Singapore GE2020: Not new for West Coast to have two ministers, says Iswaran

PAP candidates for West Coast GRC (from left) Ang Wei Neng, Foo Mee Har and S. Iswaran at Nan Hua High School yesterday. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
PAP candidates for West Coast GRC (from left) Ang Wei Neng, Foo Mee Har and S. Iswaran at Nan Hua High School yesterday. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

PAP seeks a strong team, he says, suggesting move is not a response to challenge from PSP

West Coast GRC has had two ministers since 2011, and the People's Action Party's (PAP) objective, as always, has been to put forward a strong team to best serve residents, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said yesterday.

Speaking during a virtual press conference after the West Coast GRC slate was confirmed, he suggested, when asked, that it was not the case that fielding two ministers there was a reaction to the challenge posed by the opposition Progress Singapore Party (PSP).

There has always been two office-holders at the minimum, said Mr Iswaran.

"That was the situation even when we moved from a five-man to a four-person GRC, and now we have enlarged it again to a five-person GRC," he said.

"So, I think one should look at it for what it is, which is basically that we are putting forward a strong team, a team that can deliver on the ground, and a team that can work with the Government to take care of the needs of our residents."

Mr Iswaran, along with Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, will helm the PAP's West Coast team.

Two-term MP Foo Mee Har, 54; Mr Ang Wei Neng, 53, who, like Mr Lee, moved over from Jurong GRC; and new face Rachel Ong, 47, make up the rest of the team. They face a PSP team led by former PAP stalwart Tan Cheng Bock, 80.

When asked if he felt that the PAP moved Mr Lee because of the threat posed by his PSP, Dr Tan said: "In politics, it is that way... I am not going to question why they do that.

"But if they say I must be somebody quite good, quite strong, so they are trying to put all their heavyweights (in) West Coast... Well, that is good."

He said he has a "very strong team for West Coast", with ex-perience in their fields. For ex-ample, he noted that his team has knowledge in environment and climate change, finance and skills development.

His second-in-command Leong Mun Wai, 60, said that all members of the team have strong track records in their respective fields, and they are coming in with ideas and policies to chart "a new direction" for Singapore.

 
 
 
 

When asked during the press conference, Mr Iswaran declined to assess the contesting PSP team.

"We are making the case that collectively, with the backing of our party, we are the best team for (voters), and for their children and future, and we want to persuade them that they should put their trust in us. Then I think we have to let the voters decide. It is not for us to rate one another or to rate ourselves," he said.

Responding to a question on what he can bring to the GRC, Mr Lee, who is expected to take over Mr Patrick Tay's Boon Lay ward if elected, said there was no real boundary between his former ward in Jurong Spring and Boon Lay, adding that the demographic profiles of both estates are similar.

He said the programmes he helped to develop in Jurong Spring, from strengthening social safety nets to infrastructure development, were those he hoped to bring to West Coast GRC.

Another question posed to the PAP candidates was how they would address voters' concerns about losing an MP with whom they had built up trust over the years, as the PAP moves or renews its teams.

 
 
 

Mr Lee said that rapport takes time to build, and new candidates have "an important responsibility to build that trust and rapport".

Mr Iswaran said that the party also has a very strong team of activists that help it stay connected to the people.

"So, when we come in as new elected members or new candidates, we are always building on what has already been done by our predecessors, working in partnership with our activists who have been nurturing those relationships on the ground, and benefiting from the backing of the party."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2020, with the headline 'Not new for West Coast to have two ministers: Iswaran'. Print Edition | Subscribe