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Tough fight in the east between PAP and opposition

People's Action Party candidates (from left) Mr Lee, grassroots leader Cheryl Chan - who is leading the Fengshan single seat ward, Ms Tan, Mr Lim and Dr Maliki arriving at the Fengshan Primary School Nomination Centre.


FOR the second time, Workers' Party's (WP) Gerald Giam is contesting East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC), only this time, he told voters that the WP team "will manage your town with excellence", in a reference to erase doubts about the WP-held Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council's (AHPETC) financial status.

Mr Giam, 37, a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, made the point in his speech at Fengshan Primary on Tuesday, following confirmation that he and three others will contest in East Coast GRC. The others who are first-time candidates are: sociologist Daniel Goh, 42; research and consultancy firm CEO Leon Perera, 44; and former librarian Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, 36.

The experienced defending team from the People's Action Party (PAP) remains unchanged, comprising 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 National Development and Defence Mohamad Maliki Osman, 50; and two-term backbencher Jessica Tan, 49.

Mr Lim, who leads the PAP slate there, said that the team takes this challenge seriously and has done its best to prepare for the big day.

"In the last four-and-a-half years, we kept reflecting on which are the areas we can do better and we make the necessary changes. At the national level, of course the policies. On the ground, we changed the way we engage our residents - we went for deep engagement, we went for mass personalisation. I will say the reaction so far from the residents has been positive. So, this time round we look forward to a good contest with the Workers' Party."

East Coast GRC is gearing up to be one of the most hotly contested areas.

The smallest of the six four-member GRCs with an estimated 99,015 voters, it was the PAP's worst-performing GRC that won in the 2011 General Election, with a narrow margin of 54.8 per cent of the vote share against a team from WP. This was a 9 per cent drop (63.9 per cent) from the 2006 General Election.

Since the last election, Mr Giam said that his team has been working the ground to reach out to as many residents as possible, so "the rest is in the hands of the voters". He added that his teammates are "by no means newbies", but candidates who have established themselves in their own fields.

On the AHPETC saga, Mr Giam said that he expects the PAP "to make this an issue" as it is something "they want to be able to whip up", but he noted that the WP's focus is on the bread and butter issues that Singaporeans really care about, including public transport and healthcare.

The ruling PAP also stuck to the candidates they named at Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, while their opponents there turned up as expected, despite a reshuffle on Monday night.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and his incumbent team will again face Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) candidates under Desmond Lim in defending the six-member ward. The PAP won 64.79 per cent of the votes in Pasir Ris-Punggol in the 2011 election, against the SDA's 35.21 per cent.

Mr Teo, who is the PAP's first assistant secretary-general, told supporters after the candidates for the general election were officially announced on Tuesday that his team has been looking after the GRC for a long time. They should thus vote the PAP team in this election for continuity and stability, so that they can progress together.

Speaking later to reporters, Mr Teo said that Pasir Ris-Punggol voters must think hard about the PAP's election manifesto, "With you, for you, for Singapore", because it is about their future; and that future is in their hands.

The other members of the PAP team are Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck; union leader Zainal Sapari; senior medical consultant Janil Puthucheary; former defence force chief Ng Chee Meng; and Sun Xueling, an investment director at Temasek Holdings.

Mr Ng and Ms Sun are new to the PAP team.

On the SDA side, apart from Mr Lim, an engineer in a telecommunications firm, and Harminder Pal Singh, CEO of a coaching company, the team also features members new to Pasir Ris-Punggol: filmmaker Arthero Lim; sales director Ong Teik Seng; quality assurance manager Wong Way Weng; and PKMS president Abu Mohamed.