The candidates: Opposition

RP revives interest in Pioneer ward

Reform Party's chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam speaks to members of the media as he arrives for the opposition meeting  at the NSP headquarters on Aug 6, 2015.
Reform Party's chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam speaks to members of the media as he arrives for the opposition meeting at the NSP headquarters on Aug 6, 2015.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

The Reform Party (RP) is interested in fielding a candidate in the Pioneer single-seat constituency but will do so only if the National Solidarity Party (NSP) withdraws or cannot field a strong candidate.

In a statement yesterday, RP chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam said, however, that the party will not enter into a three-cornered fight.

But it wants the NSP to clarify its position and intentions on the constituency soon.

Mr Jeyaretnam said the RP made "strenuous efforts" to contact NSP leaders in recent days, but with no success. "We are therefore declaring our interest publicly," he said of Pioneer constituency where, he added, the party has done its groundwork.

"Pioneer was formerly part of West Coast GRC but was carved out before the 2011 General Election. We walked the ground there extensively before the election and have continued to visit the residents there since 2011."

Mr Jeyaretnam said the RP agreed to withdraw from Pioneer at a meeting of opposition parties earlier this month, because it thought that NSP council member Steve Chia intended to contest there again. "However, he has now withdrawn entirely from the election," he noted, referring to a statement by Mr Chia last week.

There has been recent speculation that the NSP might not be able to muster the resources to contest the two GRCs and two single wards that it has declared interest in.

This is because of turmoil within the NSP over the past week, which saw the resignation of acting secretary-general Hazel Poa and council member Mohamed Fazli Talip; and the party changing position several times over whether to contest the MacPherson single-seat ward.

Although NSP president Sebastian Teo told The Straits Times that his party is committed to fielding 12 candidates - a number which suggests that this includes Pioneer - the RP is now positioning itself to fill any potential gap the NSP might leave.

"While we believe that agreements reached at the opposition meetings should not be undone, the circumstances in which we consented to withdraw our interest have clearly changed," Mr Jeyaretnam said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'RP revives interest in Pioneer ward'. Print Edition | Subscribe