GE2015: Newly elected MPs hit the ground running

(From left) PAP's Jalan Besar GRC team, Mr Heng Chee How, Dr Lily Neo, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim and Ms Denise Phua wave at supporters during their Jalan Besar thank-you procession.
(From left) PAP's Jalan Besar GRC team, Mr Heng Chee How, Dr Lily Neo, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim and Ms Denise Phua wave at supporters during their Jalan Besar thank-you procession. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Raring to go, rookies and seasoned hands alike kick off Meet-the-People sessions and get town councils in order

SINGAPORE - The nine days of marathon campaigning are over, but for the newly elected MPs, the hard work has just begun.

Diving almost immediately into constituency work on Monday (Sept 14) night, more than 50 People's Action Party (PAP) MPs held their first Meet-the-People sessions following the Sept 11 polls.

Similarly, three Workers' Party (WP) MPs kicked off these weekly sessions in their Aljunied GRC.

The PAP, which romped home with 83 of the 89 seats, is getting the nitty-gritty in order for the new five-year term.

Three new party branches will be set up. One is Limbang in southern Yew Tee, part of the new Marsiling- Yew Tee GRC. It will be helmed by minister Lawrence Wong.

Another is Gambas branch in Sembawang GRC, to be led by new face Ong Ye Kung.

Fellow newcomer Sun Xueling will also have her own branch in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. It will be named Punggol West. The current Punggol West branch, headed by Dr Janil Puthucheary, will be renamed Punggol Coast.

Another order of business is the town councils.

The revived Jalan Besar GRC will have a town council headed by Dr Lily Neo. The GRC was unexpectedly wiped off the electoral map in the 2011 General Election but made a comeback this year, reuniting wards that were scattered to Moulmein- Kallang GRC, which has been dissolved, and Tanjong Pagar GRC.

Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, noted that transfers have to be done for areas housed under different GRCs in the 2011 General Election.

But for single-seat Punggol East, the transfer involves a handover between the PAP and WP. Punggol East MP Charles Chong is working on transferring the constituency's town council out of opposition-held Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and into the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council.

On the ground, both fresh-faced rookies, who come armed with years of grassroots experience, and seasoned hands appear raring to go.

This, despite being sleep-deprived from the punishing pace of the past two weeks, when they were on the hustings canvassing for votes and then thanking residents for their support at the polls.

"It's business as usual," said second-term MP Zainal Sapari of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

"Even when it's not campaign period, we have a lot of things to do. Our weekends are normally full with community events," he added.

Last night, an unruffled Mr Amrin Amin held his debut Meet-the-People Session in Woodlands ward in Sembawang GRC.

"My experience has prepared me. I've learnt the key thing is to listen closely and help as best as possible," said Mr Amrin, who has helped at such sessions since 2004.

"I draw a lot of energy and strength from my grassroots, who are ever enthusiastic, and from residents who cheer us on," he added.

The ever-tireless Ms Lee Bee Wah, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, is also motivated by her residents. "I'm just like their family member," she said. "I'm glad I can have my sessions again. I look forward to seeing them again."

The seasoned MPs said the number of cases typically surges in the weeks after an election. Usually, it is a 50 per cent uptick, said Mr Zainal, adding that he has roped in more volunteers. "We will try to meet all the residents who come for the session, and listen to their problems and worries. It's our duty."

• Additional reporting by Melissa Lin

SEE EDITORIAL  & FORUM

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'Newly elected MPs hit the ground running'. Print Edition | Subscribe