PAP’s big wins:Tanjong Pagar GRC

'We did Mr Lee Kuan Yew proud' PAP's big wins

LKY legacy, candidates' calibre and relatively weak challenge helped PAP team win big

Tanjong Pagar GRC candidates (from left) surgeon Chia Shi-Lu, Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah, labour chief Chan Chun Sing, former public servant Joan Pereira and retired police assistant commissioner Melvin Yong. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

They may have gone 24 years without voting, but Tanjong Pagar residents left no doubt last night as to where their allegiance lay.

With the resounding mandate of 77.71 per cent for the People's Action Party (PAP) slate, voters of the five-member group representation constituency (GRC) proved once and for all that the constituency may have been untested ground, but it is rock solid PAP territory.

The margin of victory, against a challenge from new opposition party Singaporeans First (SingFirst), almost reached the electoral heights that founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Tanjong Pagar's MP for 60 years until his death in March, regularly polled in the 1970s and 1980s.

"I think we did LKY proud," said retiree Kun Kay Hong, 74, a PAP volunteer in the GRC. "If he was around, I think he would have been very proud of the margin. This win is for him - without him, there would be no Singapore."

Besides Mr Lee's enduring legacy, residents and observers pointed to two other factors that worked to the PAP team's favour: the calibre of the PAP candidates and the relatively weak challenge from a fledgling opposition party.

The winning PAP team comprises labour chief Chan Chun Sing, Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah, surgeon Chia Shi-Lu and two rookies, former public servant Joan Pereira and retired police assistant commissioner Melvin Yong. Mr Chan and Ms Indranee are seen as key members of the PAP's fourth-generation political leadership.

Walkovers since 1991 had not stopped the PAP MPs and activists from diligently working the ground, said residents.

A Tanjong Pagar resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lau, said: "I think it's a deserved win because the candidates are hard-working and down-to-earth."

The 37-year-old lawyer added: "They are there all the time."

Emotions ran high in the PAP camp after news of the landslide victory. Ms Indranee, who was tearful onstage at Toa Payoh Stadium, told supporters the team would "honour the legacy of Tanjong Pagar and what it means."

"You have put your faith and confidence in us," she said. "We will not fail you."

Explaining her tears, she told reporters later that "it's like we've come full circle". "Fifty years ago, the people put their faith in the PAP to give them a brighter future. Fifty years on, they have done the same."

Mr Chan said that Singapore's forefathers have given the current generation a strong foundation.

"We have every determination to make sure we treasure that foundation and build a better home for Tanjong Pagar and Singapore."

He told reporters later that the high vote share "encourages us, as it shows that we have gotten our priorities right".

He added: "As long as we focus on residents and their welfare, I think the residents will take care of the (elections) result for us."

In the SingFirst camp, disappointment and disillusionment marked the night. The opposition slate was led by former presidential candidate Tan Jee Say and included retired army colonel Ang Yong Guan, media consultant Fahmi Rais, sales executive Melvyn Chiu Weng Hoe and risk manager Chirag Desai.

"We have done so much but the results don't reflect the effort and resources (we) put in," said Mr Tan.

"Our efforts didn't seem to add to the basic percentage (vote share) that is given to parties who don't do a lot. Why?

"What is it that people want?"

Asked if their controversial statements against foreigners - such as Mr Tan's lament on McDonald's deliverymen being Chinese nationals instead of local Malays - had lost them votes, he said: "We have always said that foreigners play an important role, so I don't think that the public thinks that we are anti-foreigner."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline 'We did Mr Lee Kuan Yew proud' PAP's big wins. Subscribe