After 2 defeats in Hougang, Desmond Choo moves to Tampines

TAMPINES TEAM: (From left, standing) Mr Desmond Choo, Mr Baey Yam Keng and Ms Cheng Li Hui. (From left, seated) Mr Masagos Zulkifli and Mr Heng Swee Keat.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Food seems to be the central theme of this election campaign.

And a sign of who is more familiar with the ward.

After years of Hougang Teochew porridge, People's Action Party (PAP) politician Desmond Choo now has a taste for something different.

"Sarawak kolo mee," said Mr Choo, 37, who was introduced as the new face of the five-men Tampines Group Representation Constituency (GRC) team.

"The lines are very long, at least a 25-minute wait. This is the place you must go and try, Tampines Round Market."

For the record, the food centre is at Tampines Street 11.

Change of diet and change of fortune?

Mr Choo, a Teochew himself, was defeated by Workers' Party (WP) Yaw Shin Leong in the 2011 General Election.

After Mr Yaw did a disappearing act amid allegations of an affair, a by-election was held in 2012.

Mr Choo, a baby-faced former police scholar and now senior executive with NTUC did better but still lost, this time to WP's Png Eng Huat.

After promising Hougang residents he will "always be there for them", is Mr Choo changing his mind now?

He said: "The PAP continues to be there for the Hougang residents... I believe that over the years, we have built up a good system.

"We have committed volunteers, activists and supporters, and we will continue to make sure that Hougang will be well taken care of."

Hougang was never going to be an easy battleground for any PAP candidate.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean acknowledged as much in 2012. But even after two defeats, Mr Choo continued to work the ground as the ward's grassroots adviser.


Six months after the by-election defeat in 2012, the Government announced a Lift Upgrading Programme, Home Improvement Programme and Neighbourhood Renewal Programme for Hougang.

A new bus service was also introduced.

But PAP decided to move Mr Choo to Tampines to join Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Masagos Zulkifli, MP Baey Yam Keng and new face Cheng Li Hui.

The PAP team pulled in 57.2 per cent of the votes at the last General Election against a then largely-unknown team from the National Solidarity Party (NSP).

Mr Choo and Ms Cheng, 39, will replace current Tampines GRC MPs Mah Bow Tan and Irene Ng, who are stepping down from politics.

Ms Cheng was a stark contrast to the battle-hardened Mr Choo. She appeared shy with the media.

Mr Mah described her as "full of energy, very hard-working and very quiet, but gets things done".

"I would say she is the 'talk less, do more' type and things get done," he said.

A councillor in the North West Community Development Council since 2004, Ms Cheng spoke of the need to give back to society.

"I feel that our seniors would like to continue to be active participants in society and have much to contribute.

"If we can enable society to provide opportunities for them, this will give them meaning and ultimately, benefit everyone," she said.

But it was inevitable the food question was going to come up.

Ms Cheng said: "I usually spend my time at the 200-series neighbourhood centre. If I'm there early in the morning, my favourite would be mee siam to start the day.

"My lunch is usually quick, so I'd just take a prata and then move on. I would have dinner with some activists, we would have zi char."

Yes, in Tampines.


This article was first published on August 23, 2015. Get The New Paper for more stories.