PAP chooses Desmond Choo as Hougang by-election candidate

Desmond Choo, 34, has again been chosen by the People's Action Party (PAP) to stand as its candidate in the upcoming by-election in Hougang.

In a press conference on Thursday morning, PAP Second Assistant Secretary-General Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced Choo's candidacy.

The unionist was introduced as “someone you can trust, someone who genuinely cares about people, and someone who’ll always be there for his constituency”.

“He did not leave after the GE (but) worked even harder on the ground,” said Tharman. "Over the past year, he’s connected with many people – quality time, quality interaction – through his weekly coffee sessions and regular house visits.”

The PAP is “proud” to field Choo again in this by-election, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance and Manpower added.

Choo, grassroots adviser for the single-seat ward, said he feels honored to represent supporters and residents in the by-election, which will see residents trooping to the polls on 26 May. He will be up against Workers’ Party's Png Eng Huat.

Despite the setback in the May general election last year when he lost to then WP member Yaw Shin Leong, Choo said he has never stopped working the ground and has since introduced various social assistance initiatives to benefit residents.

Besides a focus on caring for the needy elderly and low-income residents, the PAP candidate also announced the opening of a legal clinic, in partnership with the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore, to cater to the needs of the many residents seeking legal advice.

The monthly legal consultations, which will start on 15 May, will be free of charge.

“My approach has always been to do more than what the Government does. I will mobilise support and resources and take real, concrete actions to help residents tackle their problems,” Choo pledged.

He acknowledged, however, that he will face a tough contest in the single member constituency (SMC), which has been a stronghold of the WP.

“But our spirit is strong and we will fight to convince voters that we are the better choice for their long term future,” he added.

The deputy director of the National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC) Industrial Relations Unit had been widely expected to be PAP's candidate in a Hougang by-election, which had been prompted by the fall from grace of Yaw.

Yaw was expelled from WP on 14 February following allegations that he had extra-marital affairs, including one with a married female opposition party member. The Hougang seat was then deemed vacant.

"'Yaw saga' a closed chapter"

When asked if the PAP plans to use WP’s recent trouble to their advantage in their campaign strategy, Choo said that the Yaw fiasco, while unfortunate that it happened, will not distract him from his initial plan.

“To me, it is a closed chapter,” he continued. “The by-election should focus on bringing the best person into the ward to serve the residents.”

“My campaign has always been very focused on delivering results and understanding residents’ concerns. I came to Hougang with only one objective – to know my residents as friends and to serve them to the best of my capabilities.”

Tharman also reiterated, “This by-election is a local contest about who’s the best representative for Hougang residents who can best help them solve problems on the ground.”

In last year's GE, Choo lost to Yaw after garnering just 35.2 per cent (8,065 votes) of the votes, the lowest share of votes by a PAP candidate in the constituency.

The WP, led by Low Thia Khiang, has reigned in the Hougang ward since 1991.

“Mr Low is clearly confident, ultra confident, having held Hougang for 20 years," Tharman added. "It’s clear that PAP is the underdog, but let’s not trivialize the election process.”

Contrary to speculation, Choo also revealed that he plans on working “alone” instead of roping in PAP heavyweights.

 “I have the full support of my fellow comrades, but it’s also important to note that I’m my own man. While they’re there to render their assistance, it’s ultimately going to be about me delivering the results on the ground.”

“I’m still a rookie politician,” he admitted. “But I’m confident in the work that I’ve done.”

“I’ve been on the ground, I’ve served, I’ve tackled residents’ issues… This is very much my own fight,” Choo said.

Desmond Choo’s profile

34-year old Choo has long been a member of Singapore’s labour movement. In his current post at NTUC, he deals with issues related to wages, community engagement and labour market monitoring. He is also concurrently the executive secretary of the Union of Security Employees and of the Singapore Shell Employees Union.

Prior to NTUC, he had served in various roles in the Singapore Police Force and Ministry of Manpower. Choo was the deputy commander at Clementi Police Division from 2009 to 2010.

Before his appointment as the Second Adviser to Hougang Grassroots Organisations in February 2011, he had worked extensively in the Marsiling and Tampines East constituencies. In Hougang, he has initiated a healthcare scheme to benefit poor residents, and coffee sessions for residents to be directly involved in building their community.

Choo studied in Ai Tong Primary School, Catholic High School and National Junior College. He was awarded the SPF Overseas Merit Scholarship in 1997 to study Economics at the University of Chicago.

He is married to Pamela Lee.

Additional reporting by Kai Fong

Related articles:

Low Thia Khiang ‘surprised’ by timing of Hougang by-election

Hougang by-election to take place on 26 May

Hougang residents adopt wait-and-see stance to by-election

Hougang a safe seat for Workers’ Party: analysts

PAP’s Desmond Choo on Hougang by-election: I’ll be ready to answer any call

Hougang residents appear inclined to vote WP again

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