No typical day for RP's Kenneth Jeyaretnam as schedule stays fluid

After the morning rain, the sun is now beating down on a group of men dressed in yellow tees as they knock from door to door.

At every door that opens, one of them steps forward, offers a faint smile and a whiff of a British accent: "Hello, I am Kenneth Jeyaretnam. I am J.B. Jeyaretnam's son."

That is how he wants to be known, as the son of the late opposition veteran. But don't vote for him because of that, he insists.

"Vote for the Reform Party because you believe in our policies. We have the best policies for you," he says.

For the first time since his return to Singapore to begin a political career in 2011, Mr Jeyaretnam is finally in the national spotlight. In 2011, he contested and lost in the barely noticed sleepy race in West Coast GRC.

Punggol East is his chance to establish his profile, to get the needed support to enter Parliament.

The odds are not in his favour. Unlike the well-oiled machinery of the People's Action Party and increasingly, the Workers' Party, the Reform Party (RP) relies on a core team of of six people. They are an energetic motley crew.

Schedules are fluid and events are often re-interpreted as much by choice as circumstance. So, a discussion with "grassroots" on his five-year plan for the ward turns out to be a lunch at Rivervale Mall's foodcourt with just one resident - his assentor.

Thus, there is no typical day on the RP campaign trail. Once, Mr Jeyaretnam arrives half an hour late. His cabby had lost his way.

Then, while trying to take the LRT train from Kangkar to Rumbia station to greet residents, he finds his ez-link card is out of money, and the top-up machine is down. He fiddles around for a one-way fare, as everyone waits and watches. "I was charged 80 cents more," he grumbles.

The Cambridge-educated economist is trying to fit in, adjusting to the toils of campaigning.

A Facebook comment about his posh accent elicits a detailed explanation from him that it is his linguistic legacy from the English-educated Tamils who left Jaffna in Sri Lanka for Singapore in the late 1800s.

"I am as proud of my own heritage as I am proud of our Republic's cultural diversity," he says.

His atypical background, including his persistent criticism of a pledged billion-dollar international loan, is jarring to some, but others find themselves drawn to him. They are curious why he has chosen this path when his younger brother Philip is happily in the mainstream with his legal career.

Engineer Hui Kong Meng, 46, is the only one to drop by at RP's residents' feedback session on Monday. He wanted to meet the candidate in person, impressed by his vigour and passion, and his "well-researched" views on "deep national issues".

But it was not to be. The weather had felled Mr Jeyaretnam. He stayed home nursing a flu.

joycel@sph.com.sg

chanckr@sph.com.sg