Singapore GE2020: WP and PAP East Coast teams meet at walkabout in Bedok

DPM Heng Swee Keat and Workers' Party candidates Dylan Ng and Kenneth Foo (background in blue) interact with residents during their walkabout at 58 New Upper Changi Road on July 4, 2020. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - There is a need to reach out to less tech-savvy elderly residents amid the e-rallies and other election events taking place online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, said Workers' Party (WP) East Coast GRC candidate Dylan Ng.

He was speaking to The Straits Times during a walkabout at the market and hawker centre at 58 New Upper Changi Road, which is near the People's Action Party (PAP) headquarters. Candidates from both parties turned up at the hawker centre on Saturday morning (July 4) to distribute fliers and paraphernalia.

Said Mr Ng: "In terms of reaching out to the elderly, we really have to do our groundwork. There's no short cut, or an easy way out.

"Sometimes when we bump into such residents when we are out and we speak English to them, they look at us and go 'Huh?' So we have to speak to them in dialects like Hokkien and Teochew, to connect with them and reach out to them, so they are not left out."

Mr Ng, 44, is part of the WP slate fielded in East Coast GRC this year. He was joined at Saturday's walkabout by teammates Kenneth Foo, 43, and Nicole Seah, 33.

The other two team members - Mr Terence Tan, 49, and Mr Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, 54 - did not appear to be present at the walkabout.

The WP team is up against a PAP one led by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, 59. Also in the PAP team are Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, 54; three-term backbencher Jessica Tan, 54; one-term Fengshan MP Cheryl Chan, 44, whose single seat has been absorbed into the GRC; as well as new face Tan Kiat How, 43. All the PAP candidates were spotted on Saturday morning.

On Friday, the WP team said during a media doorstop at a walkabout in another part of Bedok that going up against Mr Heng's team would be "an uphill battle".

Mr Heng has left his Tampines stronghold to beef up the East Coast GRC team, replacing the retiring Mr Lim Swee Say as the constituency's anchor minister. His move is seen as a tactical move aimed at ensuring that PAP strengthens its support in the GRC, which is being contested by the WP for the fourth time.

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Ms Seah said: "What we need to do is to ensure the WP team continues to push very hard to make every vote count. We recognise the very strong possibility that there is going to be a 'freak' election result that might potentially wipe out the opposition, and especially all of the hard work and ground that the WP has gained over the years in serving the residents."

The team will put up a good fight, she said, adding that "it is a bit unfair that the voters of East Coast GRC have been put in this personal dilemma".

Elaborating on her comments, Mr Foo said on Friday: "(Voters) are in a dilemma because they are caught between electing us and electing the future prime minister... They are concerned about the future and the democracy of Singapore. The system that we have - is it a balanced system? We would like voters to think about it and make a decision."

When asked if there would be any devastating effects if Mr Heng was voted out, Mr Tan replied: "We have tremendous respect for DPM Heng. But if you are to build an institution, is that institution supposed to just rely on one person? I am sure there are many capable people within the PAP that can take on the mantle of responsibility."

In a post on her Instagram stories on Friday night, Ms Seah added: "To be clear, (Mr Heng's move) is really a sudden surprise move that puts an ultimatum in the hands of voters... There just isn't time to process such a deeply personal and important choice.

"It's really a very difficult position for swing voters, especially if they have seen the value that WP has added, even with NCMP (Non-Constituency MP) status in Parliament."

Bedok resident Tan Siok Keng, 60, who runs a yong tau foo stall at the 58 New Upper Changi Road market, said Ms Seah was a familiar face, and that she has also seen DPM Heng around.

Madam Tan said in Mandarin: "It's good to see both parties here. When there is competition, there is improvement."

A 40-year-old Bedok resident, a convenience store owner who gave his name only as Mr Lim, said: "I believe in a democratic society. A balance of power is a healthy political situation. The candidates may have different opinions, but I believe they share a common purpose - the betterment of the people."

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