PAP thank you parades

We ignored bookies to focus on what's right: Swee Say

Mr Lim Swee Say (second from right) and his East Coast GRC teammates Jessica Tan and Lee Yi Shyan thanking residents on a tour of the constituency yesterday. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Speculation swirled that the People's Action Party (PAP) team in East Coast GRC would lose. Bettors were placing money on the Workers' Party (WP) slate to win.

But the PAP team was walking the ground non-stop, and had observed that residents were "a lot warmer, a lot friendlier" compared with the 2011 General Election.

"That is why on the fifth or sixth day (of the campaign), we decided to ignore the bookies, because we think it is better that we focus on what we do best, what we do right," said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, who anchors the slate.

He was speaking after his team - including Senior Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State Maliki Osman and two-term backbencher Jessica Tan - toured the constituency yesterday to thank residents for their support.

Theirs was widely seen as the hottest GRC battleground of this election. In the end, the PAP beat the WP with 60.7 per cent of the votes - a 5.9 percentage point swing in its favour compared with 2011.

Still, East Coast was the lowest scoring GRC victory for the ruling party, with the slate up against young turks of the WP touted to form its next generation of leaders.

And so, the PAP team will not be resting on its laurels, said Mr Lim, and, starting tomorrow, it will be analysing the voting patterns of its residents, to understand why it had less support in certain precincts compared with others.

Looking ahead to 2020, Mr Lim said that it will examine the data from the various polling stations.

"For example, we will look at the (voting patterns of) condos, landed (homes), the HDB... If in certain precincts the support level is relatively lower, then obviously we got to find out why. There could be something that we may not be aware of, so we are going to go deeper into it."

But, Mr Lim added, he would not know how each resident voted, and his team will not try to "second guess" whether people voted for them or not in their engagement with them. Said Mr Lim: "If the end objective is to win votes, then you could be doing the wrong thing, just to win their vote.

"So we think it should be the other way round... we believe that if you engage the residents correctly, if we serve them effectively, if we care for them sincerely, I believe the votes will come automatically.

"So, (we will) chase after residents, rather than chase after votes."

He added that, over the last 41/2 years, his team focused on deepening engagement with residents.

"The next five years, we will be building on the foundation of the last term," he said.

In his Bedok ward, for instance, a priority is to better engage condominium dwellers.

He plans to hold forums on MediShield Life for them.

The victorious team yesterday was warmly received by residents and diners at several markets and food centres around the GRC.

Hugs and handshakes were plentiful as residents congratulated the MPs-elect and shared how nerve-racking it was as they waited till the wee hours of the morning for the final results.

Housewife Ho Gwek Thoh, 70, said: "I stayed up till 3am and when the PAP won I was so happy. I clapped along with my husband and daughter." Madam Ho, who has lived in Bedok for some 40 years, said she is backing the PAP team as the Government has "helped us senior citizens a lot", referring to initiatives such as the Pioneer Generation Package.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 13, 2015, with the headline We ignored bookies to focus on what's right: Swee Say. Subscribe