Potential contenders seen on the ground

Four men who are active in grassroots work spotted attending constituency events

Colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Corporate lawyer Amrin Amin. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Keppel Corporation's director of group strategy Ong Ye Kung. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Temasek Poly-technic's School of Design deputy director Darryl David. PHOTO: ST FILE

The release of the electoral boundaries report is prompting questions not only about when the General Election will be held, but also about who will be fielded and where.

While party slates will be confirmed only on Nomination Day, a look at where potential candidates from the People's Action Party (PAP) have been turning up could offer a hint. And a handful of them were out and about at constituency events yesterday, a day after the boundaries report was released.

Spotted at a morning charity walk organised by Sembawang GRC grassroots leaders were Mr Ong Ye Kung, director of group strategy at Keppel Corporation, and corporate lawyer Amrin Amin.

They joined Sembawang GRC MPs and over 2,000 people in a first-of-its-kind tribute walk in Woodlands to honour Singapore's first president, Mr Yusof Ishak.

The event raised $104,000 through donations for the building fund of a $15 million mosque in Woodlands Drive 17, which will be named after the former president.

Over at Cheng San Community Club, two potential PAP candidates mingled with residents from Ang Mo Kio GRC at a Hari Raya celebration. They were Temasek Poly- technic's School of Design deputy director Darryl David and colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon.

All four potential candidates have been active in grassroots work.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who leads Sembawang GRC, told reporters that the party tries "to deploy our potential candidates so that they have actual ground experience... But will they be actually fielded here? We have yet to decide".

Dr Koh and Mr Ong have experienced the heat of election campaigning, having contested before.

Dr Koh lost in the 2013 Punggol East by-election to the Workers' Party's (WP) Ms Lee Li Lian.

The experience has given him a "psychological prep" and has minimised the "shell-shocked factor", he said, adding that the ability to understand issues that are of concern to residents is also an advantage.

In the last general election, Mr Ong was part of a five-member PAP team which lost in Aljunied GRC, also to the WP.

Whether or not they are involved in the next general election, which must be held by January 2017, the four said they are ready to do battle and are clear about how they can add value if they are fielded and elected.

In touch with the ground

The fact that I practised as a doctor for the last 19 years, both in the public and private sectors, helps... It is an interesting perspective to be able to interact with patients from different strata of society, get their feedback on things that work and things that don't. (My work) provides me with the opportunity to keep in touch with what is happening on the ground, not just in terms of healthcare, but now that they know I'm involved in politics, patients raise issues and that is a good touchpoint for them to give feedback on issues as well. - DR KOH POH KOON, 43, on the ability to offer a different perspective

An issue that needs tackling

Social mobility. I think it's one of the biggest issues of our time. I'm passionate about this because it's important for those who are not so well off to be able to rise above their current social strata and continue to have that upward mobility... We see social mobility slowing all over the world among the developed countries, and... I think we see this as an issue that needs to be tackled. - MR AMRIN AMIN, 36, on his passionate cause

Hoping to serve

I certainly wish to be fielded, to try to earn the chance to serve. I've been deployed to the north for over one year... This whole northern corridor is a special place. I find it has a soul. It's building up, yet has greenery, has heritage and a lot of kampung spirit. It's really a special place. So whoever takes care of the area will take into account the unique characteristics. - MR ONG YE KUNG, 45, on his engagement on the ground

Offering a different perspective

I have worked in a polytechnic for about 14 years. I guess I understand a bit about how the stat boards, how the the private sector media industry work. I am of mixed ethnicity, so I bring a different perspective to inter-ethnic relationships. My mum is Chinese so I do speak dialect, I do speak Hokkien and Mandarin, which is very useful in a ward like Ang Mo Kio-Hougang and I have had the opportunity to really work on the ground to understand the kind of challenges our residents face. - MR DARRYL DAVID, 44, on what he brings to the table

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 26, 2015, with the headline Potential PAP contenders seen on the ground. Subscribe