This article is part of Yahoo Singapore’s series of post-GE interviews with former candidates who contested in 2015’s General Election. In this article, we spoke to the Workers’ Party’s candidate for Aljunied GRC (Kaki Bukit Division), Muhammad Faisal Abdul Manap.
It takes a lot of sacrifices to serve Singaporeans as an opposition Member of Parliament.
Muhammad Faisal Abdul Manap, 40, who is Workers’ Party’s (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Aljunied GRC (Kaki Bukit Division), has lost friends and acquaintances who did not want to associate themselves to him because of his political involvement with the opposition.
“Being an opposition MP (Member of Parliament) as well as a politician is not as easy as one can think… there’s always (a) stigmatisation that we are against the establishment. So there are bound to be people who are not comfortable to be seen affiliating themselves with us. I personally experienced it as well as my missus,” said the freelance family counsellor.
Yahoo Singapore spoke to the member of Singapore’s leading opposition party, exactly a month after the elections ended with a landslide victory for the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). WP succeeded in retaining its seats in the five-MP Aljunied GRC (51 per cent of votes) as well as Hougang SMC (58 per cent of votes).
The win gives Faisal a second chance at serving the residents of Kaki Bukit. It will also give him a second chance to speak up for issues related to the Malay/Muslim community when Parliament begins in January 2016.
Job loss and unwavering family support
Four years have passed since the father of three was first elected into Parliament. Although he lost many friends during this period, his family and relatives have given him their unwavering support.
During an hour-long interview at the party’s town council office in Bedok North, Faisal said he always believed in getting his family to understand what he goes through so that they can be there for him “emotionally”.
He would bring his parents to WP gatherings so they can witness him at work. On Nomination Day on 1 Sept, he brought them to the WP gathering site. Faisal was a family counsellor for two separate Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) from 2006 to 2008, and from 2008 to 2010. In 2010, he was “put out of job” due to his “involvement in politics”, before he decided to run for elections in 2011.
As an opposition MP, he lives with the uncertainty over whether he can retain his seat in Parliament and how his family will be affected when his term ends.
“If I don’t retain the MP position, will it be easy for me to get employed? In 2011 I was asked to leave my job in the social services because of my involvement in politics,” said Faisal, who does not believe that Singapore VWOs would be “open” to hiring him again.
Found a friend in PAP’s Kahar Hassan
Faisal found a friend in Kahar Hassan, 46, who used to be the chairman at PAP’s Kaki Bukit Branch, and was surprised when Kahar stepped down on 31 July, not long before elections began.
“Honestly, I’m close to Kahar, not only professionally but we do meet up during some of the iftar (break fast sessions) and some of the sessions at the mosque. I find him a very committed person who has done quite well in terms of serving the residents. The news of him stepping down came as a surprise to me,” he said.
The Monash University graduate felt the ruling party’s decision on Kahar was “unwise” for someone who had already built a close bond with the residents after serving them for 18 months. He said that “bonding is very important in order for you to assist and empower the other person’s life” and the “same goes for the field of serving the society”, and Kahar stepping down means that the residents will have to “start all over again”.
New PAP member Shamsul Kamar, 43, who used to be the head of department at Spectra Secondary School, took over from Kahar. Faisal said he has not had a chance to meet with him.
On being the first and only Malay opposition MP
Faisal is also the first and only Malay/Muslim opposition MP in Parliament. He said being the only minority on the opposition side to speak up on issues in the house could be a “lonely” experience at times. “It will be good if you can do things in a bigger group… the presence of another person (in Parliament) will be a bit better than you being alone,” he said. At the same time, he believes “things happen for a reason” and that he will do everything within his means to bring about change for the community.
When Parliament starts in 2016, Faisal said he will continue to speak up on issues relating to the Malay/Muslim community, such as the “perceived discrimination against the Malays in the Singapore Armed Forces”, the decline in the Malay population, and the hijab issue, among other things.
He also hopes the Malay/Muslim individuals in the government will be open to working with him on issues related to the community.