2 Bishan-Toa Payoh residents on PAP slate

Ex-civil servant, corporate chief hope 'local expertise' will help them serve people better

The People's Action Party officially introduces its first batch of new candidates for the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.
The People's Action Party officially introduces its first batch of new candidates for the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Two Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC residents could become MPs on their home ground, if the People's Action Party slate is elected in the coming general election.

Both former civil servant Chee Hong Tat, 41, and real estate corporate chief Chong Kee Hiong, 49 - two out of three new faces on the slate - hope their "local expertise" will help them be better MPs.

The third new face is Maybank economist Saktiandi Supaat, 41.

Mr Chong, who lives in a semi-detached house in Bishan East, told reporters yesterday that his regular meals in the neighbourhood have yielded valuable feedback from residents. "Informal chit-chat sessions at the coffee shop are as important as Meet-The-People sessions or formal settings," he said.

He has been shadowing former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng for more than two years in the Bishan East division. Yesterday, Mr Wong described Mr Chong as a man with "strong values and a heart for the less well-off, having come from a humble family".

Mr Chee, who lives in a Bishan North condominium, expressed his delight at being fielded in his constituency: "I've a fond attachment to this place - this is my home and I would like the opportunity to serve the residents here."

Mr Chee was introduced as a candidate a day after he officially left his post as Second Permanent Secretary for the Trade and Industry Ministry, and will replace two-term MP Hri Kumar Nair on the GRC slate.

The father of four is seen as a potential minister if he is elected, but Mr Chee waved aside talk about his possible future in the Cabinet. His focus for now, he said, is on serving residents, and he wants to see changes such as having more exercise corners for the elderly.

The third new face, Mr Saktiandi, lives in Pasir Ris but has been volunteering in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC for the last three years. He replaces three-term MP Zainudin Nordin on the slate.

"Toa Payoh has a rich history, with many interesting heritage sites," he said. "There are a lot of elderly folk who have been staying here for the longest time, and the people here are close-knit. The ward is not short of the 'gotong royong' spirit."

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo will round up the PAP's five-member slate for the GRC.

Dr Ng said he welcomed the challenge from a joint opposition team of the Singapore People's Party and Democratic Progressive Party.

He said: "Bishan-Toa Payoh residents are very savvy. They have witnessed many elections since this town was built and they are not easily enamoured of, or easily gulled by, platitudes or aspirations.

"They vote from enlightened self-interest and that's indeed how they should. And the party that convinces the voters here that it can best take care of them will win their support."

PAP's new candidates for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC (from left) Chee Hong Tat, Chong Kee Hiong and Saktiandi Supaat. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Caring, inclusive society his goal

Chee Hong Tat, 41

Occupation: Former senior civil servant. His last post was second permanent secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Family: Married to a 41-year-old housewife. They have a son, 15, and three daughters, 12, nine and four.

Education: Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and computer science, and Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of California at Berkeley

Hobbies: Travel, reading and jogging

Why politics?

Going into politics is not an easy decision. I have four young children and my wife and I were concerned about how this will affect our family and the time I have with them.

I eventually managed to persuade my wife to support my decision. I explained that we are at a very critical juncture of our nation's development. And this is a time when we need people who can contribute to step forward.

Why you?

I have useful experience in the civil service and community work. I volunteer with Score (Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprise) where I help inmates, provide training for them and help them look for work after their release from prison.

So there are areas where I can make use of my past experience, both from the civil service and also from my community work, to benefit residents of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

What issues will you focus on?

I would like to see a caring, inclusive, harmonious society because it is the necessary criteria that will hold us together as a country.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

Toa Payoh West Market (in Toa Payoh Lorong 1) because it is very vibrant and has many famous hawker stalls. We have Tian Tian Lai Hokkien Mee, we have Chey Swa Carrot Cake, we have famous handmade Teochew bao... There is also a range of shops nearby: acupuncture, a Chinese medicine hall, clinics. It is a vibrant HDB heartland.

Charissa Yong

'A platform to do more for people'

Chong Kee Hiong, 49

Occupation: Chief executive of OUE Hospitality Reit Management

Family: Married to a housewife, 46. They have four sons aged between nine and 17.

Education: Bachelor of Accountancy from the National University of Singapore

Hobbies: Jogging, soccer, golf

Why politics?

I have been involved in charity fund-raising, social enterprise and the labour movement.

I am chairman of NTUC Foodfare, which provides low-cost meals for the low-income.

I've also had two years in the grassroots, as vice-chairman of the Citizens Consultative Committee for Bishan East.

Going into politics gives me a different, bigger platform to do more for people. You can help to shape policies by gathering feedback on how policies affect people on the ground.

Why you?

I feel my private sector experience (is a plus). I've spent time working with people from all levels, nationalities and cultures and I've been in the hospitality industry for 15 years. I think this will be very useful on the ground when I interact with residents.

What issues?

The key role I want to play is to understand how policy impacts the ground. You can't change the policy for an exception. But if more and more people have the same issues with a policy, then you know the policy does not benefit the majority. That's when you give feedback and say, it has to change. If not, tell us why it cannot change.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

Bishan Park, as it's good for relaxing and exercise, both on my own as well as with my family.

Rachel Chang

'To be a voice for the less fortunate'

Saktiandi Supaat, 41

Occupation: Executive vice-president and head of foreign exchange research at Maybank

Family: Married to a senior child welfare officer, 41. They have a daughter, 12, and two sons aged eight and five.

Education: He has a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) from the University of Melbourne, and a Master of Business Administration from Cambridge University

Hobbies: Photography, reading and rugby

Why politics?

I have been involved in community work since 2004.

In 2009, I started my grassroots work, helping at Meet-The-People sessions.

I also sit on various advisory boards, like the Central Provident Fund Advisory Panel which recommended the CPF changes that were implemented this year.

I realised during these stints that there are many people who fall through the cracks. I want to help plug these gaps in policy, and bring up the problems of the less fortunate in Parliament.

Why you?

As an economist, I travel around South-east Asia for work, so I think I bring a global perspective to the table.

I believe I also have the necessary skills to assess economic policies.

What issues will you focus on?

A lot has been done for Institute of Technical Education and diploma holders, but I'd like to see more being done to ensure they have jobs and face fewer difficulties in looking for a job.

I also think more can be done for singl parents, especially unwed mothers.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

Wherever my kids like to go, that's my favourite place.

At the moment, they like the playground at Paris Ris Park, near where we live.

Rachel Au-Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline '2 Bishan-Toa Payoh residents on PAP slate'. Print Edition | Subscribe