SINGAPORE - The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) has chosen assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai and vice-chairman Hazel Poa to fill the two Non-Constituency MP positions it secured in the recent general election.
The announcement was made by party chief Tan Cheng Bock on Tuesday (July 14) in a press conference at PSP's headquarters in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre.
Dr Tan had previously ruled himself out of the seat, saying that since he had been an MP previously, he would rather his teammates go into Parliament and understand the parliamentary process .
Mr Leong and Ms Poa were on the party's West Coast GRC slate that secured 48.31 per cent of the vote against the PAP team led by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, emerging as the losing opposition candidates with the highest percentage of votes in the July 10 polls.
Dr Tan said the decision was made after a discussion among the West Coast GRC team, before being confirmed by the party's central executive committee.
"So among themselves, they think that they are the better (choices). They feel that they can perform better than the others," said Dr Tan, noting that the other two members, Mr Jeffrey Khoo and Mr Nadarajah Loganathan, are also capable.
Dr Tan said some considerations include how the candidates performed during the party's webinars and outreach on the ground. He added that both are bilingual, which helps to bring the party's message to non-English speakers.
The choice of Mr Leong, 60, and Ms Poa, 49, is also seen as an indication of PSP's next generation of leaders. Dr Tan, 80, had spoken often about the need for party renewal during campaigning.
Ms Poa contested the 2011 elections in Chua Chu Kang GRC with the National Solidarity Party (NSP). She had entered politics with the Reform Party in 2010 before switching to NSP, eventually rising to become party chief. She resigned from NSP before the 2015 elections. Ms Poa is a founding member of PSP, which was set up last year.
Mr Leong, regarded as Dr Tan's right-hand man, was a new face in this elections. He was previously managing director of OCBC Securities. Both Mr Leong and Ms Poa were government scholarship holders.
Ms Poa said that an NCMP would help represent the views of the voters who supported the team in the general election.
"This is an opportunity for us to bring their voices into Parliament. So we will want to, over the next five years, continue to engage West Coast residents to find out (their issues) in more detail, because we actually haven't had much time before this," she said, adding that the campaign period was "really short".
Mr Leong said: "I think all the Singaporeans, many of them, are probably also supporting us to get into Parliament so that is another party in Parliament. We will demonstrate to the Singaporean voters that a strong alternative voice is very good for the country."
On the campaign trail, Mr Leong had said he would not want an NCMP seat if offered. Addressing this on Tuesday, he said: "I had some personal objections to the scheme. Nevertheless, I'm humbled by the trust the party has placed in me... And very importantly, that the party needs to... represent the 48.5 per cent of voters who voted for us, and also all the Singaporeans who cheered (for) us in this election."
Dr Tan said the PSP NCMPs will support Workers' Paty chief and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, although the parties may still disagree in some areas.
"Also... I have been quite close to Pritam and Sylvia," he added.
"We've always been very good friends. In fact, we share many common things, ideas and policies... We are now... like a team. The Workers' Party will take the lead, we will help them."
The PSP chief said a team will support the two NCMPs as they carry out their duties in Parliament.
They will be younger members who had been election candidates and are "quite qualified", said Mr Leong. Also included are other professionals and external experts.
He added that he and Ms Poa look forward to working with WP.
"The problems faced by Singaporeans are actually the same, so the policies to tackle those problems are also, especially from the alternative front... are going to be more or less aligned. There is a lot of room for us to cooperate," said Mr Leong.
"The Government... (has) policies (with) very good intentions, but the results haven't (been) shown.... From the alternative front perspective and from a party perspective, I think we need to change those policies."
Dr Tan, however, stressed that PSP will not be confrontational in Parliament. "We want to be sure that the debate gets good results for Singapore, because it's this exchange of ideas that is going on in the House that will get a better outcome of whatever policies," he said.
Meanwhile, the party will continue reaching out to Singaporeans, including opening branches in each of the wards in the GRC, so that it can establish a presence and be prepared when the next election comes.
"I will personally walk the ground, I will train all these young people, how to earn the votes. We never expect the votes," he said.
"Over the next five years, we will be two-pronged. In Parliament, they (NCMPs) will bring up issues that we find on the ground. And on the ground, me and my team will be combing the ground. So we should be very ready in five years' time."