Leaders stress Koh's dedication

PEOPLE'S Action Party (PAP) candidate Koh Poh Koon's dedication and commitment to public service were highlighted by the ruling party's big guns at its first rally in the Punggol East polls.

Giving strong endorsements to the colorectal surgeon, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said last night that he has earned the respect and appreciation of colleagues and patients.

The 40-year-old, who came from humble beginnings, also knows what it is like to lead a tough life, having worked part-time to put himself through school and support his family, said Mr Teo in his speeches in English, Mandarin and Malay.

Describing the candidate as sincere and down-to-earth, he added: "With his capabilities and experience, Poh Koon will also be able to make a larger contribution, offering ideas and perspectives for policies and programmes to serve Singaporeans better."

He went on to list different areas that the candidate has served the country in, including the military and grassroots groups.

Dr Koh was due to serve a two-week reservist call-up from Monday, as a commanding officer of a combat service support battalion. He has had to defer it because of the election campaign.

He was also the first medical officer to top the pinnacle course for Singapore Armed Forces officers.

DPM Teo, who was formerly Defence Minister, said: "As an NSman, Poh Koon has shown leadership, and dedication to his fellow NSmen, and he's ready always to do more for our nation."

He is an active grassroots volunteer too, the minister said, referring to his work at the Telok Blangah Dover Crescent Resident's Committee since 2002.

Mr Teo, who apologised for putting Punggol East voters through a by-election in his Mandarin speech, told the audience: "We have looked hard for a good candidate to serve you."

The doctor, he added, can understand the pressures and concerns that voters face because he is a parent of two young daughters and has elderly parents to look after too.

"There are several candidates in this by-election. Which one will best be able to look after you and your family? Who will work with you to improve your estate?" asked Mr Teo, before calling for voters to support Dr Koh.

Mr Heng called the candidate a "good man" who has the respect of his peers. Dr Koh, he added, has the commitment and conviction to serve. Urging residents to give him a chance to serve, Mr Heng added: "He's a doctor, he's a good listener, he's a caring person, he's a problem solver."