The Workers' Party (WP) will stick to the plan and keep its Aljunied team intact for the Sept 11 polls, said party chairman Sylvia Lim, after the People's Action Party (PAP) unveiled its team yesterday.
Ms Lim also said that her team would work hard to defend its turf against the ruling party, which she described as "always a formidable opponent".
In an interview with The Straits Times yesterday, she said that her team "owes a debt to the Aljunied GRC residents" who have stood by them in the past few years.
"We've been through a lot in the last couple of years, and I've been very inspired by the support of the residents... who come forward to give us encouragement even when we are under intense scrutiny or attack by the PAP or others," she said at her apartment in Toh Tuck Road.
"We want to remain with them and to contest these coming elections to seek their mandate for the next time.''
She added: "We will not change (our plans) because the PAP has unveiled a different team."
Yesterday, the PAP introduced its own team, which will be led by four-term MP Yeo Guat Kwang.
The 54-year-old was moved out of Ang Mo Kio GRC, but moving into Aljunied GRC is a return to familiar ground for Mr Yeo. He was an MP there from 2001 to 2011.
The other four members in his team are all the party's Aljunied branch chairmen and first-time candidates: Mr Victor Lye, 52, in Bedok Reservoir-Punggol; Mr K. Muralidharan Pillai, 47, in Paya Lebar; Mr Chua Eng Leong, 44, in Eunos; and Mr Shamsul Kamar, 43, in Kaki Bukit.
Introducing them yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said: "I think this team has a fighting chance. They really want to prove their worth and serve residents better."
At a separate press conference, where the WP introduced its third batch of candidates, Ms Lim acknowledged that the PAP would not be easy to beat.
She said: "The PAP is always a formidable opponent. They are the ruling party, with a huge party machinery and grassroots network."
Apart from Ms Lim, the WP's Aljunied slate is made up of party chief Low Thia Khiang, 58, Mr Chen Show Mao, 54; Mr Pritam Singh, 39; and Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, 40.
Ms Lim, who is chairman of her party's town council, was asked by reporters about the state of cleanliness at her GRC.
The question arose because former Cabinet minister and PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng had said yesterday that some Aljunied residents had told the PAP team that they wanted a change as the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Puggol East Town Council had not properly cleaned or maintained the estates.
In her reply, Ms Lim said that her town council got the same performance band as many other town councils in the Ministry of National Development's annual review of the performance of all town councils.
She also invited the residents of constituencies that her party would be contesting in the elections to visit Aljunied GRC and judge for themselves.
She had also told The Straits Times that she hoped residents would give her party the mandate to run the town council for another term.
She said: "I don't think we've let the residents down."
All five MPs of Aljunied GRC and the two others elected for Hougang and Punggol East SMCs had said they would defend their seats.
The line-up is final only on Nomination Day, which falls on Sept 1.
PAP team 'no suicide squad'
The People's Action Party (PAP) candidates for Aljunied GRC rejected being labelled a "suicide squad" in their face-off against the Worker's Party's "A" team, and asked voters to measure them with the same yardstick as that applied to the incumbents.
In response to questions about why the PAP had not fielded a "heavyweight" in the Aljunied slate, candidate Victor Lye took issue with the traditional definition of heavyweight as a minister or well-known politician.
A true heavyweight "should be defined by how much he is willing to sacrifice", said the insurance firm director, who has been on the ground in Bedok Reservoir-Punggol ward for 16 years.
Referring to the WP incumbents led by party chief Low Thia Khiang, he said: "With all due respect to the other team, why do we anoint them and say that they are the heavyweights?"
Both slates should be measured according to the same yardstick, he said: "Judge their performance as you would judge ours."
His teammate, lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai, noted that traditional "heavyweights" on the PAP slate had not prevented votes from swinging against the ruling party in the 2011 General Election.
Then, residents chose the WP team over two ministers, a senior minister of state and a potential minister, he noted.
"What they want are people who can connect with them, who know their concerns, and that's what we've been doing," the longtime grassroots volunteer said.
Former PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng, who has been advising the candidates for the past few years, emphasised their credentials and ability.
Mr Pillai heads the commercial litigation department at Rajah & Tann, one of Singapore's biggest law firms, and has 100 lawyers reporting to him, said Mr Lim.
"You're telling me he is not a heavyweight?"
The rest of the slate comprises labour MP Yeo Guat Kwang, private banker Chua Eng Leong and former teacher Shamsul Kamar.
They were introduced yesterday at the PAP's branch in Paya Lebar by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a gesture to show how much the party cares for Aljunied, said Mr Lim.
Mr Tharman, who is the PAP's second assistant secretary-general, said that the candidates were chosen "because they are credible, honest and dedicated people, and each of them knows the people of Aljunied well".
Besides being able to tackle local issues and advance areas of concern in Parliament, he said the candidates would also be able to "straighten out the town council finances in the interest of residents".
This was a reference to the lapses in governance and compliance found by the Auditor-General at the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council.
Veteran politician Mr Yeo, for example, was once the chairman of the Aljunied Town Council, when the constituency was under the PAP, Mr Tharman noted.
Speaking about his and his teammates' abilities to run a town council earlier, Mr Lye said he was adroit with accounts.
He added that Mr Pillai would handle the legal aspects and Mr Chua was well-placed to make decisions on what funds to invest in, due to his career in the finance industry.
Mr Lye added that Mr Shamsul would "bring heart" to the policies the team hopes to put in place, if elected.
Making a final pitch to voters, he said: "Be objective, recognise the sacrifices and the willingness of our candidates here to serve you and do better for you."
"It is time to bring us home to Aljunied."
This article was first published on Aug 29, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.