Tanjong Pagar holds special significance for the People's Action Party (PAP) as it was one of the three seats it won at its maiden electoral outing 60 years ago.
Yesterday, its transformation, topped by the legacy of the man long associated with the place, was highlighted by the candidates for Tanjong Pagar GRC as their inspiration for wanting to continue to serve its residents and take the country forward.
"Tanjong Pagar was where the whole Singapore story started," Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said at a press conference to introduce the five-member GRC team."How Tanjong Pagar transformed from a very difficult environment to what it is today is also a mirror image of how Singapore has transformed from Third World to First," he added.
No less significant is the fact that it is the GRC's first election without founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who had represented Tanjong Pagar since 1955 until he died in March. Mr Lee's ward became part of Tanjong Pagar GRC in 1991.
Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah said the team was "very conscious of the legacy" it had been handed. Mr Lee's legacy is not just rooted in the past, but one that is always thinking about Singapore's future and how to improve people's lives, she added.
Mr Chan, Ms Indranee, Dr Chia Shi-Lu, plus new candidates Joan Pereira and Melvin Yong - both former public servants - form the GRC's line-up. Their introduction to the media took place in a coffee shop in Tanjong Pagar Plaza. So too did that for incumbent MP for Radin Mas Sam Tan, who will defend the single-member constituency .
Mr Chan, who is the labour chief, pledged they would continue to take care of the residents as a team.
"Mr Lee constantly reminded us we must make sure...we strive for better living conditions for our residents, to make sure Singapore can continue to be at the forefront of the league of nations, so that all of us can benefit, all of us can continue to live the dream we call Singapore," he said.
The team is also bracing itself for what could be the GRC's first electoral contest since its birth in 1991. The Singaporeans First Party, founded by former presidential candidate Tan Jee Say, plans to contest it.
Mr Sam Tan too will be challenged at Radin Mas, which he won with 67 per cent of the votes against the National Solidarity Party's Yip Yew Weng in 2011. The Reform Party plans to contest there.
When asked about the possible contest and winning margin he hoped for, Mr Chan said his team's first priority was to make sure it took care of residents well: "If we do our job conscientiously, if we discharge our duties properly, the residents will take care of the results for us."
Mr Chan also said Singapore will have "every prospect of continuing to beat the odds" with caring, committed and competent leaders.
Asked how they would cope with an increasingly diverse range of views in society, he said one important role of a leader was to unite and draw different segments towards a common goal to better the country.
"True leadership is about people who bring people together, mobilise them for action, beyond debate, beyond rhetoric," he added.
Another challenge for Singapore leaders is to be alert to potential new faultlines emerging even though the common space for people of different races and religions has grown. Drawing parallels between Singapore today and in 1965, Ms Indranee noted that tensions, "while not necessarily on the same old racial and religious lines", could take different forms as people espouse different causes and the Internet makes it easier to express views.
Mr Chan said his team, if re-elected, will continue to ensure the GRC remains special. " We want to keep Tanjong Pagar special... it is the embodiment of the Singapore spirit to be able to turn a tough environment into one of the most endearing homes that we have, to be able to turn constraints into opportunities."
This article was first published on Aug 20, 2015.
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