SINGAPORE - The new Sengkang GRC is the stage for a face-off between a PAP team led by labour chief Ng Chee Meng and a Workers' Party (WP) contingent helmed by lawyer He Ting Ru.
Mr Ng's team arrived at St Anthony's Canossian Primary School - the nomination centre for Sengkang GRC - at about 10.15am on Tuesday (June 30), which is Nomination Day.
There was no change to the slate that the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) had heavily hinted it would field in the four-member group representation constituency in the north-east of Singapore.
The PAP team seen at the nomination centre included Mr Ng, formerly an MP for Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC; Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min; Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin; and PAP new face Raymond Lye, a lawyer.
Meanwhile, the WP team arrived at about 10.40am. The WP, in line with its tradition of keeping its cards close to its chest, had not formally announced its line-up for Sengkang GRC.
But Ms He, 37, was nominated along with economist Jamus Lim, 44, equity research analyst Louis Chua, 33, and social activist Raeesah Khan, 26.
Of the four candidates fielded by the WP, three are new faces taking part in their first general election. Ms He had been part of the WP team contesting Marine Parade GRC in 2015.
Candidates from both parties arrived at the nomination centre in high spirits. They were accompanied by endorsers clad in their party colours - white for the PAP, and blue for the WP.
But while this is typical of Nomination Day during a general election, it was clear that the polls were taking place in unusual times.
Everyone wore a mask. Temperature screening was conducted before candidates and their endorsers could enter the nomination centre, and those who did were seen scanning the SafeEntry QR codes for contact tracing.
Entourages were considerably smaller, and party members were careful to stick to safe distancing guidelines.
Mr Amrin told ST as he was leaving the nomination centre: “We expect a tough challenge. We respect them (WP) for their views and would like to study their proposals. We will not take our residents and voters for granted.
“We will walk the ground and look how we can make Sengkang a more attractive place to young families, seniors, everyone,” he said, adding that they will “spare no effort” in ensuring no Singaporean gets left behind during the Covid crisis.
“This time of crisis is not a time for experiment(ing), its not a time for us to take chances. Plans are plans. It is not just about the plans, but the execution is important, and the follow-through is important. I think we have a good track record, and we have been on the ground.”
In his thank you speech to supporters, Mr Ng said: “We humbly ask for your support so that we, the PAP, can lead the country out of this crisis. Not just for ourselves, but for our children, our grandchildren. We want to ensure that every Singaporean has a good job, and can look forward to a better jobs for the future.”
He added: “This election is also about four of us in Sengkang. My teammates Pin Min, Amrin and Raymond will work hard for you. Because it is not just the economics of the world, but your very livelihood that we are concerned about...
“We want to walk with you, we want to engage you, so we can hear you and build a Sengkang town that is the most liveable place for all of us.”
Dr Lim, an associate professor of economics, said the WP has been walking the ground over the years. "We have listened as you shared with us your stories, your fears and concerns, and your dreams and hopes," he said. "This in turn has informed our ideas, plans and policies."
He added that the party will, over the course of the next nine days, share with Sengkang residents the party's aspirations and vision for a "thriving happy and inclusive society for Sengkang".
Pundits expect a close fight between the PAP and the WP in Sengkang GRC, a newly formed constituency that contains old WP stomping grounds.
WP chief Pritam Singh told the media at a separate interview that he had “full confidence” in the younger candidates fielded by the party for this election, including those in Sengkang.
He said: “I think they will do well for the WP, and I think they will prove to voters that they’re no pushovers... They will be prepared to fight for the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans not just in Parliament but in the constituency, and in their town councils as well.”
Sengkang GRC was formed by taking the Sengkang Central ward from Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC and combining it with the single seat of Punggol East and part of Sengkang West SMC. It covers the Anchorvale, Compassvale and Rivervale neighbourhoods.
Both Punggol East and Sengkang West were contested by the opposition in previous general elections.
The PAP won Punggol East SMC by a slim margin in 2015. Party stalwart Charles Chong, with 51.76 per cent of the vote, took the constituency from the WP's Ms Lee Li Lian that year. Ms Lee previously won the SMC in a 2013 by-election.