Tin Pei Ling goes from rocky start to running solo in MacPherson

On her political debut four years ago, the People's Action Party's (PAP) youngest candidate was ridiculed online, slammed as immature and seen to be riding on the coat-tails of then-Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who led the Marine Parade GRC team.

But yesterday, Ms Tin Pei Ling, now 31, exuded quiet confidence and maturity as she introduced herself to the media as the PAP's candidate for the resurrected single-seat MacPherson constituency.

"Back then, in 2011, I was a newbie. There are things that I may not have done that well," she said.

"But this time, as someone who has been in MacPherson for four-plus years, having been familiarised with the issues and lives of the people... I think I'm better-placed to represent the people of MacPherson, to help them in their day-to-day issues and give them a voice in Parliament."

The absence of members of her former team, such as Mr Goh or Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, further underscored that Ms Tin was fighting her own battle.

It was her first public appearance since giving birth to her first child barely a fortnight ago, in defiance of the traditional month-long confinement period.

As she fielded questions for 45 minutes, the only concession to her condition were cushions on her plastic chair. She expects "to be back in full action soon".

But she is not likely to face a straightforward fight, with the Workers' Party and National Solidarity Party set to contest the seat. But, Ms Tin said, her team will prepare for however many opponents that may appear.

Though she will stand as a lone candidate, she does not stand alone. At the session in the party's MacPherson branch, she was flanked by four party activists.

The unprecedented move was in recognition of the hard work put in by her volunteers, she said. "In MacPherson, a lot of the things I do, I don't do it alone. I do it with the support of my team." Support from her team and her family helped her overcome the hostility she faced in 2011, she added. "It was a very rocky and, I would say, painful start."

In her four years as the ward's MP, she introduced schemes such as the MacPherson Care Fund to help elderly residents cope with medical bills, and a milk powder scheme for low-income families with young children.

If re-elected, one cause she will advocate is equal paid maternity leave for single mothers, who currently get eight weeks against 16 weeks for married ones.

"Single mums... should be given equal maternity leave so that their kid, like any other Singaporean child, will have the best chance in life."

Being a new mother has also given her new experiences and insight into issues young families may face, she added. But she will not take her son, Ng Kee Hau, on the campaign trail: "I'm not trying to win sympathy votes."

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, the party's organising secretary, said on Facebook last night that he had told her to pace herself when the hustings start.

He also said he viewed footage of her media event: "She looks positively glowing - motherhood becomes her.''


This article was first published on August 22, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.