The move from Tampines to East Coast is not goodbye, but a chance for closer cooperation between the two adjacent group representation constituencies, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has said.
At a walkabout at his former Tampines Central ward yesterday, he thanked residents for almost a decade of support in Tampines, and asked that they support his successor, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon.
Speaking to reporters near Our Tampines Hub, Mr Heng said an integrated programme and teamwork have been a constant theme in five-member Tampines GRC, which is why Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli is well placed to take over as anchor minister in Tampines.
The two MPs, whose wards are adjacent, would often put up joint posters for activities and "residents sometimes mistook us as the MP for their zone", said Mr Heng.
"In fact, he has been taking over many of my duties much earlier, in overseeing the development of Our Tampines Hub, in building the whole area and supervising many of the key activities," said Mr Heng, who is the People's Action Party's first assistant secretary-general. "So I have every confidence that Masagos will be an excellent anchor minister."
Mr Heng said his walkabouts at East Coast have shown that many there have roots or relatives in Tampines, with the two GRCs being contiguous, and that opens up possibilities for cross-constituency programmes.
One such programme already in place is cooperation on the M-Cube initiative, which brings together self-help group Mendaki, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council to better address challenges faced by the Malay Muslim community.
"Today, between East Coast, Bedok and Tampines, we are cooperating... together to provide last-mile support and to bring the programmes to the ground," said Mr Masagos, who is also Minister in charge of Muslim Affairs.
Yesterday, many residents that Mr Heng approached at Tampines Central Park thanked him for improving facilities in Tampines. They noted that he shepherded Our Tampines Hub to completion. Having opened in 2016, it has become a central community space in Tampines.
"It is a good concept - with a hawker centre and so many facilities under one roof, it's a place where residents can get together and mingle," said business development manager Patricia Woo, 45. "Especially when there are big events like the World Cup screenings, many people come together to cheer and watch, and we actually get the feel of the community spirit."
Fellow incumbent Tampines MP Baey Yam Keng noted that Mr Heng has said he would return to visit Tampines, the constituency where he cut his teeth as a political newcomer in 2011.
"Tampines will always be special to him because it's his niangjia (parental home)," said Mr Baey.
He added: "(PAP) needs him to play a different role, so of course we wish him all the best. If he does well in East Coast, that's good for the party, good for leadership and good for the transition."