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Tanjong Pagar GRC to get its first contest in nearly 30 years

SingFirst's Tan Jee Say sees a 50-50 chance of his team winning against Chan Chun Sing-led PAP team

The PAP team for Tanjong Pagar GRC comprising (from left) Chia Shi-Lu, Joan Pereira, Chan Chun Sing, Indranee Rajah and Melvin Yong cheering along with supporters at Bendemeer Primary School.
The SingFirst team for Tanjong Pagar GRC comprising (from left) Chirag Desai, Fahmi Rais, Tan Jee Say, Ang Yong Guan Melvyn Chiu arriving at Bendemeer Primary School.


TANJONG Pagar GRC, a People's Action Party (PAP) stronghold, will see its first contest in close to 30 years as a newish opposition party seeks to "create history".

And Tan Jee Say, leader of the Singaporeans First (SingFirst) team challenging the ruling party incumbents, reckons his team has a 50-50 chance of wresting the GRC.

"We are optimistic," he told reporters after the close of nominations at Bendemeer Primary School. Then again, the investment adviser and ex-senior civil servant (he was principal private secretary to then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in the late-1980s) had earlier declared that his party - registered only about a year ago - could be a "black swan" in this general election (GE).

Tanjong Pagar was last contested in 1988 when it was still a single-member constituency, and the PAP has had walkovers since it expanded into a GRC in 1991. Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had been the ward's MP since 1955 - and subsequently the GRC's anchor - until his death in March this year.

Meanwhile, PAP's current Tanjong Pagar team - led by Chan Chun Sing, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and labour chief - believes their track record will speak for themselves.

"We are the only party with a local manifesto and a national manifesto!" PAP's Indranee Rajah told the largely white-clad crowd yesterday. The others on the PAP slate are surgeon Chia Shi-Lu and two newcomers - former senior police officer Melvin Yong and social worker Joan Pereira.

The SingFirst team is unfazed about the "Lee Kuan Yew factor" in Tanjong Pagar. "Residents want change … this is an election about the future, the election is not about the past," said Mr Tan. He and his teammates - Ang Yong Guan, Chirag Desai, Fahmi Rais and Melvyn Chiu - will raise issues of "national concern", such as jobs for Singaporeans and the huge influx of foreigners.

Meanwhile, the electoral contests for Radin Mas and Jalan Besar GRC - the other two constituencies that filed nomination papers at Bendemeer - also played out pretty much within expectations.

Radin Mas SMC will see a three-way fight among the PAP incumbent, Minister of State Sam Tan, Reform Party's (RP) Kumar Appavoo and independent candidate Han Hui Hui.

Ms Han, a social activist and blogger, was the first contestant to arrive at the nomination centre at around 9.30am, accompanied by a few supporters. A few elderly folk, who said they were her relatives, arrived soon after. She will continue to agitate on Central Provident Fund issues, as well as "fight for ... our public healthcare, our public housing", she said on Tuesday.

RP's Mr Appavoo, a director in an oil and gas company, is one of his party's 11 candidates for the 2015 GE.

Earlier there had been talk about a second independent candidate vying for the Radin Mas seat, but the prospects of a four-cornered battle soon fizzled out as the clock ticked towards the noon nomination deadline.

Addressing the crowd gathered on the school grounds, PAP's Mr Tan asked for a strong mandate to implement his third five-year plan for the constituency.

The PAP quartet defending Jalan Besar GRC is a team of seasoned contestants - Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, Senior Minister of State Heng Chee How, medical doctor Lily Neo and Mayor Denise Phua.

Their Workers' Party (WP) rivals came with a small but vociferous contingent of supporters. The WP candidates are polytechnic lecturer L Somasundaram, social worker Frieda Chan (both of whom contested the 2011 GE), businessman Adrian Sim Tian Hock and Redzwan Hafidz, an engineer.

"We take every challenge seriously," said Dr Yaacob. "I think the real challenge is for us to demonstrate to our voters that we mean business; we are an experienced team and we can deliver what we have promised."