The Workers' Party (WP) will field its A-team in Aljunied GRC, even if two of the MPs there are stepping down. WP chief Pritam Singh on Friday (June 26) confirmed the line-up of candidates to defend the lone group representation constituency held by an opposition party.
Mr Singh, party chairman Sylvia Lim and Mr Faisal Manap will be joined by former Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) Gerald Giam and Leon Perera, who will replace former WP chief Low Thia Khiang and party stalwart Chen Show Mao, the party said on Friday, amid speculation there might be further changes to the team.
WP had on Thursday announced that Mr Low, the longest-serving opposition MP in Parliament, Mr Chen and incumbent Hougang SMC MP Png Eng Huat will not stand for election this time, in line with its leadership renewal plans.
Party organising secretary Dennis Tan, who became an NCMP after the 2015 election, will stand in Hougang SMC.
At Sunday's (June 28) press conference, WP also introduced four more candidates who will be running in the July 10 general election, adding to the nine names that were unveiled last week..
Here is a look at the candidates' profiles:
DENNIS TAN LIP FONG, 49
Lawyer and founding partner at shipping law firm DennisMathiew
Mr Tan is no stranger to politics. In the 2015 General Election, he lost in Fengshan single-member constituency but was one of the best-performing losing opposition candidates with a respectable 42.5 per cent of the votes.
The shipping lawyer with his own firm became a Non-Constituency MP and has spoken up on various issues, especially those related to transport, and the maritime and air transport industries.
"We need a much more balanced Parliament with constructive elected opposition to deal with important issues affecting Singaporeans such as jobs, fair hiring, cost of living, retirement adequacy and the future economy," he said yesterday.
Mr Tan will be defending the WP's stronghold in Hougang SMC, which he said knows better than any other constituency in Singapore how important it is to have an alternative voice in Parliament. The seat has been held by the Workers' Party since 1991.
"We're very grateful to Hougang voters all these years for their support for the Workers' Party. And all I would say in a humble way is that I will do my best to win the mandate of the Hougang voters again," said Mr Tan, who is married with a four-year-old daughter.
DR JAMUS JEROME LIM CHEE WUI, 44
Associate Professor of Economics at Essec Business School
Even though Dr Lim has spent many years of his life in an academic setting, school was not a breeze.
"But what I went through, really, is nothing compared to the pressure cooker that kids today must endure," said Dr Lim, one of two new candidates introduced by the Workers' Party yesterday.
Singapore may have one of the world's best performing school systems, he said, but there are still graduates who are choosing jobs with little or no future, or are dissatisfied with their career trajectories.
"I believe that we have allowed superficial success in our educational system to blind us to the fact that... our education system is not preparing our children to take on and create good jobs for the future," said Dr Lim, who is married with an eight-month-old daughter.
"I do not wish to leave a legacy where the next generation feels unprepared to confront the future, even though it has done exactly all that we have asked it to do."
Such difficult questions, he said, can be resolved only with a healthy, active and honest debate in Parliament.
DYLAN NG FOO ENG, 44
Director in a wealth advisory firm
Mr Ng entered politics in 2015 and was fielded as a Workers' Party candidate in Marine Parade GRC.
It was the first time since Singapore's inde-pendence that the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) was challenged for every available seat in Parliament.
Looking back on the years when many constituencies went unchallenged, the last thing Mr Ng wants to see is the return of walkover victories for the PAP.
"To me, Nomination Day is more important than Polling Day.
"I think (walkovers) are not healthy for the political landscape in Singapore," he said at a press conference yesterday.
Mr Ng, a Christian, is married with two children, and has 20 years of experience in the banking and finance sector.
He said he spent the circuit breaker period helping a non-governmental organisation distribute laptops islandwide to households with children who needed them for home-based learning.
He was coy when asked if he would return to Marine Parade to try again this year.
"I will leave it to the party to decide, and you will know in a few days' time," he said.
RAEESAH BEGUM FARID KHAN, 26
Founder and chief executive of social enterprise Reyna Movement
Ms Khan will be the Workers' Party's youngest candidate in the coming general election.
But she has been politically aware and active for nearly a decade, she said yesterday.
Involved in student politics since she was 17, as well as civil society groups, she said she understands the concerns of young people.
Married with an infant son, Ms Khan is the daughter of former presidential aspirant Farid Khan, with whom she says she shares a love for public service.
"We also always have a lot of discussions about the things that affect our community, so it's always great to have his listening ear," she said.
Ms Khan has also made a name for herself as the founder and chief executive of the Reyna Movement, an organisation operating in Singapore and Johor to empower marginalised women and children through upskilling programmes and community engagement.
She said: "I'm very passionate about workers' rights, and I'm very passionate about people having a decent living wage and being able to live with dignity."
RON TAN JUN YEN, 35
Senior assistant manager at the National University Health System Research Office
Mr Tan has been active in community events for the past nine years.
He was part of a WP team that went up against the ruling People's Action Party in Nee Soon GRC in 2015. After they lost, Mr Tan did not let up on his outreach efforts.
Since 2017, he has served as legislative assistant to former WP chief Low Thia Khiang .
Mr Tan, who has a double degree in law and commerce from the University of Western Australia, said he has learnt important lessons about being an MP from Mr Low, including that an MP must serve his residents.
"You're elected to take on the responsibility to look after them, to manage the estate, to be their voice in Parliament and to assist them with their day-to-day issues." Even on simple issues like fixing corridor lights, Mr Low would personally follow up to ensure they were resolved, he said.
"The best lesson I learnt from him is that you have to be responsible to your residents," he said.
LOUIS CHUA KHENG WEE, 33
Equity research analyst with a global investment bank
As an equity research analyst with a global investment bank, Mr Chua advises investors on whether they should put money in a particular company.
His work has taught him the value of transparency, disclosure requirements, and the presence of external parties, such as regulators and an independent board of directors, to ensure proper corporate governance.
"It is with this understanding that I strongly believe that a monopoly in government is never a good thing without an effective opposition in Parliament," said Mr Chua, one of two new candidates introduced yesterday by the Workers' Party.
Mr Chua has a degree in accountancy from the Singapore Management University and is a qualified chartered accountant.
Building a more resilient society means recognising that dissenting views should not only be accepted but also encouraged, he said.
"This will ensure that we come up with the best ideas to take Singapore forward," said Mr Chua, who is married with a nine-month-old son.
He said: "I really care deeply for the future of Singapore that my son will grow up in."
NICOLE SEAH, 33
Associate director at a multinational marketing group
Ms Seah is a familiar face on the campaign trail, having been the star candidate of the National Solidarity Party (NSP) in the 2011 General Election. She did not run in 2015, but will this time as a candidate for the Workers' Party.
At a virtual press conference yesterday, the associate director at a multinational marketing group said she recognised that returning to the political scene would mean increased scrutiny.
"To be honest, I'm having a very stable career right now; my personal life is in a very good state," she said. "But I do it for the party, because I believe in the leadership and I believe in the vision, and I do it for my daughter."
Ms Seah, who is married with a one-year-old daughter, added: "I want to leave behind a legacy for her where she would feel comfortable regardless of the political inclinations or the kinds of views that she's expressing."
Ms Seah, who resigned from the NSP in 2014 and has volunteered with the Workers' Party since 2015, said she was drawn to the ethos of the party, which believes in "building a strong and reasonable opposition that contributes to our political landscape in Singapore in a constructive manner".
MUHAMMAD AZHAR ABDUL LATIP, 34
Grab driver and small business owner
Mr Azhar lost his left leg in a road traffic accident in 2014.
And the experience of having a disability highlighted for him the need for a more inclusive society in Singapore - a cause he hopes to champion if elected to Parliament.
"We want to be an inclusive society, but when it comes to the disabled groups, it tends to be... lip service," said Mr Azhar, who was one of two first-time candidates introduced yesterday by the Workers' Party.
Mr Azhar, who has volunteered at food distribution and community outreach programmes in Aljunied GRC, holds a political science degree from the National University of Singapore.
He was a marine insurance broker with an international brokerage when the accident occurred.
He is now a Grab driver and small-business owner.
Mr Azhar, who is divorced with a child, said: "That is one thing I would like to change in society... (I want to help) disabled groups to make sure they are being assisted, that those who want to work are given equal opportunities for employment and receive the help they deserve."
YEE JENN JONG, 55
Mr Yee ran and lost to candidates from the ruling People's Action Party in the general elections in 2011 and 2015.
On July 10, he will stand for the third time as a candidate for the Workers' Party, because he believes Singapore needs a strong alternative in Parliament.
"Only when there's competition would the PAP listen to you," said Mr Yee at a press conference yesterday. "In business, we need anti-monopoly laws to keep companies from taking advantage of consumers and to keep on innovating. The same goes for politics as well."
In 2011, Mr Yee narrowly lost to Mr Charles Chong of the PAP in Joo Chiat SMC with 48.99 per cent of the vote.
The SMC was absorbed into Marine Parade GRC in 2015, and Mr Yee was fielded as part of the Workers' Party slate of five candidates then. The party garnered 35.9 per cent of votes.
Mr Yee said he continues to be active on the ground, and has initiated community projects in Marine Parade GRC, such as distributing food to lower-income families since the start of the circuit breaker.
TERENCE TAN LI-CHERN, 48
Mr Tan is a litigation lawyer who has been volunteering with the WP since 2011. He is married and has two sons.
In his electoral debut in 2015, the WP team in Marine Parade GRC garnered 35.9 per cent of the votes against the incumbent PAP team led by former prime minister Goh Chok Tong.
Mr Tan said yesterday that what he hopes to achieve in politics has not changed. "I hope to ensure that the interests of Singaporeans are always placed at the very forefront of the Government's policies.
"Covid-19 has stress-tested the resilience of our economy and our savings. Singaporeans are understandably anxious for their families."
Singapore faces "many perils ahead" and it needs a more diverse and inclusive Parliament with constructive and robust debates, he added.
"I appeal to Singaporeans to consider whether we should continue down the same path without at least appointing a few people to call out instances where the emperor may not wear clothes."
KENNETH FOO SECK GUAN, 42
Deputy director at Singapore Cancer Society'
In 2015, Mr Foo ran on the Workers' Party ticket in Nee Soon GRC. With 33.2 per cent of the vote, his team lost.
He became the party's deputy organising secretary in 2016, and served in that role until 2018.
Last year, he became a legislative assistant to Aljunied GRC MP and WP chairman Sylvia Lim.
In this capacity, he has been very busy over the past few weeks, as residents have been asking for help to apply for various grants and schemes to tide them over the Covid-19 period, he said yesterday.
He said: "In the midst of Covid-19, we're calling an election. A lot of things must be going through the residents' minds: Why am I having an election at this time? But I'm not there to help them answer that.
"In fact, I'll put that question back to them to say it is a good question that you might need us to go into Parliament to help to ask."
On the topic of transparency, he said that WP MPs have filed many parliamentary questions about key statistics that affect Singaporeans' lives.
"Some got answered. Some were half-answered. Some got no answer at all," said Mr Foo.
"I find this situation totally unacceptable, and we need to have a strong opposition presence in Parliament to hold the Government accountable for its actions."
NATHANIEL KOH KIM KUI, 36
Digital product owner at a multinational organisation
For the past five years, Mr Nathaniel Koh was the friendly face greeting those who turned up at the Meet-the-People sessions of Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh.
Yesterday, he was unveiled as one of the new faces the party will field this election.
Mr Koh, who was described as a "GE veteran" by WP party chairman Sylvia Lim yesterday, was an election agent and volunteer for the campaign of WP Sengkang West candidate Koh Choon Yong in 2011 and 2015.
Explaining why he decided to take the plunge as a candidate only now, after having been in the party since 2009, he said: "I am standing in this election as a continuation of my journey to serve Singapore and Singaporeans, to help put Singapore on the clearer path to navigate the challenges ahead, and to make Singapore better than it is today."
If elected, he said he hopes to champion the cause of young families.
Mr Koh, whose wife is expecting their first child, said he wanted to reduce the obstacles that young parents face in caring for their children by looking at social and not just financial incentives.
MUHAMMAD FADLI MOHAMMED FAWZI, 40
Lawyer with Inkwell Law Corporation
It was a soft spot for the underdog that got Mr Muhammad Fadli interested in opposition politics.
"We would always fight hard but always lose. But when we won, such as in Aljunied in 2011, it was something special. I guess I saw part of myself in that struggle - always having to fight harder and facing more difficulties to earn your place in the world," he said yesterday.
"But, to be honest, I would have it no other way."
Having graduated from the National University of Singapore with a master's degree in sociology, Mr Muhammad Fadli worked for five years at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. He went on to earn a Juris Doctor from the Singapore Management University.
Yesterday, he said: "Many voters are sometimes afraid to vote for us, thinking that having more opposition will weaken the country. But this is exactly the opposite. When the Workers' Party speaks out, we are speaking out on behalf of Singaporeans who, for one reason or the other, feel that they are being left behind as the country moves forward."
He added that with the WP in Parliament, the Government would be more responsive, and "when we speak truth to power, we do so constructively because we believe that only by doing so can we make Singapore the inclusive and resilient country that each and every Singapore citizen deserves".
TAN CHEN CHEN, 38
Contracts administrator working on energy and chemical projects
Ms Tan Chen Chen may not have been a top student when she was in school, but she hopes that voters will give her a chance as she is "willing to work hard and against the odds for what she wants".
Since 2015, she has been volunteering at the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol ward of Aljunied GRC, helping out at the Meet-the-People sessions of former Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang.
Yesterday, as she was introduced as the WP's new face, she said in Mandarin: "I hope there can be more (opposition MPs) in Parliament who will speak up on behalf of the people and help improve their lives, and not just oppose for the sake of opposing."
She urged young Singaporeans to take an interest in politics, as it is necessary for them to chart their future.
The mother of a three-month-old child said the affordability of housing for young people is an issue close to her heart. She estimated that after buying a flat in a non-mature estate, a young couple will have to spend the next 30 years or so paying off the mortgage. "By the time they reach 55, there will not be much left in their Central Provident Fund. How will we enjoy life? So housing prices will be my focus," she said.
ABDUL SHARIFF ABOO KASSIM, 54
In Secondary 4, Mr Shariff had to leave school mid-way to work in a factory. After his national service, he did various lowly paid jobs, including being a security guard, dispatch rider and an undertaker.
While working, he took his O levels as a private candidate and later, enrolled in Ngee Ann Polytechnic as a mature student.
He put himself through undergraduate studies at Singapore Management University (SMU) by working as a relief cabby and a part-time bus driver, and graduated with an economics degree. He then went on to pursue a master's in tri-sector collaboration at SMU.
Mr Shariff recently quit his job as a researcher at the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA) to contest in his first general election.
The married father of two said he resigned owing to RIMA's policy of non-partisanship. "But that is a small sacrifice," he added.
Mr Shariff, who started volunteering in Aljunied GRC in 2012, wants to dedicate his candidacy to those who have been dealt a bad hand in life.
"When you believe you have succeeded purely on individual merit, you may hold the view that those who are not successful have only themselves to blame.
He added: "We need leaders with compassion, humility and a conscience, to help the most vulnerable Singaporeans without making judgments about the needy and the poor."
GERALD GIAM YEAN SONG, 42
Co-founder and chief technology officer of tech start-up Vitis Solutions
Having twice contested in East Coast GRC, Mr Giam is not short on political experience.
He was one of the best-performing losing opposition candidates in 2011 when his team got 45.2 per cent of the vote, and he was named a Non-Constituency MP.
He stood again in East Coast GRC in 2015 but lost with a bigger margin. His team got 39.3 per cent of the vote.
Calling his four years in Parliament a baptism of fire, the married father of two said he is prepared, if elected, to reach across the aisle to find the best solutions.
"I learnt a lot from my first term in Parliament and there are many areas I intend to build upon if voters give me a chance to do so. I will tap experts and I will put my ear to the ground," he added.
With former party chief Low Thia Khiang, 63, bowing out of electoral politics, Mr Giam will be in the A-team contesting in Aljunied GRC. He stood in for Mr Low after Mr Low had a bad fall in late April and was hospitalised.
"Going to Aljunied GRC is... a very important thing we need to do as a party. I see myself as doing my part to help advance the cause," he said. "This is a privilege as well as a responsibility that I am taking on."
HE TING RU, 37
Ms He entered politics in 2015 and stood as a WP candidate in Marine Parade GRC. Her team lost with 35.9 per cent of the votes.
A lawyer by training and now the head of legal and communications at a multinational company, Ms He lived in Europe for a decade and worked in London and Frankfurt as a solicitor.
She returned to Singapore in 2011 and, shortly after the general election that year, began volunteering with the WP.
She said: "I have since been active with ground engagement, such as food distributions and outreach activities. There, I learnt much from residents about their hopes, dreams and worries for their families and their future."
The mother of two said she wanted her children to be proud of Singapore when they grow up.
She said: "I want them to be proud of their country that has overcome obstacles by bringing its most vulnerable along with it.
"A country where they can have strong and respectful disagreements with one another, and a society which pursues growth but cares about the impact our actions have on our people and planet.
"These are my hopes for Singapore, and I believe that the Workers' Party must play its part to bring this about."
LEON PERERA, 49
Co-founder and chief executive of Spire Research and Consulting
Although Mr Perera's team lost to the People's Action Party team in East Coast GRC in 2015, it was among the best-performing losing opposition teams.
He was subsequently nominated by the party to take up a seat as a Non-Constituency MP.
In Parliament, he served on the Public Accounts Committee, while in the Workers' Party he was president of its youth wing and organised such activities as panel discussions on various social and economic issues.
This year, the father of two will be part of the party's A-team defending Aljunied GRC.
He said he is running for election once again to contribute to balance in politics.
Balance is not the enemy of unity, he said, adding that Singapore's unity as a country cannot be based on sharing a single political affiliation.
He said one thing he would change about Singapore, if he could, is the "super majority of one party in Parliament" that allows the PAP to "unilaterally change" the Singapore Constitution.
"Our Constitution is extremely important because it sets the framework and the rules for governance, for how governments are formed, for how elections are run, for how political contests are undertaken."
Mr Perera added: "A decision taken within the confines of one party, I think, does not serve the interests of Singapore well in the longer term."