Ex-minister's son is PAP's new branch chairman in Aljunied GRC ward

Chua Eng Leong is PAP's new branch chairman for the ward in Aljunied GRC

THE People's Action Party (PAP) is rebuilding its team in Aljunied GRC, and its latest addition comes with political pedigree.

Mr Chua Eng Leong, 42, son of former Cabinet minister Chua Sian Chin, was appointed the ruling party's branch chairman for the Eunos ward last month.

He takes over from former senior minister of state for foreign affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed, who was part of the PAP's losing slate in the 2011 General Election.

The elder Mr Chua, who has suffered from dementia since the late 1990s, held portfolios like health, education and home affairs in the 1960s and 1970s.

He brought his son along for community activities, a practice that influenced the younger Mr Chua's decision to enter politics.

"All good parents don't want their children to enter the family field. As a parent, I wouldn't like my own son to be in the position where people try to discredit you, make up lies about you," the private banker told The Straits Times yesterday.

"But I am sure he is happy."

After the PAP's historic loss of a Group Representation Constituency to the opposition, its leadership in Aljunied - former foreign minister George Yeo, former second minister for transport and finance Lim Hwee Hua and Mr Zainul - soon left the political scene.

In the PAP's search for replacements, Mr Chua is the final piece - and the only one to be "parachuted" into the GRC.

The other three new branch chairmen in Aljunied - health-care insurer Victor Lye, lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai, and airline industry executive Poon Mun Wai - were all long-serving party activists before being tapped to take over.

They replaced Mr Yeo, Madam Cynthia Phua and Mrs Lim respectively.

Despite Mr Chua's relative inexperience, Mr Zainul said that his replacement is "willing to work hard on a challenging ground in the opposition ward". He also praised Mr Chua's "particular concern for the kind of Singapore he wants for his children".

In the two months he has been on the ground, the father of two sons in primary school has completed house visits for a quarter of the blocks in Eunos. The Workers' Party's Mr Pritam Singh is the MP there.

Mr Chua has met residents who tell him not to "waste his time", but also those who receive him warmly, he said. "At the end of the day, four out of 10 people here voted for the PAP. And even for those six out of 10 who did not, there is no reason why I should not serve them," he said.

Accordingly, he has restarted Meet-the-People Sessions on Monday nights in Eunos. This is a departure from party practice, which frowns on offering the same services to opposition-voting residents as those who supported the ruling party.

Of the chairmen in the PAP's 87 branches, only the four new ones in Aljunied GRC were not the ruling party's candidates in the last general election.

They are largely expected to be fielded in the next general election but Mr Chua was coy on his ambitions.

"It's not for me to decide, it's for the party to decide if I should be fielded," the Anglo-Chinese School alumnus and Bukit Panjang resident said.

"It also depends on my personal considerations at the time. It's still two years away."

For now, he seems to relish the challenge of being in the opposition in Aljunied. His message to Aljunied residents? "Use me, don't abuse me."

rchang@sph.com.sg