Veteran MPs Charles Chong and Yeo Guat Kwang earned praise from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday for their willingness to do battle in Workers' Party-held areas.
Mr Chong will contest the Sept 11 election in Punggol East single-member constituency while Mr Yeo is leading a team hoping to wrest back Aljunied GRC for the People's Action Party.
It is the first time that sitting PAP MPs will be contesting in opposition wards.
"When I asked them (to go), neither hesitated for a moment," Mr Lee told yesterday's party rally. "They said, 'Where the party needs me, I will serve.' I told them, 'You're the right person and you make me proud to be a PAP member."
Mr Chong, 62, leaves now-defunct Joo Chiat SMC to fight for a seventh term in Parliament. Mr Yeo, 54, a four-term labour MP, is moving from Ang Mo Kio GRC.
"They know the ground well... and they have the spirit to take the fight to the opposition," Mr Lee said, assuring the two men that they would have full party backing during the campaign.
"We will hold a rally in the opposition wards and I will visit them," he promised.
PAP candidates in opposition wards had the "most challenging task", he said: "You need courage, perseverance, thick skin. You need a stout heart. You need to be prepared to fight, and push and push and push again."
He said that the reception was initially hostile in the constituencies, but that the PAP candidates have made headway.
Besides Mr Yeo, the other candidates in Aljunied GRC are lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai, 47; insurance firm manager Victor Lye, 53; private banker Chua Eng Leong, 44; and former teacher Shamsul Kamar, 43.
Mr Lee said of Mr Murali, a long-time grassroots leader: "If you need somebody to be charging beside you on a battlefield, I would like to have Murali next to me."
He also highlighted the sacrifice made by Mr Lye, who quit his job to walk the ground in Bedok Reservoir-Punggol ward full-time, unpaid, for 1 1/2 years after the 2011 election.
He praised senior IT manager Lee Hong Chuang, 45, for going into the WP stronghold of Hougang to persuade hardcore opposition supporters to vote for the PAP.
Hougang SMC is represented by WP MP Png Eng Huat.
"He told me that first they were hostile. Now they tell him, 'We have our loyalties, but we like you, and you're presenting us with a difficult choice'," Mr Lee said.
He was confident the seven candidates would do a good job, win over voters, run a town council "efficiently and honestly", solve residents' problems, and voice voters' concerns and aspirations in Parliament.
"That is why we are fielding them. That is why we will support them, fight for them and make them win," he said to rousing applause from PAP activists.
This article was first published on August 30, 2015.
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