Tanjong Pagar GRC: DPP plans to propose alliance with SingFirst

Party newbie Edwin Fernandez will contest contest Tanjong Pagar GRC with Mr Seow Khee Leng.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is pulling out of Fengshan in anticipation of the Workers' Party (WP) sending a stronger candidate to the single-seat ward.

Instead, DPP founder Seow Khee Leng, 75 - who announced his intention to contest Fengshan a week ago - will contest in Tanjong Pagar GRC with a team that will include party newbie and social enterprise owner Edwin Fernandez, 55.

DPP secretary-general Benjamin Pwee told The Sunday Times yesterday that Mr Seow's withdrawal was in "deference and respect to a stronger candidate from WP".

The party will now shift its focus to other constituencies.

Mr Pwee said he hoped to work out an agreement with the Singapore People's Party - which has an overlapping interest with the DPP in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and the Potong Pasir and Hong Kah North single seats - during a meeting tomorrow among opposition parties to discuss election strategy and to avoid three-cornered fights.

As for Tanjong Pagar GRC, Mr Pwee aims to propose to Singaporeans First party (SingFirst) secretary-general Tan Jee Say that their parties send a joint team which will include Mr Seow and Mr Fernandez.

Mr Fernandez told The Sunday Times that, as someone who entered the workforce with just an O-level certificate, he wanted to speak out on the need for society to place less emphasis on paper qualifications.

He started out in 1984 as a flight attendant with Pan America World Airways for two years before embarking on a 14-year career with Federal Express. He rose through the ranks - from being an air courier crew member to advising on logistical process improvement for FedEx's operations in the Asia-Pacific.

He then spent five years with Sears Holdings, the parent company of retail stores, such as Sears and Kmart, as a labour law compliance assessor, before joining ST Marine as a business process improvement manager.

"We need to look at a person's attitude and aptitude, and not just focus on the paper chase," he said.

This is why he left ST Marine in December last year to focus full-time on his social enterprise, which he started in September 2013. I-Initium currently employs two 21-year-olds as couriers and Mr Fernandez is training them in customer service and involving them in the business process. Two more will join in the coming weeks.

"If they make a mistake, it may cost the company money, but we don't deduct their pay. Instead, we ask them for ideas to fix the problem."

He also believes that skills such as problem-solving and leadership should be given more time in classrooms, even as he acknowledged that the Government has been moving in the right direction with its recent emphasis on how having a degree is not necessary to succeed in life.


This article was first published on August 2, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.