SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party will field two new faces from the private sector in its line-up for Nee Soon group representative constituency (GRC) at the coming general election.
Making the announcement at the party's Nee Soon East branch office on Wednesday (Aug 26) morning, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam introduced animal-rights activist Louis Ng, 37, and food-supply company Foodtraco Supplies executive director Henry Kwek, 39.
The duo, along with two-term MP Lee Bee Wah and Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, make up Mr Shanmugam's five-member team.
Retired MPs from the GRC, which included Mr Ho Peng Kee, Mr Ang Mong Seng and Mr Ong Ah Heng, were also in attendance at the introduction.
Mr Shanmugam, 55, revealed that his team had exciting plans in store for Nee Soon in the next five years, while providing a recap of what has been done in the past.
"One of the largest injection of buses has been here, all eligible blocks have lifts that stop on every floor. The town council has the money to spend on upgrading and sheltered walkways," he said.
But not everything is a given, he added, and that it will depend on whether the town council has funds and is run by honest people who ensure that it remains solvent.
He also had praise for the newest members of his team, calling Mr Kwek a caring man "with a heart in the right place", and Mr Ng a person who was committed to his cause.
There was a shift in Nee Soon GRC's boundaries after the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee released its report on July 24 - it absorbed some districts from the neighbouring Ang Mo Kio GRC while transferring others to Sembawang GRC.
It has an estimated 132,200 voters.
Two of the constituency's current MPs, Dr Lim Wee Kiak, 46, and Mr Patrick Tay, 43, have departed to join the teams contesting Sembawang GRC and West Coast GRC respectively.
Dr Lim, an eye surgeon and MP of two terms, saw his Canberra ward added to Sembawang GRC. Mr Tay, an assistant secretary general at NTUC and first-term MP, will take over Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong's seat in West Coast if he is elected.
Mr Kwek has been shadowing retiring Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh for several months, and will be taking over the 18-year veteran's Kebun Baru ward.
The ward, previously in Ang Mo Kio GRC, was absorbed by Nee Soon GRC after the boundaries review. Mr Kwek had previously served as branch secretary at Mr Shanmugam's Chong Pang ward.
Paying tribute to Mr Singh, Mr Kwek said his mentor had taught him the value of community and being on the ground. Adding that he grew up "politically conscious but not involved", a chance meeting with Mr Shanmugam many years back had set the wheels in motion for his entry into politics.
"Several years ago he asked me to join politics - twice if I'm not wrong. I thought long and hard and finally said yes because I felt that Singapore is at a crossroads," said Mr Kwek.
"We are heading into the future with resources that the founding generation can only dream of, and we can build one that is sustainable."
He stated his belief that despite challenges such as an ageing population and global economic uncertainty, the government can "act decisively" to protect the jobs of Singaporeans and the country's economy.
How the global economy affects Singapore is a key issue that Mr Kwek is concerned about. "We must step in quickly if the situation merits it as jobs are at risk - one way to do what we have done in the past to launch a cost-cutting economy," he said.
Mr Ng will be standing in Nee Soon, despite earlier speculation that he was a potential candidate in the Marine Parade GRC slate.
The founder of animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) has been helping out in Marine Parade GRC, but he has also been an active grassroots volunteer in the Chong Pang ward since 2008.
Mr Ng touched on his experience in engaging and inspiring people, revealing that he decided to join the PAP in order to "do more".
He said: "I want to focus on developing community projects; animal welfare is a cause that I will always champion at the national level.
"Beyond that, there are national issues I want to focus on. I am a young parent and I want to help on those issues. I will always speak up - in a constructive way - with an aim to finding a win-win solution."
While sharing an light-hearted anecdote about once jumping into a reservoir in Nee Soon to rescue a monkey, Mr Ng stressed that he is keen to be recognised beyond his work at Acres, which he built up into a team of 30 "with influence across the world".
One of the policy changes he intends to focus on is volunteerism, which he said has been on a downward trend.
"Politics is not just about solving municipal issues, which are important, but also about mobilising people," he said. "Visits to residents' houses and the coffeeshops are all about engaging and empowering people to help others."
At the 2011 General Election, the PAP's Nee Soon GRC team helmed by Mr Shanmugam defeated the Workers' Party (WP) with 58.4 per cent of the vote share.
In response to the WP's intention to contest in Nee Soon again, Mr Shanmugam said: "Our town council has never had its accounts qualified, we have a surplus even while spending $26 million on residents. We are in a healthy position.
"Voters can decide if they want to subsidise any other town council with a deficit; it has happened before - when there is a deficit, one way to cover it is to merge with another with a healthy amount of money."
He added that Nee Soon voters would soon be making a choice on three things that matter: "Who is the government, who do they trust to run their town and town council, and who will ensure that there is no deficit and is run honestly."
Mr Shanmugam also defended the PAP's decision to hold the general election so soon after the country's National Day on Aug 9.
On Tuesday (Aug 25), President Tony Tan Keng Yam dissolved Parliament and issued the Writ of Election. Polling Day is on Sept 11.
He said: "This is not the first time a general election has been held after National Day. People have been expecting this for awhile, I don't think anyone has been taken by surprise.
"Every sitting government in the world picks the time for an election based on whether they feel it's the right time."
With the PAP announcing its slate for Marine Parade GRC earlier on Wednesday, the party's line-up for all but two GRCs - Aljunied and East Coast - has been revealed. They are Ang Mo Kio, Bishan-Toa Payoh, Chua Chu Kang, Holland-Bukit Timah, Jalan Besar, Jurong, Marine Parade, Marsiling-Yew Yee, Pasir Ris-Punggol, Sembawang, Tampines, Tanjong Pagar, West Coast and Nee Soon.
Its candidates for 11 of 13 SMCs have also been announced, with question marks remaining in Fengshan and Punggol East. The ones announced are Bukit Batok, Bukit Panjang, Hong Kah North, Hougang, MacPherson, Mountbatten, Pioneer, Potong Pasir, Radin Mas, Sengkang West and Yuhua.