Member who had quit is surprise WP candidate

Member who had quit is surprise WP candidate
Lawyer Gurmit Singh appeared at a SingFirst event after he quit the Workers' Party, but then retracted his resignation. He was introduced as a WP candidate yesterday, along with (from left) Mr Kenneth Foo, a manager at a voluntary welfare organisation; Mr Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, a former librarian; and Mr Dennis Tan, a shipping lawyer.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - The Workers' Party (WP) sprang a surprise on Sunday (Aug 30) when it unveiled a candidate who had been spotted wearing the colours of another opposition party in recent weeks.

Mr Gurmit Singh, 55, who works as a legal counsel in a property firm, started volunteering with the WP after the 2011 polls and became a member in 2013.

Sources had told The Straits Times that Mr Singh quit the WP a few weeks ago after being told he would be a back-up candidate for the Sept 11 polls. Mr Singh then appeared at a Singaporeans First (SingFirst) event.

In response to queries, WP chairman Sylvia Lim confirmed Mr Singh was on its list of candidates as a standby. She added he quit the party and joined SingFirst for a day, after which he retracted his resignation.

"WP took into account Gurmit's good relations with the party, the circumstances of his resignation and his professionalism in handling the matter. WP thus accepted his retraction of resignation," it added.

"We believe Gurmit has much to contribute as a candidate and, if elected, as an MP."

Mr Singh on Sunday said he had explored opportunities with other parties as he was "very enthusiastic" about contesting the election and had gone on only one walkabout with SingFirst when he heard news that WP was likely to field him.

Sources say Mr Singh was wooed back after another potential candidate, lawyer Shaneet Rai, 27, quit. Mr Rai was said to have been unhappy about a team of young first-timers taking on a People's Action Party team helmed by Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam in Nee Soon GRC. Last week, Mr Rai removed all photos of him on walkabouts in WP colours from his public Facebook page. It was taken down and can no longer be accessed.

The team is set to include sales consultant Cheryl Denise Loh, 32; Mr Kenneth Foo, 38, a manager at a voluntary welfare organisation; Mr Luke Koh, 41, managing partner of a private investment business; and property agent Ron Tan, 30.

Sources say Mr Singh started walking with the WP team in Nee Soon GRC at about the same time that Mr Rai dropped out. The WP on Sunday confirmed that Mr Rai had quit.

Mr Rai said on Sunday that he handed in his resignation on Aug 23 but had not heard back from the party.

According to electoral rules on minority representation, political parties standing in Nee Soon GRC are required to field at least one candidate from a non-Malay minority group.

Mr Singh was introduced along with former librarian Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, 36, Mr Foo, and shipping lawyer Dennis Tan, 45.

Workforce issues take priority

Gurmit Singh, 55

Occupation: Head of the legal department at a real estate company

Family: Married to a 51-year-old bank employee. They have a daughter, 25, and a son, 22.

Education: Bachelor of Laws from the University of London, graduate diplomas in legal practice from the University of Western Australia and College of Law, and a graduate diploma in legal studies from the University of New England

Hobbies: Swimming and going to the gym

Why politics?

I've been quite keen on politics since the 1980s. I attended rallies then, when I was in my 20s. Even then, I felt a pull to the opposition. I feel it's good to have alternative views. That's how I slowly drifted to the Workers' Party.

Why you?

At my age now, as head of a legal department, I know the struggles. I came up the hard way. And I know people out there who were struggling with me, and who are still struggling because of a fear of retirement and other employment issues. I want to give professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) like them a voice.

What issues will you focus on?

One is employment priority for Singapore employees and the other is low-wage workers. (People) here are willing to work, and they don't expect handouts, but they should be paid enough for a normal standard of living in Singapore.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

My neighbourhood coffee shop in Tampines. That's where you meet friends and neighbours... You pick up more about life there than anywhere else.

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