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GE2015: PAP sets out to win back Aljunied GRC

A BATTLE AHEAD: For Aljunied GRC, the PAP plans to field seasoned politician Yeo Guat Kwang (centre), 54, and four of Aljunied's branch chairmen (from left) Chua Eng Leong, Shamsul Kamar, Victor Lye, and Mr Murali Pillai.


THE People's Action Party (PAP) is determined to win back Aljunied in its first attempt to do so, having lost the group representation constituency (GRC) to the Workers' Party at the last general election (GE) four years ago.

To this end, the ruling party intends to field a team comprising seasoned politician Yeo Guat Kwang and four of Aljunied's branch chairmen for the Sept 11 polls.

Mr Yeo, 54, entered politics in 1997 and was most recently part of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's six-member team in Ang Mo Kio GRC.

The unionist, with Victor Lye, K Muralidharan Pillai, Shamsul Kamar and Chua Eng Leong, were described as "men of courage" by former Cabinet minister Lim Boon Heng on Friday.

Mr Lim, picked to head a PAP task force in Aljunied in 2012 to look into reclaiming the constituency, said: "It takes courage for anyone to come forward to stand for elections in an opposition-held territory and persevere in telling people they are here to serve."

Also at the packed press conference was Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who said the party had gone for this line-up because the five had proven to be "credible, honest and dedicated people". Mr Tharman, the party's second assistant secretary-general, said: "Each of them knows the people of Aljunied well. I think this team has more than a fighting chance. They really want to prove their worth and serve residents better."

As the five introduced themselves during the 11/2-hour meeting, they each put out the same message to Aljunied's 148,024 electors: Give us an opportunity to show what we can do.

Mr Lye, the 52-year-old chief executive of a medical insurance company, said his vast experience in the private sector helped him to better understand the problems faced by Singaporeans from all walks of life.

When Mr Murali's turn came, he thanked the PAP for placing its faith in him, despite his being the son of an ex-political detainee; he insisted that his foray into politics was not a "career enhancement" move. "I don't know how long my political career will last. It could be 10 days, (but) I'm not fazed by the odds. I will fight this election with all my heart," said the 47-year-old lawyer with Rajah & Tann.

Private banker Mr Chua, 44, is the son of the late former cabinet minister Chua Sian Chin. As for Mr Shamsul, he is the newest of the four branch chairmen, having taken over the Kaki Bukit post only earlier this month.

One person who had been expected to stand in the PAP's Aljunied team was Chan Hui Yuh, but Mr Lim disclosed that the 38-year-old mum had asked not to contest the GE as she wanted to spend time with her children.

There was talk that Mr Lim himself might come out of political retirement to lead the Aljunied team, but the 67-year-old former labour chief would only say that none of the PAP's announced line-ups are confirmed until Nomination Day on Sept 1.

The battle for Aljunied looks set to be one of the more intriguing contests. The WP had earlier said its five incumbents - Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim, Chen Show Mao, Faisal Abdul Manap and Pritam Singh - would stay on and defend the constituency.

Reacting to the PAP's line-up, Ms Lim, the WP chairman, said on Friday: "The PAP is always a formidable opponent. They are the ruling party with a huge party machinery and grassroots network. We will work hard to retain our seats."

In 2011, the WP defeated the PAP team led by then-Foreign Minister George Yeo, winning a GRC for the very first time with 54.7 per cent of the valid votes.

With the presentation of its Aljunied slate, the PAP has completed the introductions of its candidates for all 16 GRCs and 13 single seat wards. The party is expected to announce its GE2015 manifesto soon.