Singapore GE2020: PAP unveils final batch of candidates, including Singapore's first woman brigadier-general

(Clockwise from top left) Ms Carrie Tan, Ms Chan Hui Yuh, Ms Gan Siow Huang, Mr Shawn Huang, Mr Alex Yeo, Mr Sharael Taha, Ms Rachel Ong and Ms Mariam Jaafar. PHOTOS: PEOPLE'S ACTION PARTY

SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party (PAP) on Friday (June 26) introduced eight new candidates to contest the election on July 10.

The line-up this time included Ms Gan Siow Huang, 46, the first woman brigadier-general in Singapore, as well as three other candidates from the non-profit and private sectors: Ms Rachel Ong Sin Yen, 47; lawyer Alex Yeo Sheng Chye, 41; and Mr Sharael Taha, 39, a vice-president at Singapore Aero Engine, now on secondment from Rolls Royce.

They were introduced by PAP vice-chairman Masagos Zulkifli at a virtual press conference streamed from the People's Action Party headquarters in New Upper Changi Road.

PAP second assistant secretary-general Chan Chun Sing introduced another four candidates in a separate session: Boston Consulting Group managing director Mariam Jaafar, 43; Temasek enterprise development director Mr Shawn Huang, 37; marketing director Chan Hui Yuh, 44; and charity founder Carrie Tan, 38.

With this round of introductions, the PAP has unveiled 27 new faces in all for the upcoming polls. Previously, it said it would present 26 new candidates.

Mr Chan said Ms Chan Hui Yuh is not exactly new, as she assisted the PAP in Aljunied GRC at the 2015 general election, but they had decided to include her, as she is running for election for the first time.

The new candidates are:

Ms Gan Siow Huang, 46

Former air force brigadier-general


Ms Gan, 46, who is married with three children, is now deputy chief executive officer of the National Trades Union Congress' Employment and Employability Institute.

She is expected to be fielded in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, where she has been active on the ground.

Ms Gan made history in 2015 when she became the first woman brigadier-general in Singapore. She resigned from her role as Chief of Staff - Air Staff in March.

She said she had served in the military for more than 25 years - "one of the best choices and fulfilling choices that I made for myself".

The armed forces, she said, is a place "where men and women of different races, religions backgrounds, all come together, serving common goal to protect Singapore". This desire to serve Singapore remained with her even after leaving the military.

The mission of the labour movement resonates with her, she said.

"I know the importance of bread and butter (issues) and the importance of having a job, to be able to protect one's lives, and their families".

Asked about criticism that former military personnel are not qualified to be politicians, Ms Gan said she takes pride in her military experience, which has equipped her with leadership skills.

She added that in her military career, other than operations, she had been involved in long-term planning, capability development and policy work, manpower, intelligence, among others.

"I would say that I have gathered... several building blocks that I think are critical to any good organising entity and I would say the leadership experiences that I gained and also the lessons I learnt in taking care of people will help me to be a good politician."

She appealed to the public to not rely on stereotypes. "I hope that people will give me a chance - don't look at me as just another general - look at me for who I am."

Ms Rachel Ong Sin Yen, 47

Rohei chief executive


Ms Ong, 47, who is single, has been active in West Coast GRC, where she serves as vice-chairman for the Telok Blangah Citizens' Consultative Committee.

She said that she is energised by two things - seeing every young person succeed in life, and adults flourish in all that they do.

In order to help young people succeed, she said "we first must learn to listen to, to see, to hear, to understand and to care for the needs of the youth".

She started Trybe, a charity with Institute of Public Character (IPC) status, in 2001.

Trybe runs the Singapore Boys Hostel, Community Rehabilitation Centre for first-time drug abusers as well as Trybe Aftercare. It provides young people with guidance and offers support for their families and communities.

Ms Ong also holds a Master's in Business Administration from global business school Insead and Tsinghua University.

Mr Mohamed Sharael Mohd Taha, 39

Vice-president for the strategy and project management office at Singapore Aero Engine Services (secondment from Rolls-Royce)


Mr Sharael Taha, who is married with three children, was previously based in Britain and was responsible for global projects across Rolls-Royce's engine assembly and test facilities in Britain, Scotland, Germany, Canada and Singapore.

He graduated with a Distinction in Master's of Business Administration from the University of Oxford.

Mr Sharael hopes to help Singaporeans adapt to the new world of work, noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has posed challenges for workers.

"I would like to work with you to develop new skills and share my experience from high-tech industries, so that we can create... good jobs for the future of our families," he said.

He stressed that such digital transformation cannot take place at the expense of others.

"For the seniors, for the low-wage workers, and for the less able - we have to make sure that they are part of this journey together. We will ensure that we leave no one behind."

Mr Alex Yeo Sheng Chye, 41

Director at Niru & Co LLC


Mr Yeo, a lawyer, has chaired the party's Paya Lebar branch in opposition-held Aljunied GRC for more than three years.

He said he would like to help seniors and support less privileged families in Paya Lebar.

Another item on his to-do list is to address the challenges faced by parents of young children, who have to juggle between their work and family needs.

He said he fell in love with his wife, Priya, who is Hindu and South Asian, despite them being different culturally and having different religions "because we share many similar Singaporean values and experiences".

"We are thankful that Singapore is the home where children can be whoever they wish, and yet have a singular identity - that of being Singaporeans," said Mr Yeo, who is Catholic. He sees such values demonstrated in the community as well throughout his volunteering experiences.

"I hope to play my small part in contributing to continue to grow our inclusive society that we have worked so hard over so many years."

Asked about the PAP team's chances at the upcoming election in wresting Aljunied GRC back from the Workers' Party, Mr Yeo said that while he is unable to speculate on the outcome, the team has been working hard on the ground for more than nine years to serve residents in the area.

Ms Mariam Jaafar, 43

Singapore managing director and partner for Boston Consulting Group


Ms Mariam grew up in a one-room rental flat in Toa Payoh.

The daughter of a Malay teacher and a nurse, she said that while she had a happy childhood, there were moments when she knew things were not easy.

She would wake up in the middle of the night to find her father still working hard at the translation jobs he took on the side. Once, a burglar broke in and stole a whole month's salary that her father had just withdrawn from the ATM.

"Thanks to the sacrifices of my parents, the kindness shown by many and the quality of the Singapore education system, I've been able to go on to study at some of the best universities in the world and then work for some of the best companies in the world," she said.

Ms Mariam, who is Singapore managing director and partner for Boston Consulting Group, has a bachelor's and master's degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University and a Master in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

The vice-chairman of the Woodlands Community Club management committee is married with no children.

She said she is passionate about early childhood education as she believes primary school is too late to start pushing for social mobility.

If she were to speak now to a young girl growing up in a rental flat like herself, she said, she would ask her to "go out and be aggressive about what you want. Find your allies and your supporters".

"Don't be afraid, don't limit yourself to thinking you can only take certain kinds of jobs. You can be a senior banker, you can be a law partner. We have it in this country to provide opportunities for everyone."

Mr Shawn Huang, 37

Director for enterprise development at Temasek International


Mr Huang spent 19 years with the Republic of Singapore Air Force, where he began as a pilot trainee.

He was subsequently sent to the United States Air Force Academy and graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering with distinction. He was the first non-American top graduate in military performance.

The father of two is now a director for enterprise development at Temasek International, the management and investment arm of state investment firm Temasek Holdings.

He has spent the last decade volunteering in Taman Jurong constituency, mentoring children from low-income homes and helping former prison inmates restart their lives.

He has also chaired the Community Arts and Culture Club, which holds arts and culture activities for residents.

"Art is the bedrock of civilisation," he said.

For him, digitalisation is the greatest leveller when it comes to social mobility, and he hopes to push for further growth of e-commerce and improvements to home-based learning.

Ms Chan Hui Yuh, 44

Marketing director


Ms Chan assisted the PAP in Aljunied GRC in the 2015 general election, but did not stand as a candidate then because her two children were too young.

Now that they are in primary and secondary school respectively, she decided it is time to enter politics.

She began grassroots work in Siglap in 2000, later becoming the chairman of the Siglap Citizens' Consultative Committee.

In 2015, she moved to become an adviser to Aljunied Grassroots Organisations.

The mother of two, who works as a marketing director at Jingslink Marketing, hopes to speak up for low-income families.

"We have women who, because they have to look after their children, cannot go out to work, so we need to have more childcare facilities and negotiate affordable childcare so women can have peace of mind to go out and earn living," she said.

Ms Carrie Tan, 38

Founding executive director of charity Daughters of Tomorrow


Ms Tan, the second daughter of a taxi driver-turned-contractor and a housewife, left the private sector in 2012 to set up social enterprise Daughters of Tomorrow, which helps underprivileged women in Singapore sustain their livelihoods.

She previously worked in the advertising industry before setting up her sole proprietorship consultancy, providing headhunting and talent development services in Singapore and Shanghai.

"I think we need innovation for the country beyond the scale of the economy... as well as in areas of technology," said Ms Tan, who is single and has been walking the ground in Nee Soon GRC.

"I hope to bring my experience and my skills in community building into politics and create a slightly different space where, beyond the efficiency of solving problems, we can create a space for people's feelings to be valued and acknowledged," she said.

She added that "certain people or groups in society... may feel that the Government may be a little bit high-handed at times".

"I think it's very normal when people are required to perform under pressure and to solve problems. I feel that by being in politics, I can bring my brand of care and empathy to the way politics is discussed, especially in this age of social media, and also in Parliament."

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