The opposition

Reform Party's activists look set to raise pet causes

PM Lee Hsien Loong (left) and activist Roy Ngerng (with bag) checking the nomination papers outside the RI school hall yesterday. PM Lee will lead the PAP team against Mr Ngerng's Reform Party in Ang Mo Kio GRC.
PM Lee Hsien Loong (left) and activist Roy Ngerng (with bag) checking the nomination papers outside the RI school hall yesterday. PM Lee will lead the PAP team against Mr Ngerng's Reform Party in Ang Mo Kio GRC.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Three Speaker's Corner regulars are taking the fight from Hong Lim Park to Ang Mo Kio GRC, challenging a People's Action Party team led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Activists M. Ravi, 46, a lawyer, Gilbert Goh, 54, a career counsellor, and Roy Ngerng, 34, a blogger, are part of a six-member Reform Party (RP) team there. The others are former bank manager Jesse Loo, 52; media trainer Siva Chandran, 32, and entrepreneur Osman Sulaiman, 40.

The three activists look set to raise their pet causes in their campaign.

At a press conference last week, Mr Ravi spoke of constitutional reform and abolishing the death penalty, Mr Goh lashed out at Singapore's immigration policies, and Mr Ngerng focused on the Central Provident Fund (CPF).

When they met the media in PM Lee's Teck Ghee ward last week, residents recognised them.

Mr Ngerng, the CPF's most outspoken critic, drew excited shouts as he strolled around, with retirees and working professionals alike jostling to shake his hand.

Mr Ravi told reporters: "I think quite a number of residents do know me. I think our team stands out, and in that respect, we don't need to sell ourselves that much."

But some residents also wonder if they are just seeking attention by taking on PM Lee on his turf.

Acknowledging that reaction, Mr Goh said some residents view them as troublemakers, although others see them as good advocates for subjects not well discussed in Parliament.

Mr Goh, a critic of the 2013 Population White Paper, has been called xenophobic - a label he has denied repeatedly.

Mr Ngerng has been sued by Mr Lee for suggesting that the Prime Minister misappropriated CPF savings. Yesterday, Mr Lee and Mr Ngerng faced each other at the Raffles Institution Nomination Centre where they filed their nomination papers.

Mr Ngerng said of the encounter: "It was great. I mean, this is the second time that I've met him. We shook hands. I still have respect for Mr Lee and I believe that we're both Singaporeans competing for the mandate to speak up for Singaporeans."

The RP candidates all either joined or re-joined the party within the last two months, and four of them - Mr Ravi, Mr Ngerng, Mr Loo and Mr Siva - are making their debut this general election.

Party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam said as he introduced the team last week: "We are not a protest group. We are not hitters from the sidelines. We are a serious and stable party."

In the 2011 polls, the PAP defeated an RP team, clinching almost 70 per cent of the vote. Mr Jeyaretnam said his party is not daunted by having to face the Prime Minister's team.

Mr Lee told reporters yesterday that he hoped the election campaign would focus on important questions facing Singapore. But he added that it is also relevant to examine "the character, the record, the abilities and the shortcomings of the candidates and I think these are issues which do have to be discussed".

Mr Lee has been MP for the Teck Ghee ward of the GRC since 1984.

His team includes Mr Hin Kee, 49, and Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar, 39, as well as Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh, 51, whose Punggol South ward is now part of Ang Mo Kio GRC.

Two new faces are former television personality Darryl David, 44, and colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon, 43, who was defeated in his first electoral battle at the Punggol East by-election in 2013.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'Reform Party's activists look set to raise pet causes'. Print Edition | Subscribe