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East Coast team main architects of WP manifesto: Low

He says team is highly qualified, can effectively debate in Parliament

Mr Low told the residents of East Coast GRC that the party needs a certain number of MPs in order to play an effective role in Parliament.


THE Workers' Party (WP) team in East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) were the main architects behind its 2015 general election manifesto, and is highly qualified to debate policies in Parliament, said secretary-general Low Thia Khiang.

In the final rally at Bedok Stadium on Wednesday night, the WP chief made a special pitch for his team contesting in the hot spot, urging voters in the well-to-do area - where half of residents live in private housing - that the WP needs a certain number of Members of Parliament (MPs) in order to play an effective role in Parliament.

"It is after the 2011 election that the WP can have scale today, and more quality candidates for you to choose as representatives," he said in Mandarin.

Highlighting the diverse academic and professional qualifications of the team, Mr Low said: "I believe they can research, review, and debate policies in Parliament. If they are elected, they will be able to strengthen the debating ability of the WP."

The WP is sending its second best team to contest East Coast, as the "A" team - led by Mr Low himself - is staying in Aljunied GRC to defend the seats they wrested from the People's Action Party (PAP) in 2011.

Leading the East Coast GRC team is Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam, 37, an IT solutions architect who was part of the WP team in 2011 and has since gained some visibility fronting the party's alternative proposals on transport and health issues in Parliament.

The team also includes National University of Singapore sociology professor Daniel Goh, 42; chief executive of consulting firm Leon Perera, 44; and former public servant Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, 36.

Key proposals behind the WP's manifesto include a national minimum wage, earlier Central Provident Fund (CPF) payouts, a through-train school programme from Primary 1 to Secondary 4, a nationalised public transport, and pegging flat prices to the median monthly household income of applicants.

Towards the end of the rally on Wednesday night, Mr Low took time to introduce each member of the East Coast GRC team.

Sociologist Dr Goh, for example, "understands societal development deeply". Oxford-educated Mr Perera, a former government scholar, was an assistant head of division at the Economic Development Board and "has a certain depth of understanding of Singapore economic policy".

And Mr Fairoz, who resigned from his National Library Board associate librarian position to contest, has a "commendable sacrificial spirit".

Mr Low drew upon his personal experience of being in politics for 33 years - since 1982 - and as an elected MP since 1991, to tell the audience how speaking up in Parliament was not enough for change to happen. "Only political competition can make the Government pay attention to people's problems and respond," he said.

It is very stressful to debate in Parliament, he said. "We are not just against the PAP MPs and ministers, but an entire machinery behind them to find data and rebuttals," he said.

"Now we have nine. But we are facing 80 PAP MPs and ministers . . . in order to debate effectively in Parliament, the WP needs a certain number of MPs, so they can be heard.

"More importantly, because we will then have a certain strength, the PAP will know that beyond debating in Parliament, it will face a challenge in the general election. It will then seriously address people's problems," Mr Low said.

The WP team is up against a PAP slate comprising a minister and two ministers of state: Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, 61; Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan, 53; Minister of State for Defence and National Development Mohamad Maliki Osman, 50; and backbencher Jessica Tan, 49, who is managing director of Microsoft Singapore.

In the 2011 General Election, the PAP team won 54.8 per cent of the votes in East Coast GRC against the WP.

On Wednesday night, other WP candidates rallied the crowd with messages of inspiration and hope.

Fresh face He Ting Ru, 32, spoke of how the most common phrase she heard in her campaigning was "don't worry", "we are behind you", "we have got your backs".

"You do not know how much strength and courage these words have given us through our campaign. Tonight, I would like to say the same to you, my fellow Singaporeans, don't worry. Singaporeans know how to come together . . . Singaporeans know how to vote wisely," she said.

Dr Goh spoke of how his family's former neighbours, who were Indian expatriates here, and who have made Indian bread and chicken curry for his wife to bring back for him to eat.

The Indian family has come to love Singapore and Singaporeans, and is worth defending, he said.

"I want my boy and our children to grow up in a Singapore where Singaporeans welcome foreigners into our home city and our homes because the foreigners respect and love us too," he said.

"I want an economy where my boy and our children find dignity and fulfilment in their work, learn from their foreign counterparts, not replaced by them, and are empowered to strive for global leadership in their fields."