Campaign trail

Bukit Batok can be a start-up village:Independent candidate

Mr Samir Salim Neji and his wife Sabeena Ahamed flanked by their daughters Malaeka (on the left) and Sazma.
Mr Samir Salim Neji and his wife Sabeena Ahamed flanked by their daughters Malaeka (on the left) and Sazma.ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

While other candidates in this year's general election have hit the ground running, the independent candidate for Bukit Batok says his walkabouts and campaigning will begin in earnest tomorrow.

Mr Samir Salim Neji, 45, was a surprise candidate when he showed up at the Keming Primary School Nomination Centre on Tuesday, turning what was till then a straightforward showdown between the People's Action Party's (PAP's) David Ong and the Singapore Democratic Party's Sadasivam Veriyah into a three-cornered fight.

In an interview with The Straits Times at his home in Keppel Bay Drive yesterday, Mr Samir said his campaign will include a strong focus on social media.

Meanwhile, the managing director of software firm Anaplan Asia has been hard at work at his company, although he did make it to Bukit Batok last night for about an hour to have a chat with some residents.

"My major walkabouts will start on Friday evening, over the weekend and next week," said Mr Samir.

Born in Kerala, India, Mr Samir obtained a bachelor's degree in engineering from the University of Kerala in 1993 and a master's degree in business administration in 1996.

He first set foot in Singapore in 1997, when he came to study for his professional finance certification. He worked at various tech companies such as Vishay Intertechnology and Atos Origin in Singapore before striking out to form his own start-ups.

Mr Samir said he stands for less stress and more happiness, and that he hopes to better allocate finances to start-ups in Singapore in order to re-energise the nation.

He also explained his choice of Bukit Batok: "I was looking at a single-member constituency, as I can't go into a group representation constituency. I chose Bukit Batok because I've been going there for a long time as I have lots of friends living there."

One of his visions for Bukit Batok is to transform it into a start-up village where there will be co-working spaces within the estate. "Maybe we can bring in global start-up guys to Singapore. I will also give money to Singaporean graduates from local universities for them to work on their ideas," said Mr Samir.

His campaign hit a hurdle from the start when he did not have enough assenters on Tuesday for his nomination forms.

However, he was able to find enough residents to make up the numbers in the end, he said. He denied that they were PAP members.

Since his nomination, there has been a ruckus online about him not being born in Singapore and his lack of political experience.

However, Mr Samir, who has been a Singapore citizen since 2004, shook off these claims. He said: "I'm not concerned. I'll be very happy to meet those guys and hear their point of view, I welcome that.

"If they feel what I'm doing is wrong, they should come forward."

It was his wife, Ms Sabeena Ahamed, 39, who collected the nomination forms for him last week. They have two daughters, aged 11 and 13.

Even though he is a new face in Bukit Batok, Mr Samir is confident of getting enough votes so that he would not lose the $14,500 deposit.

"It's 12.5 per cent, it's an easy target," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2015, with the headline 'Bukit Batok can be a start-up village:Independent candidate'. Print Edition | Subscribe