Singapore GE2020: Desmond Lee could shore up PAP's West Coast or East Coast team, say analysts

Incumbent Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee was not included in the Jurong GRC line-up announced on June 29, 2020.
Incumbent Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee was not included in the Jurong GRC line-up announced on June 29, 2020.PHOTO: MCI

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee could be moving from Jurong GRC to shore up the People's Action Party (PAP) slate in either East Coast GRC or West Coast GRC, political analysts said yesterday.

The conjectures were fuelled after yesterday's announcement by the PAP on its Jurong GRC line-up, which did not include incumbents, Mr Lee and MP Ang Wei Neng.

East Coast GRC is lacking an anchor minister, with Mr Lim Swee Say set to retire from politics. In West Coast GRC, former anchor minister Lim Hng Kiang will not be standing in the general election.

West Coast GRC, which will go from having four members to five and will take in almost 50,000 more voters, could use the extra firepower from Mr Lee, who is a familiar face in the area, said political observer Felix Tan, an associate lecturer at SIM Global Education. He noted that West Coast and Jurong GRCs are right next to each other.

"(Mr Lee) has been around the area and he probably has a good reputation in the west. People would know who he is so it would make sense to send him to West Coast," said Dr Tan.

Dr Gillian Koh, deputy director for research at the Institute of Policy Studies, also said it was likely Mr Lee would go to West Coast GRC, to bolster PAP's defence against the opposition party led by Dr Tan Cheng Bock, a former PAP MP.

Dr Tan, who leads the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), will helm its A team to contest the constituency, which includes Ayer Rajah, a seat he held for 26 years.

Said Dr Koh: "PSP is going to West Coast with the most interesting opposition team this general election because it is headed up by PAP's former stalwart, Dr Tan. Voters would be expecting a heavyweight minister to be fielded as it would mean a commitment to sincerity by the PAP to West Coast."

Taking a different tack, Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan said fielding Mr Lee in West Coast could "play up too much" the threat posed by PSP and Dr Tan - a move the ruling party might want to avoid, to take a more assured approach against PSP.

He suggested that Mr Lee could instead be deployed to East Coast GRC, where Mr Lim's exit will mean the constituency is without a minister.

"You already have an anchor minister in Mr S. Iswaran in West Coast, but there is none in East Coast. There is this idea that by placing a minister in a GRC, the PAP values it and voters in East Coast might feel slighted if they do not have one," he said.


Dr Mustafa Izzuddin, a senior international affairs analyst at management consultancy Solaris Strategies Singapore, offered another reason Mr Lee could be fielded in East Coast. His father is Mr Lee Yock Suan, who served in the Cabinet from 1981 to 2004, and was an MP from 1980 to 2006. He served in East Coast GRC from 2001 to 2006.

Said Dr Mustafa: "There is the familial connection there so it is an interesting possibility if the PAP wants to bank on it."


Head of healthcare redesign at Alexandra Hospital

The coronavirus pandemic has been a focus of Mr Xie, who has been leading Alexandra Hospital's Covid-19 operations in a major community care facility.

Before he entered healthcare, Mr Xie had worked in the Singapore Armed Forces, and then in an investment company.


Mr Xie, who is married, is also a board member of SG Enable and co-leads a task force to promote products made or designed by persons with disabilities.

Community work has been a priority for Mr Xie who, for the past five years, has been volunteering in Jurong. In his time there, he has introduced several initiatives to support lower-income families, such as a football programme for children.

Should he be elected, Mr Xie said he intends to speak up about strengthening coordination between healthcare and social support, and helping lower-income families.

He will also do his best to make the lives of Jurong residents better. "The reason I'm stepping forward today is because I believe in the role of a Member of Parliament in the local community in bringing people together... and creating a better home for everyone," said Mr Xie.


Mr Xie replaces Mr Ivan Lim, 42, who withdrew his candidacy in the face of online allegations that, he said, had eclipsed the core issues of this election.

Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who introduced Mr Xie to reporters yesterday, noted that at every election, the PAP has more candidates than are necessary for the seats it is going to contest and Mr Xie was not part of any "second team". He held up the community work by Mr Xie and said he has "always been keen" on him.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2020, with the headline 'Desmond Lee could shore up PAP's West Coast or East Coast team: Analysts'. Print Edition | Subscribe