The People’s Action Party (PAP) officially announced today its candidates for the Tampines Group Representation Constituency (GRC) for the upcoming General Elections (GE).
Joining the five-member GRC are Ms Cheng Li Hui, a first-time candidate, and Mr Desmond Choo, who lost his bid for the single seat of Hougang in the 2011 GE to the Workers’ Party’s (WP) Yaw Shin Leong. After Mr Yaw was expelled from the WP over an extramarital affair in 2012, Mr Choo lost again to the WP’s Png Eng Huat in the by-election that followed. Mr Choo and Ms Cheng will replace current Tampines GRC Members of Parliament (MPs) Mah Bow Tan and Irene Ng, who are stepping down from politics.
In the 2011 GE, the PAP had won with 57.22% of the vote against the National Solidarity Party (NSP) which featured Mr Goh Meng Seng and Mr Syafarin Syarif. Both men have left the NSP to form the People’s Power Party (PPP). The NSP has said it will contest Tampines again this year.
The five PAP candidates for Tampines GRC are:
54 year-old Mr Heng Swee Keat – Minister for Education. Mr Heng has been Education Minister and an elected MP for Tampines GRC since 2011. He was the Principal Private Secretary to then-Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew from 1997 to 2000, before becoming the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 2001. From 2005 to 2011, Mr Heng worked as the managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
As Education Minister, he said, he feels “very deeply” about helping every child succeed no matter what their starting point.
“Many parents and students have told me they are proud of the education system. And that is the real test, that at the end of the day, (people) tell me they are happy with the opportunities they have been given,” he said, noting that the system seeks to bring out the best in every child regardless of financial background.
Much has been done, he said, to broaden domains of excellence and create more pathways, as well as ensure no one is deprived of a good education because of family background or other factors. “This is a sharp contrast to many education systems around the world.”
“We are also taking education beyond our schools, to equip every Singaporean with knowledge and skills to succeed in life,” he added, in reference to the SkillsFuture initiative.
In Tampines, Mr Heng said, the PAP team had done their best to improve facilities, such as parks, pathways and homes. The goal is to build a “home with a heart”.
“The starting point of all our infrastructural work is not to build hardware, but a sense of home,” he said – drawing attention to the neighbour’s hub behind which the press conference was being held. It “came together because residents of all ages came together, ” he said. “It is a wonderful symbol of what we hope to do. We want to build a great sense of neighbourliness … a sense of heart in our community.”
On a broader national scale, Mr Heng said that the way government ministries engage Singaporeans has changed. There is more direct engagement, “more effort made to identity which are groups that will be affected by particular policies”, and better communication to help Singaporeans make good use of the benefits of policies. One example: The Pioneer Generation Package.
This was one of a number of policy initiatives that came out of the Our Singapore Conversation exercise, which spanned almost a year, over 2012 and 2013, and which Mr Heng headed. He said the exercise was “not about reaping political dividends”, but about helping Singaporeans understand the challenges ahead and hopes for the future.
44 year-old Mr Baey Yam Keng – Full-time Member of Parliament. Mr Baey served as an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC from 2006 to 2011 before moving to Tampines GRC for the 2011 GE. He chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Culture, Community and Youth. He was a managing director at a large public relations firm before resigning in 2012 to focus on politics.
52 year-old Mr Masagos Zulkifli – Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. Mr Masagos is also the Second Minister for both Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs. He has been an MP for Tampines GRC since 2006. Mr Masagos was formerly the Senior Parliamentary Secretary and then Minister of State for Education from 2006 to 2011. Prior to entering politics, he worked for SingTel from 1988 to 20.06, rising to the position of CEO of SingTel Global Offices.
39 year-old Ms Cheng Li Hui – Deputy CEO, Hai Leck Holdings. Ms Cheng has been a Councillor in the Northwest CDC since 2004. She is also vice-chairman of the Citizens Consultative Committee in Tampines East. Recounting how her father started out as a shipyard painter, the deputy CEO of an engineering firm spoke of the need to give back to society. She began volunteering at the grassroots in Bukit Panjang 12 years ago.
37 year-old Mr Desmond Choo – Director of youth development, National Trades Union Congress. Mr Choo is concurrently NTUC’s deputy director of industrial relations, a post he had previously held up to May 2013 when he left for the private sector after standing in Hougang in the 2011 GE and 2012 by-election. He rejoined the union in April this year, after serving as Senior Vice President of investments at Kestrel Capital. Mr Choo started his career in the Singapore police force. He was appointed second adviser to Changkat grassroots organisations in February this year.