Singapore GE2020: Workers' Party to reveal its election line-up only on Nomination Day

Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh greets a Bedok resident during the party's walkabout at the Bedok North Market and Food Centre on June 27, 2020.
Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh greets a Bedok resident during the party's walkabout at the Bedok North Market and Food Centre on June 27, 2020.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Party chief Pritam Singh says its strategy in previous elections was also to keep cards close to its chest

The Workers' Party (WP) will reveal where each of its candidates will be fielded only on Nomination Day, said WP chief Pritam Singh, noting that the party is continuing with its practice of keeping its cards close to its chest.

Asked yesterday if the party would follow the PAP in announcing its line-up before Nomination Day on Tuesday, Mr Singh said the WP would be sticking to the strategy it used in recent elections.

"Everybody has their own strategy that they bring to the table... Traditionally, the Workers' Party has always kept its cards close to its chest until Nomination Day," he said. "And I think this is understandable. As a small player in the political scene, I think there are not many elements that we have in our favour, but one of them is actually surprise."

He added: "So, I would think that there will be no change to the plan to announce the candidates via the Nomination Day process. I think that will be the case unless something comes up before then."

The WP has in the past sprung some last-minute surprises.

In 2011, it was not until the morning of Nomination Day, when then party chief Low Thia Khiang boarded the bus for the Aljunied GRC nomination centre, that it was confirmed he would leave his stronghold of Hougang to contest a group constituency.

WP is contesting 21 seats this year, and has revealed the identities of candidates in only Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC.

During a press conference where the party introduced new candidates, Mr Singh also spoke about how the party picks its candidates.

He was responding to a question about how the WP would react if their candidates found themselves in the same circumstances as PAP candidate Ivan Lim. Mr Lim had been criticised online by people who said they have had bad experiences with him in the past.

Mr Singh said all candidates fielded by his party are observed for a period as volunteers, and then as party members, before they are considered for elections. But he said there was no way to ensure they would not have skeletons in their closet.

"What we have to do in the circumstances is to make some decisions based on all the information that we have in our hands," he said. "At times, we've also had to speak to the bosses of some of our candidates or their friends to have a better feel of a person, but, generally, I don't believe there's a fail-safe mechanism out there."

A PROMISE

This is my promise if elected: I will serve my constituents and the people of Singapore by speaking up for the powerless and speaking truth to power, and I will do this to the best of my abilities.

NEW CANDIDATE MUHAMMAD FADLI MOHAMMED FAWZI, on having a soft spot for the underdog, and his concern for the powerless and marginalised in Singapore.

The WP introduced five candidates yesterday, three of whom are contesting their first election.

Mr Nathaniel Koh, 36, was a former member of the WP's youth wing and served as an election agent for the party in 2015 in the now-defunct Sengkang West SMC.

The IT professional, who works at security systems supplier Dormakaba Singapore, has been married for six years, and he and his wife are expecting their first child in September.

Mr Koh said he joined WP in 2009, when he was still a student at the Singapore Management University, as he believes that having diversity in Parliament is crucial to the long-term success of Singapore.

Asked what issues he would like to raise in Parliament, he said more needs to be done to encourage families to have children.

"It's not necessarily about monetary incentives like the baby bonus. We have to look at social incentives as well," he said, adding that policies must encourage both parents to care for their newborns and give them more time for childcare.

Ms Tan Chen Chen, 38, a contracts administrator and trained quantity surveyor, said she had volunteered with the party in the Bedok area after the previous election in 2015.

Speaking in Mandarin at the press conference, the mother of a three-month-old said property prices are an important issue today, especially to young Singaporeans.

 
 
 
 

Ms Tan added that the high prices may make it more difficult for today's young people to have enough for retirement later on as they may have to dip into their Central Provident Fund savings to pay for the flat. She said this is an issue she would like to raise in Parliament.

Lawyer Muhammad Fadli Mohammed Fawzi, 40, said he was concerned about the "powerless and marginalised" in Singapore, which he described as a country where power is concentrated in the hands of one party.

He said he "always had a soft spot for the underdog" and had attended opposition rallies since his youth.

He added: "This is my promise if elected: I will serve my constituents and the people of Singapore by speaking up for the powerless and speaking truth to power, and I will do this to the best of my abilities."

The other two candidates introduced yesterday had contested in the 2015 General Election.

Mr Kenneth Foo Seck Guan, 43, ran in Nee Soon GRC, and his team lost to the incumbent PAP, with 33.2 per cent of the vote.

The deputy director in a charity organisation has been a legislative assistant to party chair Sylvia Lim since the start of last year.

 
 

Mr Terence Tan, a lawyer and director at the firm Robertson Chambers, will turn 49 on Nomination Day. He contested Marine Parade GRC in 2015 and his team garnered 35.9 per cent of the vote.

He is the deputy organising secretary in the WP's central executive committee.

At the session, Mr Singh also said that the WP's manifesto will be released today, together with its final batch of candidates.


TERENCE TAN LI-CHERN, 48

Lawyer


 TERENCE TAN LI-CHERN, 48. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

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


KENNETH FOO SECK GUAN, 42. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

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



NATHANIEL KOH KIM KUI, 36. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

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



MUHAMMAD FADLI MOHAMMED FAWZI, 40. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

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


TAN CHEN CHEN, 38. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 28, 2020, with the headline 'WP to reveal its election line-up only on Nomination Day'. Print Edition | Subscribe