinic, arranging for TCM consultations for $1, subsidizing their healthcare, looking into toilet upgrades to make it more elder-friendly, and his pilot programme to help children get better PSLE grades.
“I worked hard to raise funds from many private donors, sponsors and businesses. I pushed for government-funded schemes to be fast-tracked in Hougang. I also worked with charitable organizations on projects to benefit the residents of Hougang. Some say it’s wrong to have done that. Do you think I should continue helping people? Do you think more should be done?”