Singapore GE2020: WP's East Coast team expects 'a good fight' against PAP team led by Heng Swee Keat

WP candidate for East Coast GRC Nicole Seah greets residents during a walkabout at Bedok North, on July 1, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - The Workers' Party (WP) team contesting East Coast GRC expects a good fight against its People's Action Party (PAP) rivals led by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, calling his inclusion in the PAP line-up a pleasant surprise.

Mr Kenneth Foo, who is part of the WP's East Coast team, told reporters on Wednesday (July 1): "We were pleasantly surprised that Mr Heng actually made the move from Tampines GRC to East Coast GRC... He has been on national television, everyone knows he is the DPM, and we think that it will be a good fight."

But the WP team will stay focused on its plan to work with and reach out to more residents in the area, said Mr Foo, 43, who ran in Nee Soon GRC in 2015, where his team lost to a PAP team led by Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam.

He said: "For the past five years, we have been ploughing the ground. We have worked with and (tried to) understand the residents, set up new programmes to help the residents."

He added: "Although we are a new team here, the work has been consistently done."

This marks the fourth time the WP is fielding a team in East Coast GRC. At the 2015 GE, it lost to a PAP team anchored by then Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, with 39.3 per cent of the votes against PAP's 60.7 per cent.

Mr Foo and his four WP teammates are all running in the constituency for the first time. His team members are Mr Dylan Ng, 44, who works in finance; Mr Terence Tan, 49, a lawyer; Mr Shariff Kassim, 54, a former researcher; and Ms Nicole Seah, 33, an associate director in a multinational marketing firm.

They go up against a PAP team comprising Mr Heng, 59, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, 54; three-term backbencher Jessica Tan, 54; one-term Fengshan MP Cheryl Chan, 44, whose single seat is now part of the GRC; and new face Tan Kiat How, 43, the former Infocomm Media Development Authority chief executive.

The opposition team, along with WP chief Pritam Singh, were speaking to reporters at a market at 58 New Upper Changi Road. They had earlier gone on a walkabout at the Block 85 Market and Food Centre in Bedok.

Remote video URL

Mr Singh had said in an earlier interview, after nomination proceedings on Tuesday, that he has full confidence in the team.

Reiterating his point on Wednesday, Mr Singh said: "We see (the addition of Mr Heng) as a strong challenge, but it also says something about the PAP's assessment of the Workers' Party team in East Coast. I think they see the slate as a very strong one, and they know they will have to fight hard for every vote, as is what the PAP always does in every election.

"I think the East Coast team and their group of volunteers have been constantly working the ground to the best of their ability. And I think they will put up a good fight."

Remote video URL

Mr Tan of the WP East Coast GRC team said some issues that residents there have shared with him include concerns about the economy amid the Covid-19 pandemic, retrenchments, and business rental costs.

He said: "I think that once the government is formed, I do hope that they will consider retrenchment benefits and cash assistance while people are looking for jobs and struggling to stay on their feet."

PAP's Ms Chan, who was at the Block 85 Market and Food Centre in Bedok shortly before the WP team turned up, told reporters: "I think every fight has been a tough fight. East Coast has always been a hotly contested ward, so it will be no different from the past."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.