SINGAPORE - One runs a social enterprise, while three other People's Action Party (PAP) new faces have spent years volunteering their time with the elderly, the religious community and youth.
The latest batch of PAP candidates unveiled on Thursday (June 25) brings with them years of experience in community and volunteer work, on top of time spent in the civil service or corporate world.
For instance, Ms Yeo Wan Ling, who used to work for the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), helps match caregivers to those who need one through a social enterprise.
Mr Alvin Tan is a long-time grassroots volunteer who works for tech giant LinkedIn.
He has been helping the elderly and young acquire digital skills amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Polytechnic lecturer Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah defied convention by going from the Normal stream to obtaining a PhD. He has been active for many years in inter-religious circles.
Former civil servant Eric Chua, who came from humble beginnings, has been working with young people for more than a decade. He won a scholarship from the Public Service Commission and rose up the ranks in the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
Speaking at a virtual press conference streamed from the PAP headquarters in New Upper Changi Road, PAP vice-chairman Masagos Zulkifli said the new candidates have gone through "varied and interesting journeys" in their lives.
At another virtual press conference on Thursday, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who is also the PAP’s organising secretary, introduced three other new faces, who are all from the private sector.
With these introductions, the PAP has so far unveiled 19 of the 26 new faces it is expected to field in the July 10 election.
Here are the seven PAP candidates introduced by Mr Masagos and Ms Fu:
Ms Yeo Wan Ling, 44, chief executive of social enterprise Caregiver Asia
Ms Yeo was part of the global operations team at the EDB. She now runs Caregiver Asia, a social enterprise that connects those in need of care with freelance caregivers in Singapore. She said she hopes to create more opportunities for the elderly in Singapore to continue to work or contribute to the community.
Ms Yeo said one of the most meaningful things at EDB was “being able to work on projects that created and brought in very good and meaningful jobs for all Singaporeans”. She added that she started her social enterprise, as she saw a gap in the provision of home-care services, in particular long-term care for the elderly.
On why she left the civil service to start her own venture, she said: “My grandmother... was ill for a number of years before she passed on. And it was spending her twilight years together with me that I realised the importance of being able to grow old with grace and dignity.”
Ms Yeo said she hopes to create more opportunities for the elderly to continue to work or contribute to the community, and wants to champion caregiving programmes.
Ms Yeo, who is married, said: “Politics allows me to bring together the type of experiences I have with the civil service, and working in the community... and to be able to influence not just day-to-day operations of helping people, but also to bring it up to a larger platform such that I can (have an impact on) national policies.”
Mr Alvin Tan Sheng Hui, 39, Head of Public Policy and Economics at LinkedIn
Mr Tan has been a grassroots volunteer since 2005, working together with Jalan Besar GRC MP Lily Neo in Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng.
Speaking in Mandarin, he said he faced obstacles in his education journey – he was once held back a grade, and did not do well enough to enter a local university.
Despite the earlier setbacks, he earned a Bachelor of Economics with First Class Honours from Sydney University, and later, a Master in Public Policy from Harvard University. He has worked at the Ministry of Defence, the United Nations and non-profit group Oxfam, as well as in investment banking. He is now in the technology sector - earlier at social media giant Facebook and now at social networking platform LinkedIn.
Mr Tan said he hopes to use his skills and experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors to help Singaporeans become more nimble and prepared for the future of work.
He said he also aims to bridge the digital divide for seniors and other vulnerable groups, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic has hastened the need for all Singaporeans to acquire such digital skills. Work is now being done to help these groups, and more needs to be done, he said.
Said Mr Tan: “By the time Covid-19 is over... if we (still) haven’t become comfortable with technology, I think we might have failed our people.
“And so I will continue to really tirelessly advocate, and go to the ground and help all our students, stallholders... prepare for the future of work that has come much sooner than any of us has expected.”
Dr Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah, 42, senior lecturer at Republic Polytechnic
Dr Wan Rizal, who is married with four children, started volunteering in the community in 2010. He was chairman of Al-Islah mosque in Punggol, and was also part of Punggol's Interracial and Religious Confidence Circle.
He was a student in the Normal (Academic) stream before obtaining a polytechnic diploma and enrolling in the National Institute of Education and later Nanyang Technological University, where he obtained his degree in physical education at the age of 31.
He said: “I hope to be the voice in Parliament that upholds social mobility. Because of the non-linear path that I had taken, I strongly believe that education is the key to social mobility. This is how we can allow people who have less, or did less well to move up and prevent our society from being stratified.
“Singapore must continue to be a nation of opportunities for all, not for just the privileged few, or the lucky ones, but for every Singaporean.”
Singapore’s education system is on the right track, he said. He added that he hopes to be part of its further development. For instance, he said he sees the value of early childhood education, and the importance of providing multiple pathways for Singaporeans to continue developing their skills.
He also hopes to advocate for the sandwiched class, as well as those who may face difficulties juggling work and family life.
Mr Eric Chua Swee Leong, 41, former director of the SGSecure Programme Office
Mr Chua grew up in a three-room flat in Ang Mo Kio. His father was a forklift driver and his mother was a seamstress.
He was awarded the Local Merit Scholarship (Civil Defence) by the Public Service Commission to read communications studies at Nanyang Technological University. He served with the SCDF, eventually becoming commander of the 3rd SCDF Division.
Most recently, he was director of the SGSecure Programme Office in Ministry of Home Affairs.
Mr Chua, whose baby boy is eight days old, has spent 15 years doing community work with young people. He said he finds joy and satisfaction in mentoring young people and seeing them find success in life.
He added that he hopes to continue his work with the young and to hear their concerns on issues such as social mobility and income inequality.
MR RAYMOND LYE HOONG YIP, 54, MANAGING PARTNER AT UNION LAW LLP
Mr Lye, a father of three, has been volunteering for 25 years.
When introducing himself, he recounted how he and other volunteers helped a low-income resident deal with a problem.
Mr Lye, who chairs the Punggol East Citizens’ Consultative Committee, said the resident’s daughter had obtained a scholarship from an unnamed agency that allowed her to enter university despite her family’s finances.
But the agency later asked the resident to cough up a large sum of money, as her daughter’s grades were not good.
Mr Lye said that after several attempts, he and other volunteers managed to get the agency to write off the sum and the family was able to save up enough money to buy their own flat and move out of the rental block.
Despite having volunteered for groups like clan societies and trade associations, Mr Lye said that he finds community work most fulfilling. “Most satisfying for me is community work, where I get to listen to residents in their homes, their void decks and the coffee shops,” said Mr Lye, who has been volunteering in the new Sengkang GRC.
“I have always tried my best to help, as no government policy is foolproof and there are those who may fall through the cracks.”
MS POH LI SAN, 44, VICE-PRESIDENT FOR TERMINAL 5 PLANNING AT CHANGI AIRPORT GROUP
Sembawang is a special place for Ms Poh, a former helicopter pilot with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the first woman to be appointed full-time aide-de-camp to the late President S R Nathan.
She spent a lot time in Sembawang when she was based at Sembawang Air Base for the RSAF.
“Sembawang is really a very special place for me, plenty of fond memories. And now that I have a chance to go back to Sembawang to serve on the ground, I’m really excited to work closely with our volunteers with our residents there,” said Ms Poh, who started volunteering in grassroots activities and Meet-the-People sessions in Sembawang GRC in 2018.
Ms Poh, who is single, started an annual Women Festival for the constituency and also took part in distributing food to rental flat residents.
She is tipped to join the PAP team that will contest Sembawang GRC, which will likely lose Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan as he is expected to retire from politics soon.
MR DERRICK GOH SOON HEE, 51, MANAGING DIRECTOR AND HEAD OF GROUP AUDIT AT DBS BANK
Before taking up his position at DBS, Mr Goh headed its subsidary POSB, where he said he was exposed to volunteering efforts by community leaders and grassroots.
This inspired the father of three to take up community work.
Mr Goh spent more than 10 years at credit firm American Express, based in London and New York. He intends to use his experience from the international banking sector to help improve the lives of Singaporeans.
“I want to play a part to improve the system, to hone the system. And I know that Singapore is not perfect, but having lived in all these international financial centres, I can say personally that Singapore is the best,” he said.
“And therefore, I want to play a role to help Singapore adapt as the world changes very rapidly, given digitisation and the onset of the impact of new technology.”
Since 2013, Mr Goh has ben volunteering as a district councillor with the South West Community Development Council and also serves on the board of HomeTeamNS.
Mr Goh, who is vice-chairman of the Gambas-Yishun Citizens’ Consultative Committee, has been seen with Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam at community engagements in Nee Soon, where he is expected to be fielded.