PAP's Sitoh: Hard fight in Potong Pasir

The People's Action Party (PAP) MP for Potong Pasir is expecting a tough fight for the constituency in the coming general election.

"When you won by only 114 votes the last time, and when you have lost twice, you take nothing for granted... Whether it's a two-cornered fight or a three-cornered fight, I think our chances of winning are 50-50," said Mr Sitoh Yih Pin yesterday, as he announced that he will be defending his seat in Parliament at the next polls.

Although a first-term MP for the Single Member Constituency (SMC), Mr Sitoh is already a battle-hardened campaigner when it comes to the polls.

He contested twice - in 2001 and 2006 - and failed on both occasions to prise Potong Pasir away from veteran MP Chiam See Tong's iron grip on the estate.

Mr Sitoh finally broke his duck in 2011, narrowly beating Mrs Lina Chiam, the wife of Singapore People's Party (SPP) chief Mr Chiam, by a mere 114 votes.

"Dr Ng Eng Hen has informed me that I will be fielded in Potong Pasir again," he said yesterday at a press conference held at the Kallang River ABC Park just outside the PAP branch office. "I'm very happy about that."

Dr Ng, who is the organising secretary for the PAP, said last week that the party would introduce its candidates from Aug 12 "till National Day Rally or so", spread out at a steady pace to allow residents time to digest the announcements.

He said yesterday this has proceeded well and achieved the purpose of providing more information to residents.

By Sunday, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivers his Rally speech, the PAP would have presented the slate of its candidates except for a few remaining GRCs.

Mr Alex Yam, executive director of PAP headquarters, said introductions will then pause for two to three days to give Singaporeans a chance to digest the Rally message.

Potong Pasir, the smallest electoral ward here with just 17,389 voters, could be the only constituency facing a three-cornered fight.

Besides Mr Sitoh and Mrs Chiam from the SPP, lawyer and former National Solidarity Party secretary-general Tan Lam Siong has also said he plans to contest there as an independent candidate.

Mr Sitoh's informal, solo announcement yesterday by the river was in keeping with his playbook of eschewing PAP bigwigs in favour of focusing on "earning the trust of and winning over the residents".

Potong Pasir voters had, in earlier general elections, rejected big-money promises by the PAP, and turned their noses up at ministerial endorsements. In 2006, for instance, they spurned an $80 million upgrading package dangled by then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and returned Mr Chiam to Parliament with an even bigger winning margin than at the previous polls in 2001.

For Mr Sitoh and his team, work started in 2011 as soon as the election results were announced, and he said he was happy to have fulfilled the promises he had made to residents at the last hustings.

Besides kicking off lift upgrading across the estate, he has also set up a family service centre and more childcare centres.

He has also introduced an initiative that provides low-income families with food supplies and an education incentive award for students living in the ward.

His campaign manifesto for the next five years is ready, he added, but it will be unveiled only on Nomination Day. However, he let on that residents can look forward to a new bus service plying through Potong Pasir estate during peak hours in the mornings and evenings.

"Am I confident of a bigger margin? No, I don't dare to dream about it," he said when asked about the mandate he hopes to receive from Potong Pasir residents at the next polls.

"I'll work as hard as I can and I hope our voters can give us another opportunity to serve them."

This article was first published on Aug 18, 2015.
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