PAP team 'no suicide squad'

PAP's candidates for the Aljunied GRC: (From left ) Mr Chua Eng Leong, Mr Shamsul Kamar, Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, Mr Victor Lye and Mr Murali Pillai.
PAP's candidates for the Aljunied GRC: (From left ) Mr Chua Eng Leong, Mr Shamsul Kamar, Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, Mr Victor Lye and Mr Murali Pillai.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

The People's Action Party (PAP) candidates for Aljunied GRC rejected being labelled a "suicide squad" in their face-off against the Worker's Party's "A" team, and asked voters to measure them with the same yardstick as that applied to the incumbents.

In response to questions about why the PAP had not fielded a "heavyweight" in the Aljunied slate, candidate Victor Lye took issue with the traditional definition of heavyweight as a minister or well-known politician.

A true heavyweight "should be defined by how much he is willing to sacrifice", said the insurance firm director, who has been on the ground in Bedok Reservoir-Punggol ward for 16 years.

Referring to the WP incumbents led by party chief Low Thia Khiang, he said: "With all due respect to the other team, why do we anoint them and say that they are the heavyweights?"

Both slates should be measured according to the same yardstick, he said: "Judge their performance as you would judge ours."

His teammate, lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai, noted that traditional "heavyweights" on the PAP slate had not prevented votes from swinging against the ruling party in the 2011 General Election.

Then, residents chose the WP team over two ministers, a senior minister of state and a potential minister, he noted.

"What they want are people who can connect with them, who know their concerns, and that's what we've been doing," the longtime grassroots volunteer said.

Former PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng, who has been advising the candidates for the past few years, emphasised their credentials and ability.

Mr Pillai heads the commercial litigation department at Rajah & Tann, one of Singapore's biggest law firms, and has 100 lawyers reporting to him, said Mr Lim.

"You're telling me he is not a heavyweight?"

The rest of the slate comprises labour MP Yeo Guat Kwang, private banker Chua Eng Leong and former teacher Shamsul Kamar.

They were introduced yesterday at the PAP's branch in Paya Lebar by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a gesture to show how much the party cares for Aljunied, said Mr Lim.

Mr Tharman, who is the PAP's second assistant secretary-general, said that the candidates were chosen "because they are credible, honest and dedicated people, and each of them knows the people of Aljunied well".

Besides being able to tackle local issues and advance areas of concern in Parliament, he said the candidates would also be able to "straighten out the town council finances in the interest of residents".

This was a reference to the lapses in governance and compliance found by the Auditor-General at the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council.

Veteran politician Mr Yeo, for example, was once the chairman of the Aljunied Town Council, when the constituency was under the PAP, Mr Tharman noted.

Speaking about his and his teammates' abilities to run a town council earlier, Mr Lye said he was adroit with accounts.

He added that Mr Pillai would handle the legal aspects and Mr Chua was well-placed to make decisions on what funds to invest in, due to his career in the finance industry.

Mr Lye added that Mr Shamsul would "bring heart" to the policies the team hopes to put in place, if elected.

Making a final pitch to voters, he said: "Be objective, recognise the sacrifices and the willingness of our candidates here to serve you and do better for you."

"It is time to bring us home to Aljunied."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'PAP team 'no suicide squad''. Print Edition | Subscribe