By The Way

Gearing up in Sengkang, Hammering home via podcast: What politicians are up to this week

Two of the PAP's three new faces in Sengkang GRC, Mr Ling Weihong (far left) and Ms Theodora Lai, and the WP's Sengkang GRC MP Jamus Lim (right). PHOTOS: THEODORA LAI/FACEBOOK, JAMUS LIM/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series.

Setting sights on Sengkang

The next election is a few years away, but the battle for Sengkang's hearts and minds has already begun.

Facebook pages of three newly introduced potential People's Action Party (PAP) candidates in Sengkang GRC are up and running, after the trio were unveiled by the ruling party last weekend.

National University of Singapore communications professor Elmie Nekmat, Burpple chief strategy officer Theodora Lai, and lawyer Ling Weihong were introduced as new party branch chairmen in Sengkang last Sunday (March 27).

This has fuelled speculation that they could be fielded in the four-seat opposition ward in the next general election, which must take place by November 2025. They are led by former candidate and senior minister of state Lam Pin Min.

Ms Lai's and Mr Ling's Facebook pages identify them as "politicians". The pages were set up between February and earlier this week, and currently have an online following of about 200 to 450 people.

Since then, the trio have been sharing about their house visits in Sengkang and personal lives, such as their families and national service days.

Meanwhile, the incumbent Workers' Party (WP) team in Sengkang GRC has kept up with its activities on the ground.

On Tuesday, Mr Jamus Lim posted about a ground-up food distribution effort that he said complements those done by the WP team.

Ms He Ting Ru said on Sunday that she covered a series of housing blocks last weekend with WP colleague Ron Tan, who previously contested in Marine Parade GRC.

Sengkang GRC has been in the spotlight after former WP MP Raeesah Khan resigned last year over lies she had told in Parliament.

In the biggest upset in the 2020 general election, the WP team in Sengkang narrowly beat a PAP team led by labour chief Ng Chee Meng.

Last Sunday, Mr Ng shared a photo of himself having coffee with the three new PAP faces, but was mum on where his political journey will take him now that he has handed the baton of Sengkang North chair to Ms Lai.

"I remain steadfast in my commitment to serving Singaporeans and will continue to contribute to the party where needed," he wrote.

WP launches podcast

Aurally, the WP's new Hammer Podcast is one more way that the party is reaching out to residents and supporters.

Presented by the party's youth wing, it features WP MPs and volunteers discussing issues such as the job anxieties of Singaporeans and challenges faced by hawkers, with the hope of making the party's policy proposals more accessible.

Since March 25, two episodes lasting about 20 to 25 minutes have been released on Spotify. They feature Mr Gerald Giam and Mr Leon Perera from Aljunied GRC speaking about these issues, which they had raised in Parliament recently.

WP youth wing president Nicole Seah said podcasts are the medium of choice for some younger Singaporeans when seeking content on politics and public affairs.

"With this podcast series, we hope to better connect with these people, and to enable them to engage with our ideas and MPs."

Besides the podcast, WP's youth wing has held live-streamed webinars on topical issues such as Covid-19 and the Budget.

The WP also ran panel discussions, called the Hammer Show, during the last general election. The physical Hammer newsletter has been produced since 1972.

Ms Seah said: "As with the Hammer Show during GE2020, the Hammer podcast series will focus on creating in-depth conversations around important issues of the day."

Cheering Singapore's reopening

With the national move to ease Covid-19 measures from March 29, MPs cheered the return to normalcy.

Mr Xie Yao Quan (Jurong GRC) posted a handy infographic on settings where masks are still required and where they are optional.

"P.S. I will stay masked up for my house visits!" he wrote on Facebook.

Barricades at hawker centres have also been removed as checks on diners' vaccination status will no longer be done at points of entry.

In a Facebook post titled "Shackles off", Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) said he was happy to see Ghim Moh hawker centre without temporary fencing again.

"If you have not been here for some time, please come with your loved ones to support our hawkers and merchants and celebrate #OurHawkerCulture!" he wrote.

User Frank Lim also welcomed the change: "The safe entry fencing is awkward and cramped all of us within a congested space with one point of entry/exit. Now a big relief and the hassle of checking in and out gone. Awesome."

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) posted a photo of his view of an airplane window seat to mark his first business trip in more than two years.

"Good to also see a busy airport with many passengers at terminal and on board the plane," he wrote, with the hashtag #backtonormal.

Making waves on TikTok

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung posted his first TikTok video on Tuesday (March 29) - the first day of the easing of Covid-19 rules - to familiarise Singaporeans with the new requirements on mask wearing.

@ongyekung

Today is the first day of the easing of Safe Management Measures 1-5, and marks another big step towards living with COVID-19.Took a walk from my office to nearby Tiong Bahru to see how people are adapting to the changes. Even with the reduced social restrictions, do still remember to keep your guard up, and take care of the vulnerable among us.

♬ original sound - Ye Kung Ong - Ye Kung Ong

The video has been a hit online, with more than 59,000 likes and 1,800 comments. Many users gave Mr Ong suggestions for future videos.

TikTok user Zaki Hussain wrote: "Boss I'm from ur GRC. Can do meet the people session via TikTok live?"

Others asked Mr Ong to do a dance, one of the most popular things TikTokers get up to on the platform.

Among those who have watched Mr Ong's video is PAP new face Elmie Nekmat, who did his own TikTok video that referenced Mr Ong's.

@dr_elmienekmat

Places where you have to put on mask in Singapore. Check out @ongyekung for more places to mask-off and mask-on #fyp #singapore #sengkang

♬ nhạc nền - AK乂Duty - AK乂Duty

In a video set to Fort Minor's Remember The Name, Dr Nekmat set out a list of places where masks have to be kept on, such as in lifts and classrooms. He asked viewers to refer to Mr Ong's video for places where people can be unmasked.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong also posted a TikTok video on Wednesday that showed him removing his mask as he walked to an outdoor area.

@lawrencewongst

Mask on or off when outdoors? You now have a choice. But continue to do the sensible and responsible thing. Eg if you are in a crowded outdoors venue, you may want to keep masks on. Let’s all stay disciplined and vigilant, even as we embrace the hard earned relaxations to resume more normal lives!

♬ original sound - AnnaBekham - AnnaBekham

The 10-second clip - set to Blackpink's How You Like That - has more than 61,000 likes and 2,300 comments.

One comment said: "I just love how our new gen leaders are jumping on trends to engage us HAHAH".

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