The Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang on Thursday named businessman Png Eng Huat as the opposition party's candidate for the Hougang by-election.
At a press conference where he was unveiled officially to the media, Png said he will defend the single-seat ward and "continue the legacy left by Mr Low".
"We have been there since 1991 and we will continue that, but most importantly, I wish to continue and represent them in parliament, to be their voice, to voice their concerns as the Workers' Party has done for the past 20 years," Png pledged.
Png will go up against the People's Action Party's Desmond Choo come 26 May.
His party colleagues sang praises of Png during the press conference. Member of Parliament (MP) Pritam Singh called Png a "people person" and said he's upfront and frank.
"If he can do something, he will say he can do it. If he can't he will say let me check and get back to you, and he will get back to you," he added.
And even though Png is a mature candidate, Low believes that Hougang needs a candidate like Png.
"He is able to connect very well on the ground (in Hougang), and that is the main consideration," he said. "Eng Huat has been with the (party) leadership for quite some time, and if he's elected, he can contribute to the party leadership, as well as to parliamentary work."
During the press conference, Low also addressed the issue of Yaw's expulsion from the party, that gave rise to the need for a by-election to fill his vacant parliamentary seat.
Responding to Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who earlier Thursday said the WP "should not trivialise the election process", Low said that on the contrary, they take the by-election "very seriously".
"It actually has a broader perspective to that because Yaw Shin Leong is an MP, not just a member of a party, and we believe it is important for parliament to have responsible MPs," he said. "In any case, the by-election also shows how a democratic system should work, and it shows the Workers' Party has a political will to put things right if they go wrong.
He continued: "It is not easy to remove an MP from the party... and we have never taken the decision lightly, so I don't understand what he (Tharman) means by trivialising the electoral system."
Elaborating on how he and the WP's by-election committee came to select Png for the task, Low pointed out that even though Png joined the party in 2006, before the general election that year, he did not field him as a candidate.
Instead, Low revealed: ""We observed him for quite some time, the way he worked, and we're confident that he is a person of integrity, sincere, wanting to serve the people, and he fits our criteria as a candidate."
Low added that when the by-election was announced for Hougang on Wednesday, WP's by-election committee had come to a unanimous decision that Png was the right candidate.
Speaking of the party's procedures in evaluating a candidate's suitability for being fielded in an election, Low said: "We've always had strict guidelines. We always took a period of time to understand a candidate before sending him forth to elections, but no method is foolproof."
Png, who has chaired the Hougang Constituency Committee since Yaw’s dismissal, had been widely expected to be named WP’s candidate as he has been active in grassroots activities in the area.
In recent months, Low was seen introducing Png to residents, and Png himself said he has visited almost all the HDB flats in the ward so far, distributing fliers carrying a picture of himself, a brief bio and his contact information.
Png Eng Huat’s profile
50-year-old Png Eng Huat, who joined the Workers’ Party in 2006, was first fielded by WP at last year’s general election (GE). His team garnered 45.17 per cent of votes in the East Coast group representation constituency, getting the third-highest result for his party.
Png graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin. He has work experience in public service TV production, multimedia design and programming, data broadcasting and business development.
He has worked in various firms, from smaller joint ventures to big companies like Philips Singapore, and NTUC Income. Currently, he is semi-retired and manage his own businesses.
Png has been part of the Hougang Constituency Committee since 2007, helping to organise grassroots activities and taking care of needy residents in the ward. He also work with volunteer organisations to distribute food to lower-income residents several times a week. After Yaw's expulsion from his post, Png took over as chairperson of the committee, and has been present at the Hougang weekly Meet-the-People Sessions alongside the Aljunied MPs.
Png is married and has a son and daughter, aged nine and 10. He is English-educated, and is fluent in Hokkien (his main dialect) and Cantonese, although he also understands Teochew, as his wife's family is from that dialect group.
Additional reporting by Jeanette Tan and Deborah Choo
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