Hot seats: GRCs to watch - Aljunied

WP urges residents to keep the faith

WP chief Low Thia Kiang (2nd from left) his fellow WP candidates (from left) Mr Chen Sho Mao, Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Faisal Manap and Ms Sylvia Lim.
WP chief Low Thia Kiang (2nd from left) his fellow WP candidates (from left) Mr Chen Sho Mao, Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Faisal Manap and Ms Sylvia Lim. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Determined to strengthen its hold on Aljunied GRC, which made history in 2011 by voting in the opposition, the Workers' Party team yesterday urged residents to support it once more.

"It is fitting that on the occasion of Singapore's Golden Jubilee, we pay tribute to your crucial contribution in 2011 to a more democratic Singapore," said Mr Pritam Singh.

"Let us not slide back to a one-party Parliament dominated by the People's Action Party... Empower your future, vote for the Workers' Party!" he said to rousing cheers from a sea of supporters.

The party kept its promise for its 'A' team to stay and defend the constituency, as the quintet arrived at the Raffles Institution nomination centre to submit its papers. Besides Mr Singh, 39, a lawyer, they are party chief Low Thia Khiang, 58; chairman Sylvia Lim, 50; full- time MP Chen Show Mao, 54; and family counsellor Faisal Manap, 40.

Their blue-clad supporters waved red flags with the hammer logo, cheered and whistled.

But PAP supporters responded with just as much gusto when what some dubbed its "suicide squad" took to the stage. The volume of their cheers rose as they chanted "PAP" and waved white flags with the party's lightning logo.

Four-term MP Yeo Guat Kwang, 54, will lead a team of relative unknowns: insurance firm director Victor Lye, 54; K. Muralidharan Pillai, 47, head of commercial litigation at Rajah & Tann; private banker Chua Eng Leong, 44; and Shamsul Kamar, 43, a former teacher.

Winning the GRC back will be an uphill task for the PAP, which had just 45.3 per cent of the vote share in 2011 - a swing of more than 10 percentage points. The casualties were high: it lost three office-holders and a potential minister.

Yesterday, Mr Chua urged residents to give his team a chance: "We have listened to you, we have heard your voice, we care about you. Together, we can do better."

That last line appears to be a reference to the ongoing saga involving the WP's town council and the Government, which is sure to feature in the PAP's campaign.

The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) submitted its accounts for the latest financial year on Monday, the deadline for it to do so. But the accounts still failed to receive a clean bill of health from its own auditors.

Town council chairman Ms Lim said the latest sets of accounts showed a "marked improvement" in AHPETC's financial position. She added that it would have an operating surplus of $1.7 million, had the Government not withheld grants worth $7.2 million.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) withheld the grants after the Auditor-General's Office uncovered serious financial and governance lapses at the town council.

These also come amid MND's assertions that the town council's former managing agent had been "grossly profiteering" at the expense of its sole client in FY2013-FY2014, during which the town council suffered an operating deficit of $2 million.

Still, WP supporters and activists are confident of holding the fort.

An Aljunied GRC resident, housewife Nah Peck Hoon, 49, said: "Ms Sylvia Lim is kind and caring, and doesn't look down on us. We are not well-educated nor are we good with words, and she has helped my husband and me with many things. It is different from what we experienced with our previous MP. We will vote WP all the way."

But another resident, housewife Amrita Kaur, 29, said: "The four years in which the WP took over have been different, and not in a good way. The areas are dirty and they have nothing to show for in Parliament. I will vote the PAP because it is a party that has stood the test of time. I trust in the leadership and I trust the candidates they put in there are good, both for municipal and national issues."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'WP urges residents to keep the faith'. Print Edition | Subscribe