The candidates: Opposition

Reform Party dangles cash benefits

It wants to give $300 a month to every child below 16, $500 a month to seniors above 65

The Reform Party yesterday unveiled its first batch of candidates at a hawker centre in Telok Blangah. Contesting West Coast GRC are (seated, from left) property agent Darren Soh and RP secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam; RP chairman Andy Zhu (stan
The Reform Party yesterday unveiled its first batch of candidates at a hawker centre in Telok Blangah. Contesting West Coast GRC are (seated, from left) property agent Darren Soh and RP secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam; RP chairman Andy Zhu (standing, centre); and Madam Noraini Yunus (seated, right). Mr Kumar Appavoo (seated, second from right) will stand in Radin Mas SMC. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

The opposition Reform Party will give every Singaporean below the age of 16 a $300 monthly child benefit, as part of its planned campaign promise for the election.

It also wants to introduce a $3 billion a year pension scheme that will give $500 a month to seniors older than 65.

These gifts were highlighted by the party's secretary-general, Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, yesterday when he outlined its manifesto at a press conference to introduce the five candidates for West Coast GRC and Radin Mas single-member constituency. His party also pledged to cap the number of foreign workers who, he said, must bid and pay for "the right to work here".

Accusing the PAP Government of not caring for the people, he said: "They regard Singaporeans as dispensable, like digits in an economic machine... RP cares, and we want to get a fair deal for Singaporeans."

He added that when elected, "we will ensure this government is held accountable, and we will strive to bring about transparency".

Mr Jeyaretnam, 56, will lead the team in West Coast GRC, which he contested in the 2011 General Election, and lost to the People's Action Party. The Reform Party's vote share was 33.4 per cent.

The other three candidates in his current team are two property agents: Mr Andy Zhu, 32, who is the party chairman, and newcomer Darren Soh, 45, as well as former Democratic People's Party member Noraini Yunus, 47, who joined the party on Tuesday.

Another new arrival in the party is Mr Kumar Appavoo, 46, who rejoined the party after spending "a very short while" with Singapore People's Party to learn from veteran politician Chiam See Tong.

A director of an oil and gas company, he will face off against Minister of State Sam Tan, the PAP's incumbent in Radin Mas SMC.

  • A grassroots leader with PAP for 20 years

  • Darren Soh Guan Soon, 45

    Occupation: Manager at real estate company PropNex

    Family: Married to a 43-year-old housewife. They have an 18-year-old son

    Education: Bachelor of Business Administration from RMIT University in Australia

    Hobbies: Table tennis, swimming and shopping

    Why politics?

    I have been a grassroots leader for about 20 years with the People's Action Party, in areas such as Yew Tee in the previous Chua Chu Kang GRC and Ulu Pandan in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. Then, I was at the back-end, helping MPs with their Meet-the-People Sessions and walkabouts. It was only after these experiences that I decided I should come out and take part in the elections.

    Why you?

    I grew up in a one-room flat, in a poor area in Bukit Ho Swee, and lived there for 20 years. I understand the poor, the way they think, their lives. I see myself as one of them. So I know and understand very well the issues that bother them and what they want.

    What issues will you focus on?

    I want to focus on bread-and-butter issues like jobs.

    For example, one of my relatives just had a son but he got retrenched. His boss hired a foreigner. He was given a six-month severance package, but what use is it? He has four kids, and his wife doesn't work. I want to help people like him.

    Favourite spot in Singapore?

    Clementi Mall and Jurong Point. I like shopping with my family; I believe in work-life balance.

Mr Jeyaretnam, when asked why he was not in his party's planned team for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said: "I have stood before in West Coast, so I will be returning here to support the team."

RP's Ang Mo Kio slate will be disclosed today. The six-man line-up is likely to comprise controversial personalities, including blogger Roy Ngerng, and his one-time lawyer, Mr M. Ravi.

They will go up against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who successfully sued Mr Ngerng for defamation, with the damages yet to be assessed.

Mr Ravi had represented Mr Ngerng until he was suspended from practising law in mid-February, following concerns over his mental health.

Mr Jeyaretnam declined to comment on a possible three-cornered fight in Radin Mas. Blogger Han Hui Hui, 23, on Wednesday, indicated that she intended to contest the ward as an independent.

He also said the National Solidarity Party did not respond regarding its plans to contest Pioneer SMC, which RP is eyeing. But he said RP would not enter into a three-cornered fight with the NSP and PAP.

Meanwhile, Mr Zhu is optimistic about RP's chances in West Coast GRC, saying it has been receiving "very positive ground sentiments".

The party has been working the ground there since 2009, he said, adding that it is the support of residents that prompted them to contest the GRC again.

Asked if the RP was taking a leaf out of the PAP's book by holding the event in a hawker centre, Mr Zhu said the party's first press conference four years ago, for the 2011 polls, was held in a coffee shop in Clementi Central.


Jeyaretnam leads Reform Party's West Coast team

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2015, with the headline Reform Party dangles cash benefits. Subscribe