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PAP team counting on experience in fight for revived Jalan Besar GRC

Yaacob Ibrahim, Heng Chee How, Denise Phua and Lily Neo have 60 combined years of political experience

The PAP team at the Kolam Ayer ABC Waterfront. From left: Mr Heng, Edwin Tong who may be redeployed to Marine Parade, Dr Lily Neo, Dr Yaacob and Ms Denise Phua.


WHILE there are no fresh faces at the revived Jalan Besar Group Representation Constituency (GRC), the People's Action Party (PAP) team contesting there brings a combined 60 years of experience to serve residents, incumbent MPs said.

The PAP team that will contest at the four-member GRC comprises Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (18 years in politics), Mr Heng Chee How (14 years), Dr Lily Neo (18 years) and Ms Denise Phua (nine years).

It is expected to face off against a Workers' Party (WP) team. The WP secured 41.4 per cent of the vote in the previous version of the GRC, Moulmein-Kallang, in the 2011 polls.

Dr Yaacob, who is currently Communications and Information Minister, announced the PAP team for the coming general election at a grassroots event on Sunday morning where he launched a new masterplan to rejuvenate the town.

Some 200 improvement projects worth S$20 million will be implemented over the next five years, such as covered walkways, children's playgrounds, fitness corners, community gardens, and spaces for residents to mingle.

Speaking to reporters, Dr Yaacob emphasised the current team's depth of familiarity with the area.

"We have been here since 1997. We know the ground very well. We know the residents very well ... we have never left this GRC," he said.

Ms Denise Phua is the current mayor of the Central Singapore Community Development Council (CDC). The CDC runs community programmes for residents in a broad area in central Singapore that includes Jalan Besar GRC.

Ms Phua entered politics in 2006, and is known for her passionate advocacy on behalf of those with special needs. She said there is unfinished business at the GRC and she hopes to be able to carry on.

"It's one thing to turn up to shake hands every few years or to give out some bags of rice, but it's another thing to really address the real needs of the people and to come up and to plod and slog on a more regular basis," she said.

Both Dr Yaacob and Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Heng Chee How also served as mayors of the same CDC. Dr Yaacob entered politics in 1997 and Mr Heng, 2001.

Meanwhile, Dr Lily Neo is another veteran backbencher, having entered politics in 1997. Dr Neo is known for speaking up on behalf of the poor. She is the current chairman of the Tanjong Pagar Town Council.

Her Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng ward was moved from Tanjong Pagar GRC over to Jalan Besar GRC in the recent electoral boundaries reshuffle.

Dr Yaacob said that his team's wealth of experience, however, also means that they know they cannot take voters for granted.

"We will continue to work the ground, reach out to every resident possible to convince them we are the best team to lead them after the next election," he said.

Jalan Besar is a constituency with a rich heritage that was dissolved in the 2011 General Election. The GRC, which has an estimated 102,454 electors, has returned to the electoral map, replacing the dissolved Moulmein-Kallang GRC.

Dr Yaacob paid tribute to two former members of his team: Moulmein-Kallang town council chairman Edwin Tong, who will likely be redeployed to Marine Parade GRC, as well as Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who recently announced his retirement from politics.

Mr Lui is a "very hardworking minister (who) has done well despite a very difficult portfolio," Dr Yaacob said. "We have to respect his decision and we will miss him."

Nearby in the five-member Tanjong Pagar GRC, the Tanjong Pagar Town Council unveiled its next five-year plan for the town.

There, Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah introduced two potential PAP candidates to residents: former public servant Joan Pereira, and senior police officer Melvin Yong, whose last day with the police force was on Sunday.

Others present were labour chief Chan Chun Sing, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, backbencher Dr Chia Shi-Lu, and Radin Mas Single Member Constituency MP and Minister of State Sam Tan.