Who will helm new Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC?

Who will helm new Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC?
MP Alex Yam in a discussion with his team. His Yew Tee ward will form about 40 per cent of the voting population in the new Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

A new GRC has been born, in response to an influx of new Housing Board flats in the north of Singapore. But even in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC's infancy, questions have surfaced about which minister will helm it.

The four-member constituency is the only completely new electoral division out of 29 recommended by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee in a report released yesterday.

Four others - Jalan Besar GRC and the single-seat wards of Bukit Batok, Fengshan and MacPherson - are old constituencies that have resurfaced, and had been on the electoral map in previous polls.

Marsiling-Yew Tee takes in about 61,000 voters from Sembawang GRC's Marsiling and Woodgrove wards, and another 46,000 voters from Chua Chu Kang GRC's Yew Tee ward. It is roughly bounded by the Strait of Johor in the north, Mandai Road in the south, Old Choa Chu Kang Road in the west and smaller streets like Riverside Road and Woodlands Avenue 5 in the east.

MPs affected by the changes include Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower Hawazi Daipi and Mr Ong Teng Koon from Sembawang GRC, and Mr Alex Yam from Chua Chu Kang GRC. They say that several hundred Housing Board blocks have sprung up in the north in the last four years, leading to a population boom. "It's sad we have to hive off parts of Sembawang GRC but it's not possible to retain all of it," said Mr Hawazi.

For now, residents and observers are keenly watching to see who else will be sent to the new GRC, since the person is likely to anchor it.

When asked about this, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who anchors Sembawang GRC, told The Straits Times in an e-mail: "We will make sure we have a strong anchor for all our GRCs, new or existing."

By the reckoning of National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew could be the man for the job. His Moulmein-Kallang GRC has been dissolved and redistributed, and he has indicated he would be leaving his original area.

But he did not want to confirm where he might be sent.

Speculation is also swirling around former top civil servant Ong Ye Kung. He had contested in the last election in Aljunied GRC as part of the People's Action Party slate that lost to the Workers' Party.

In the run-up to that election, Mr Ong had been touted as being of ministerial calibre by various Cabinet ministers. He is widely expected to contest in the next election, and has been understudying Mr Hawazi for the past year. Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said he would not be surprised if Mr Ong is the GRC's anchor: "The PAP might prefer him to helm a GRC because it would be good for his political standing to win an election leading one, rather than being just a member."

Meanwhile, there is also talk that Mr Hawazi, a veteran MP serving his fourth term, could retire, leaving a second slot open at the four-member Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC. According to electoral rules on minority candidates, the GRC requires at least one Malay candidate.

Lawyer Amrin Amin, who has shadowed Mr Hawazi and now helps Woodlands MP Ellen Lee, could be a possible replacement.

Since Marsiling-Yew Tee is new, there is no telling how votes will swing. But constituencies in the north are typically considered PAP strongholds. In the watershed 2011 General Election, Sembawang GRC was among the party's top 10 performers, with Mr Khaw's team winning 63.9 per cent of the vote. At the then newly created Chua Chu Kang GRC, the PAP won over 61.2 per cent of the vote.

This article was first published on July 25, 2015.
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