The candidates: PAP

Strong support for Edwin Tong in Joo Chiat

Mr Edwin Tong.

Although Joo Chiat ward will be new to Mr Edwin Tong, he can count on the support of two heavyweights: Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

Mr Tan, leader of the People's Action Party (PAP) team in Marine Parade GRC, made the commitment at a press conference yesterday to introduce the constituency's line-up for the polls on Sept 11.

The media had asked if the team expected a tough fight, now that first-term MP Mr Tong has been moved unexpectedly to Joo Chiat, which the People's Action Party (PAP) won by a whisker in the 2011 general election (GE).

Said Mr Tan: "What we will do is to bring to bear our weight and influence to support Edwin. Not that he necessarily needs it, but (for us) to understand the issues better so that we can also see how best to address some of those concerns."

He stressed that his team works together to solve tougher issues in each other's wards in the five-member GRC, whose boundary was redrawn to include Joo Chiat and exclude MacPherson.

Joo Chiat was a single-seat constituency in the 2011 GE. PAP veteran Charles Chong went in as a newcomer to the constituency and won by getting just 388 more votes than Workers' Party (WP) candidate Yee Jenn Jong.

Yesterday, Mr Tong had mixed feelings about his move. While it is "quite difficult leaving Jalan Besar", he said he was excited at the chance to work with the Marine Parade team.

"Coming to a new place is not easy. There will be a lot of ground to cover, and I will have to work very hard and very fast," said Mr Tong, who was an MP for Jalan Besar in the now-defunct Moulmein-Kallang GRC.

For the past two weeks, he has been walking the Joo Chiat ground, sometimes going down more than once a day, he said.

Taking note of such local municipal issues as estate improvement, congestion, parking and bus services, he said that if elected, his past experience as a town council chairman will be put to good use in dealing with them.

He was chairman of the Moulmein-Kallang Town Council.

Mr Tong also pledged, if elected, to raise broader national issues in Parliament, like the rising cost of living. Joo Chiat residents have told him, he said, that living in private property should not preclude them from getting government help.

ESM Goh, a former prime minister, said Joo Chiat voters may have felt neglected by the government in the 2011 election as they live in private property.

"These people have paid taxes, they are retirees. So they felt ignored. They therefore sent the message 'Please do not take us for granted'."

The Government has since introduced the Pioneer Generation Package, which is not restricted by income or dwelling, he noted. "There are other issues going forward where I would... tell ministers, don't make a distinction."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Strong support for Edwin Tong in Joo Chiat'. Print Edition | Subscribe