Aljunied and East Coast GRCs set for intriguing battles

This article is more than 12 months old

PAP says Aljunied 'not owned by one party' as WP expects 'good fight' against DPM Heng's team in East Coast

As the dust settled from Nomination Day, the antagonists in Aljunied and East Coast GRCs, two of the more intriguing battles of General Election 2020, got down to business yesterday.

The People's Action Party's (PAP) Aljunied GRC team fired the first salvo when one of them, Mr Chua Eng Leong, proclaimed Aljunied is "not owned by one party" and that the issues at hand, including the Covid-19 pandemic, are larger than a fight between the PAP and the Workers' Party (WP).

He was asked to comment about residents adopting a "buy one, get one free" mentality, with the PAP team having campaigned for nine years in the WP-held GRC.

Responding to reporters after a morning walkabout at a hawker centre in Bedok North, another team member, Mr Alex Yeo, said the focus remains on the residents.

"(You can) see our track record over the past nine years - even when we couldn't find any government funds to tap, and even when we don't run a town council."


He cited how his team in Paya Lebar privately raised funds to build sheltered walkways for children studying at the Living Sanctuary Brethren Church and En-Naeem mosque kindergartens.

As the sheltered walkways address the needs of only specific groups of people, they do not benefit from Community Improvement Projects Committee government funding.

"It's about going the extra mile and trying our best to understand the concerns of our residents," he said.

Fellow candidate Shamsul Kamar said the issues championed by the team are based on ground sensing, feedback and data. "It's not just about reaching out to residents but implementing government policies in areas ranging from health to employability."

Mr Chua pointed to infrastructure improvements in Aljunied - such as the Home Improvement Programme for Housing Board flats, which took place even after the WP wrested the GRC from the PAP with 54.7 per cent of the vote share in 2011.

"Aljunied has not been left behind. It has been improving and we haven't shied away from our responsibility," he added.

Also on the PAP team are Mr Victor Lye and new face Chan Hui Yuh.

Without a minister in their ranks, the team is aware of a tough fight ahead against the WP's A-team - party chief Pritam Singh, chairman Sylvia Lim, two-term incumbent Faisal Manap, and former non-constituency MPs Gerald Giam and Leon Perera.

Over at neighbouring East Coast GRC, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday spoke at an online rally about the importance of job protection and creation in the current economic downturn amid Covid-19.

Mr Heng had left his Tampines stronghold to helm the incumbent PAP team at East Coast GRC in a move on Nomination Day that caught many by surprise, not least the WP that has eyed the GRC for some time.

Nevertheless, the WP team said yesterday it expects a good fight against its PAP rivals.

The team's Mr Kenneth Foo told reporters yesterday: "We were pleasantly surprised that Mr Heng actually made the move from Tampines GRC to East Coast GRC... He has been on national television, everyone knows he is the DPM, and we think it will be a good fight."

Mr Foo, 43, who ran in Nee Soon GRC in 2015, said his team will stay focused on its plan to work with and reach out to more residents in the constituency.

"For the past five years, we have been ploughing the ground. We have worked with and (tried to) understand the residents (and) set up new programmes to help the residents," he said.

"Although we are a new team here, the work has been consistently done."

This marks the fourth time the WP is fielding a team in East Coast GRC. In 2015, it lost to a PAP team anchored by then Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, with 39.3 per cent of the votes against PAP's 60.7 per cent.

Mr Foo and his four team-mates are running in East Coast GRC for the first time. The others are Mr Dylan Ng, who works in finance; Mr Terence Tan, a lawyer; Mr Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, a former researcher; and Ms Nicole Seah, an associate director in a multinational marketing firm.

Like their PAP counterparts in Aljunied GRC, they have their work cut against DPM Heng and his team - Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman; three-term backbencher Jessica Tan; one-term Fengshan MP Cheryl Chan, whose single seat is now part of the GRC; and new face Tan Kiat How, the former chief executive of the Infocomm Media Development Authority. - THE STRAITS TIMES