Singapore GE2020: Ng Chee Meng likely to helm PAP's team in new Sengkang GRC

Labour chief attends launch of scheme to distribute PCs to needy students in new GRC

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng helping volunteers place computers into bags before giving them out to recipients at the launch of a programme to help students from low-income families, at Anchorvale Community Club yesterday.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng (right) at Anchorvale Community Club for the launch of a programme that gives out computers to students from low-income families. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Labour chief Ng Chee Meng, who is expected to helm the People's Action Party's team in the new Sengkang GRC in the coming election, yesterday said it is important for the Government to get a new mandate to address the challenges that lie ahead for Singapore.

That is what the Government will be seeking at the general election on July 10, said the Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

"There will be challenges," he told The Straits Times. "We should take this opportunity to seek the mandate from the people to move forward."

Mr Ng, who was part of the PAP team that won the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC in 2015, is set to move to neighbouring Sengkang from his Punggol North ward.

He has been walking the ground in Sengkang estate recently and spoke last evening at Anchorvale Community Club, where he attended the launch of a programme that gives out computers to students from low-income families.

He was joined at the event by Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min, whose Sengkang West ward was carved up in the redrawing of constituency boundaries, with part of it in the new Sengkang GRC.

With them was lawyer Raymond Lye, chairman of the Punggol East Citizens' Consultative Committee and another potential candidate.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin is tipped to move over from Sembawang GRC to complete the four-man slate.

The new GRC, which has 120,166 voters, comprises parts of the existing Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, as well as the single seat of Punggol East and parts of Sengkang West.

It is expected to be contested by the Workers' Party (WP), which held Punggol East from 2013 to 2015 and fielded a candidate in Sengkang West in previous elections.

A WP team led by former Punggol East MP Lee Li Lian has been walking the ground in Sengkang.

Yesterday, about 20 refurbished computers donated by charity RSVP Singapore were given out to students to kick-start the programme.

Called Sengkang Goes Digital, the initiative was started by youth volunteers from Punggol East, Sengkang Central and Sengkang West.

It aims to give PCs or laptops to more than 100 primary and secondary school students from low-income families in Sengkang. The idea came about during the two-month circuit breaker to stem the spread of Covid-19, when students had to do home-based learning.

Meanwhile, the pandemic was a hot topic at a virtual dialogue held yesterday with Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC residents.

Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad recounted how he had looked forward to going out for a meal once the reopening allowed it. But he felt guilty about dining in and ended up getting a takeaway instead. "What's different is that after three months of being locked in, you almost feel guilty for trying to find a place to makan (eat)... You feel like it's better to tarpau (buy a takeaway) back home," he said.

His caution was praised by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who said all Singaporeans need to cooperate in order to avoid a second circuit breaker to contain the virus.

The two outgoing PAP MPs - along with fellow outgoing MPs Alex Yam and Ong Teng Koon - were sharing their thoughts on life amid the pandemic at the dialogue.

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the task force combating the Covid-19 outbreak, noted the number of coronavirus cases will rise as the economy opens up and people interact more. Citing China, South Korea and New Zealand as examples, he said: "It will happen, it has happened in all the countries that exited from their lockdowns."

He said the Government will try to prevent large clusters from forming as more cases surface. It will consider localised restrictions such as shutting down an affected office, he said.

"But at the end of the day, in order not to go into a circuit breaker again, we really need everyone to cooperate and to do our part - to change our habits and adopt new mindsets," Mr Wong added.

Mr Zaqy said businesses and individuals are already hard-hit by the earlier restrictions. "It's not so much just whether the Government can afford another circuit breaker, but can the economy afford one more round of this?

"The second issue is the psychological impact, because if you think about it, how long can you keep people inside their homes?"

Asked about the progress in finding an effective vaccine, Mr Wong said there is a good chance that one will be developed, somewhere in the world. But even if there is a vaccine, concerns will remain over how long it can offer protection and if it can be distributed around the world efficiently.

"There are a lot of uncertainties and there are no clear answers," Mr Wong added.

The dialogue, done via a live stream on Facebook, is the first of five to be conducted by the current PAP team for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC in the lead-up to the general election. Each dialogue will be centred on a particular topic.

Mr Wong started yesterday's session by thanking residents for their support in the past five years. He appealed for their support in the coming election, noting that there are challenges ahead.

In response to a question on whether the current PAP team will remain unchanged for the election, he said: "That is the big question... we may very well have a new member in our team, but I think that is something to be shared for a later programme."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2020, with the headline Ng Chee Meng likely to helm PAP's team in new Sengkang GRC. Subscribe