GE SPECIAL: LIFE AFTER POLITICS

Chia Shi-Lu: 'Instant MP' worked doubly hard to win over residents

Dr Chia Shi-Lu went from being on the reserve list to becoming an MP after he was fielded in Tanjong Pagar GRC, which saw a walkover.
Dr Chia Shi-Lu went from being on the reserve list to becoming an MP after he was fielded in Tanjong Pagar GRC, which saw a walkover. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

When he was elected in 2011, some naysayers branded Dr Chia Shi-Lu an "instant MP". The orthopaedic surgeon was a last-minute People's Action Party (PAP) candidate for the general election, after Mr Steve Tan abruptly withdrew his candidacy on Nomination Day.

Then Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Baey Yam Keng was moved to Tampines GRC to replace Mr Tan, and Dr Chia took Mr Baey's place.

Overnight, Dr Chia went from being on the reserve list to becoming an MP, after the PAP saw a walkover in Tanjong Pagar GRC.

Looking back on his time in politics, the two-term MP recalled how he had to work doubly hard to win residents' trust.

"Most candidates would have been on the ground for one or two years before being elected, but I had to compress all of that work into a very short time," said Dr Chia, 48, who was in the grassroots in Aljunied GRC prior to the move.

Over nine years as an MP, he has become a familiar face.

One of the biggest challenges Dr Chia faced was striking a balance between preserving "all these historical elements of Queenstown, and yet rebuilding them so that new life can be injected".

Even as he lobbied for new flats to be built so that young people could live near their parents, he also backed a conservation paper launched by residents to preserve 18 historically significant sites in the area, including Queenstown Public Library.

Dr Chia is a senior consultant at Singapore General Hospital, and many of his patients also happen to be his residents.

His first-hand knowledge of the problems his patients face prompted him to speak up on a myriad of healthcare issues.

These included healthcare financing, support for caregivers, as well as the removal of gender differentiation in premiums for the CareShield Life long-term care insurance.

Dr Chia was on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, and chaired it from 2014.

He described the roll-out of the MediShield Life insurance scheme and Pioneer Generation Package as high points. "I thought healthcare support for the elderly was quite fragmented in the past, and I was glad we recognised the need to give them more health benefits."

Dr Chia, who has a girlfriend but is not married, plans to spend more time with friends and family, on top of volunteering with sports and community groups.

He said he will miss his residents, who will now be under the care of his successor, former public servant Eric Chua Swee Leong, 41.

"It makes you emotional when you talk to (the residents), and they remember little things that you did for them years ago... That's the gratifying part (of serving)," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2020, with the headline Chia Shi-Lu: 'Instant MP' worked doubly hard to win over residents. Subscribe