RP team wants to take the fight to PM

The Reform Party's Ang Mo Kio GRC candidates (seated from left) Gilbert Goh, Jesse Loo, M. Ravi, Siva Chandran, Osman Sulaiman and Roy Ngerng at the press conference yesterday. They said the issues they want to raise in their campaign include CPF, immigration, cost of living, and housing.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The Reform Party's (RP) six-man team contesting Ang Mo Kio GRC said it wants to take the fight to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and challenge him on issues and questions it claims have not been adequately answered.

RP secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam listed these goals as he unveiled the team at a press conference held yesterday outside a hair salon in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, after the party was turned away from two coffee shops.

Led by suspended lawyer M. Ravi, 46, the RP's Ang Mo Kio team comprises activists Roy Ngerng, 34, and Gilbert Goh, 54; former banker Jesse Loo, 52; media trainer Siva Chandran, 32; and entrepreneur Osman Sulaiman, 40.

Four of them - Mr Ravi, Mr Ngerng, Mr Loo and Mr Siva - are first-time candidates, while all six have either joined or rejoined the party within the last two months.

The RP also contested Ang Mo Kio GRC at the 2011 polls, where it garnered 30.7 per cent of the vote. Mr Osman is the only returning member from that team, which the RP said then it had fielded to give the Prime Minister a contest.

Mr Jeyaretnam said the same goal applied for the Sept 11 polls, adding that "it's an abomination that there should be any walkovers".

Mr Ravi acknowledged that the "road in front of us is not going to be easy because this constituency is helmed by the PM himself".

"And you ask me whether we are daunted by this - the unequivocal answer is 'no'. We are here to take up the cudgels and we are here for the challenge," he said.

Besides PM Lee, the PAP team unveiled on Aug 15 includes incumbents Ang Hin Kee, 49, and Intan Azura Mokhtar, 39.

There are three new members: former television personality Darryl David, 44; colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon, 43; and Pasir Ris- Punggol GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh, whose Punggol South ward has become part of Ang Mo Kio GRC.

The RP team said the issues it wants to raise in its campaign include the Central Provident Fund (CPF), immigration, cost of living, and housing.

The party yesterday also took the initiative to dispel perceptions of its Ang Mo Kio team in the light of recent actions of some members.

PM Lee had successfully sued Mr Ngerng for defamation for suggesting that he had misappropriated CPF savings, with damages to be assessed. Mr Ravi represented Mr Ngerng until he was suspended in mid-February after concerns about his mental health.

Mr Goh is a critic of the 2013 Population White Paper, which forecasts that Singapore might be headed towards a population of 6.9 million.

In reference to rallies organised by Mr Goh and Mr Ngerng at Hong Lim Park over CPF and immigration issues, Mr Jeyaretnam said "the team that we have assembled is not a protest group" and that the party is not running on an anti-immigration platform.

Mr Goh said some residents see them as troublemakers and as people who raise their voices and protest, but "many others see us as a good advocate for policies that are not spoken well in Parliament".

The RP also disagreed that the team is a "suicide squad" - a phrase used to describe a team of mostly young, first-time candidates fielded by the Workers' Party in Ang Mo Kio GRC at the 2006 polls.

Mr Ravi said: "In the past, you could say that some teams who faced the PM were suicide teams.

"But in the present elections, I think we are a wonderful energy and a powerful one to be reckoned with, and we believe and I think your question would be best answered on Polling Day itself."

Hoping to meet the needs of residents

Jesse Loo, 52

Occupation: Former bank manager

Family: His wife works in the beauty sector and they have two daughters, aged seven and 13

Education: Bachelor of Business in economics, marketing and social politics from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne Hobbies: Playing the guitar, reading

Why politics?I became interested in the early 1980s because of the late J.B. Jeyaretnam. It was an eye-opener for me, how a society could gather behind men like him who fought for us.

Why you?I feel I can identify with the residents in Ang Mo Kio GRC, which needs someone like me, a PMET (professionals, managers, executives and technicians).

What issues will you focus on?Minimum wage, inflation and overcrowding.

Favourite spot in Singapore?Wherever there is a concert, especially a rock concert. I'm a lead guitarist.

Focusing on CPF as key issue

Roy Ngerng, 34

Occupation: Blogger

Family: Single

Education: Bachelor of Arts from the National University of Singapore

Hobbies: Reading up on socio-economic issues, swimming, spending time with family

Why politics?In the past three years, I've advocated fairer policies in healthcare, education, retirement, CPF (Central Provident Fund), et cetera. I don't think the Government has responded sufficiently to Singaporeans. It's up to Singaporeans to be in Parliament to act for ourselves.

Why you?I am an ordinary Singaporean who will speak up for Singaporeans. If they invest trust in me, I would do my best to change the policies to protect all of us.

What issues will you focus on?CPF is a key issue. It is not just for retirement, it also concerns housing, wages, healthcare and education.

Favourite spot in Singapore?I like natural spaces, like the Botanic Gardens.

Hope death penalty will be abolished one day

M. Ravi, 46

Occupation: Lawyer

Family: Single

Education: Bachelor of Law from Cardiff University

Hobbies: Gym, writing, yoga and swimming

Why politics?I've been involved in various constitutional challenges. And it is difficult for the Court to handle some of these questions because they are within the parameters of Parliament. So I feel it'll be best that I go to Parliament and be an effective check there.

Why you?I think quite a number of residents know me. I think our team stands out.

What issues will you focus on?I really hope that one day the death penalty will be abolished.

Favourite spot in Singapore?Club Street and also Ang Mo Kio coffee shops because I enjoy the interaction with the foreigners at Club Street and I also enjoy the camaraderie at the coffee shop because I'm a kampong boy at heart.

'True heart to serve' in the heartland

Siva Chandran, 32

Occupation: Infocomm technology trainer

Family: Single

Education: Diploma in Higher Education in digital film technology, accredited by Middlesex University in Britain.

Hobbies: Writing stories, making short films

Why politics?The only reason is that I feel most government leaders don't understand problems like the peak-hour crowd on public transport, food prices in the heartland. I feel they don't understand the residents.

Why you?I think I have a true heart to serve. I will go all the way to serve the residents if I get voted in.

What issues will you focus on?The poor and senior citizens.

Favourite spot in Singapore?Neighbourhoods of Teck Ghee, where I can meet and talk to residents.

dansonc@sph.com.sg

asyiqins@sph.com.sg

This article was first published on August 29, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.