PAP team has a fighting chance, says Tharman

The People's Action Party's Aljunied GRC team has a fighting chance of winning the constituency back from the Workers' Party, second assistant secretary-general Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday as he unveiled its candidates.

The team comprises four-term veteran MP Yeo Guat Kwang who moves in from Ang Mo Kio GRC, insurance firm manager Victor Lye, lawyer K. Muralidharan Pillai, private banker Chua Eng Leong and former teacher Shamsul Kamar.

"I think this team has a fighting chance. They go in with the mindset of being underdogs because they've got incumbents at present. They go in with a mindset of being humble at everything they do," said Mr Tharman, who is Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister.

Former PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng also suggested why the PAP reckons the team can stand up to the WP's "A" team of incumbents that includes WP chief Low Thia Khiang and chairman Sylvia Lim.

Mr Lim recounted how residents in the GRC were hostile to PAP activists in 2011, after the WP won Aljunied at the polls with 54.7 per cent of the vote.

But things have not been going well in the GRC, he said at a press conference at the PAP's Serangoon branch, citing issues from town council finances to estate maintenance.

Residents have noticed and have become friendlier and more welcoming towards the PAP, he added.

"People told us that they were disappointed with the performance of their (WP) MPs in Parliament. They didn't make any major contributions to the creation of national policies in Government," said Mr Lim.

The PAP candidates zoomed in especially on the WP's management of town council finances as being an issue that is of concern to residents. Asked if such lapses have gained traction with residents, Mr Lye said that going by feedback from residents and non-residents that he met on walkabouts, they had.

"There is obviously a sense on the ground, not only in Aljunied but throughout Singapore, that something isn't quite right," he said.

Although it is difficult for most people to understand the nitty-gritty details of the town council accounts, those who are able to do so "came away with a very different sense that there is indeed something wrong", he added.

Mr Tharman also underlined the gravity of the town council lapses.

"I think you know me. You know my personality, you know my views. You know that I've never been against the idea of an opposition in Singapore. People know," he said.

"So when I speak about an issue, it is because I'm really worried. It is not because I'm trying to put an opposition down or the WP down.

"The town council issue is, for us, not a political game. I want to make sure we have responsible and honest politics in Singapore."

This applied to the PAP and the opposition alike, he added.

"When the Government does wrong, expose us, criticise us. We must get it right and we expect the same of everyone else," he said.

On a similar note, Mr Lye urged voters to apply the same standards when weighing candidates from the PAP against those from the WP.

Voters should look at the WP's performance since the 2011 polls and "go by their performance as you would go by our performance", he said.

"Be objective, recognise the sacrifices and the willingness of our candidates to serve you and do better for you. Don't be taken in by other people's ambitions. You have done it for 41/2 years. It's time to bring us home to Aljunied."

He added: "I only ask that you measure all of us by the same yardstick that you measure others. It's only fair."

This article was first published on Aug 29, 2015.
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