Opposition candidate gets helping hand from election rivals

Mr Ravi Philemon had to quit his job as his employment contract barred him from contesting the general election.
Mr Ravi Philemon had to quit his job as his employment contract barred him from contesting the general election.ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

During the general election, they were political opponents.

Now, they are quietly helping one of them look out for jobs.

Last month, Mr Ravi Philemon, the Singapore People's Party candidate for Hong Kah North SMC, put out a call on his Facebook page asking friends to alert him to suitable job openings.

He was floored by the outpouring of support, which came not just from opposition circles but also from People's Action Party (PAP) MPs, including two ministers.

They all sent him messages of empathy, saying they would keep a lookout. "It was a very humbling experience," he said.

"I have always believed in constructive engagement and politics and this outpouring of goodwill only reinforces that," he added in a post.

Mr Philemon had to quit his job as director of voluntary welfare organisation Operation Hope Foundation as his employment contract barred him from contesting the general election, where he got 25.24 per cent of votes against Dr Amy Khor of the PAP.

His Facebook post was shared by new PAP MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng, who said he knew Mr Philemon from his activist days. Mr Ng is the founder of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, which has been active in lobbying on animal welfare matters.

"We go quite a long way back and we both come from activism circles, so I thought I'd share his post because there are quite a lot of activist people on my Facebook page as well," said Mr Ng.

"Putting aside which political parties we are from, ultimately, we want to help each other."

Through a grassroots leader, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam also approached Mr Philemon to let him know that he would keep a lookout for any job openings. Both men later chatted over e-mail.

Separately, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan also sent words of encouragement. "He encouraged me to continue finding ways to contribute to our political discourse," said Mr Philemon.

Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan said such gestures showed "exemplary leadership". "Looking out for a fellow Singaporean, even an opposition politician, is the right thing to do," he said. "We should see more of this from our politicians."

While he is still looking for a job, Mr Philemon said he is in discussions with two companies: a local NGO that works with young adults and a media firm.

Also on the job hunt is former Workers' Party (WP) candidate for East Coast GRC  Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, who left his job as a librarian with the National Library Board to stand in the general election. A WP member since 2004, the father of three had twice said "no" to standing for election before he took the plunge this year.

While he could not be reached for comment, fellow WP candidate Leon Perera wrote on Facebook that Mr Fairoz had made a big sacrifice when he left his civil service job to stand for election.

"He is currently unemployed. I hope it will not be long before he finds a position that befits his tremendous talent, energy and leadership ability," said Mr Perera.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 11, 2015, with the headline 'Opposition candidate gets helping hand from election rivals'. Print Edition | Subscribe