Singapore GE2020: Independent candidate Cheang Peng Wah on a 'guerrilla' campaign in Pioneer SMC

Pioneer SMC's independent candidate Cheang Peng Wah with his poster outside Jurong Point. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - The sole independent candidate in the general election wants to be the third option for Singaporeans besides the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and the opposition parties.

Mr Cheang Peng Wah, who is contesting Pioneer SMC, said he was driven to enter politics by his belief that a neutral third party is needed to keep the Government accountable to the people.

"Our governance standard has dropped since Mr Lee Kuan Yew's time. Our ministers are not up to the mark yet, so a strong voice is needed in Parliament to help them become stronger," said the former Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) engineer in an interview with The Straits Times last Friday (July 3).

When asked for his age, Mr Cheang, who is now a business consultant, said age should not be a factor when running in an election, and declined to disclose it. A check on his Facebook page by ST indicates he is in his early 60s. He is married and has a daughter.

Last Friday evening, he distributed his campaign fliers in Jurong Point, with help from almost 15 people, all of them friends and family members.

He said one way to keep the Government accountable is to insist on clear and specific objectives for any project that involve large sums of taxpayers' money, as well as to conduct post-implementation reviews on the money spent.

"After you spend billions of dollars, you must come back to Parliament to discuss what was the outcome, if it achieved the objective and what you can improve on."

Mr Cheang said that if he is elected, he will also raise difficult questions in Parliament, but did not specify what they would be when asked to elaborate.

He is up against two-term PAP MP Patrick Tay, 48, and Progress Singapore Party (PSP) candidate Lim Cher Hong, 42, an author and chartered financial consultant.

Pioneer SMC, which has 24,672 electors, is the only single-seat constituency in this election with a three-cornered fight.

Mr Cheang believes all three candidates have an equal chance since they are "new faces" in the constituency and the incumbent, PAP MP Cedric Foo, is not seeking re-election.

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His edge over every party candidate?

His communication skills, shown through his campaign fliers and manifesto, which he said is "among the best and more targeted on a personal level".

"The other parties talk very generally about the country, take photos and shake hands. That is the branded Nike way of doing business. Mine is the insurgent, a guerilla way," he added.

When doing house visits, Mr Cheang addresses the residents by name and hands them fliers, with their names handwritten on them. He had bought a copy of the register of electors with voters' details from the Elections Department (ELD).

He began campaigning in earnest only from last Wednesday, after proceedings ended on Nomination Day.

"There's no point in walking the ground when you haven't been nominated, people will just say 'get lost, lah'. So I started only after my nomination was successful," he said.

While campaign posters belonging to Mr Tay and Mr Lim were put up almost immediately after they were confirmed as candidates, Mr Cheang hung up his first poster last Friday evening.

He could print the posters only after he had selected his logo, which is a horse, on Nomination Day.

The horse logo, which he picked from a list provided by the ELD, represents his commitment to voters to "move and run faster" to resolve issues on the ground, if elected, he said.

He has set aside a war chest of around $30,000, including the $13,500 election deposit, to fund his campaign. Most of it came out of his own pocket, with "small donations here and there" from friends and family who believe in his cause.

Mr Cheang, who has a Master of Technology in Knowledge Engineering from National University of Singapore, has worked and lived in six countries, including Brunei, China and France. But he is now back in Singapore for good and lives in West Coast.

He stressed that while abroad, he kept up to date with local news.

He is outspoken as well about Singapore's policies and municipal happenings, he added, explaining why he believes he is a "good and suitable" candidate to "represent the people's voice in Parliament".

Since 2004, he has been writing frequently to The Straits Times' Forum page on various topics, with the most recent being the use of high-tech enforcement on those who are on stay-home notice, changing Singapore's national flower and implementing progressive fines for errant motorcyclists.

A check in ST's archive shows Mr Cheang has had at least 50 forum letters published over the years.

While most around him are very supportive, Mr Cheang said there will always be detractors.

"I have read the negative Facebook comments on articles about me running as a candidate, where they predict I'll lose my deposit money," he said. "Others say I'm doing it for fame or that I have a lot of money to burn. I respect their views but I'll just ignore them. I believe that history is for the people to make."

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