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PSP presents five more candidates, including two ex-military officers

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(clockwise from top left) Damien Tay, Wendy Low, Nadarajah Loganathan, Michael Chua, Kumaran Pillai.

THE Progress Singapore Party (PSP) on Thursday presented five more candidates – including two former military officers – who advocated for more job opportunities for Singaporeans, support for small businesses and greater attention to be given to disadvantaged groups.

PSP organising secretary and former military officer Michael Chua, who was a regular with the Singapore Armed Forces until 2002, started his introduction by commenting that Singapore is being led "in the wrong direction". 

"There was this sense that the country was heading in the wrong direction and urgent corrective actions need to be taken," he said, reflecting on why PSP was formed.

The 55-year-old, who now runs his own business, believes his experience in the private sector will come in handy in tackling the systemic problems that have resulted from "structural deficiencies from the ever-more rigid bureaucracy".

Ex-lieutenant colonel Nadarajah Loganathan, 57, wants to push for Singaporeans to be placed first in the jobs market.

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"The current leaders are focusing on GDP (gross domestic product), GDP and GDP. That's it," Mr Loganathan lamented.

"It would be a good time for MOM (Ministry of Manpower) to review their new labour force structure and also take into account the new economy. Creating 3,000 security officer jobs or another 2,000 cleaners jobs after opening the Thomson Line is not something to be happy about. We can keep these jobs for the part-timers. Create jobs for our young and new entrants (into the job market)," he said.

Questioned about their military background, Mr Chua stressed that he and his teammates have also been exposed to work in the private sector. "Bear in mind, we have military and private sector background. So we are not just one-dimensional, okay, we have also gone to the private sector and experienced the hardship and the differences in private sector thinking." 

He added: "It is quite different when you're from day one you go straight (from being a military man and standing for elections)."

Former journalist Kumaran Pillai – who also revealed on Thursday via Facebook that he will be contesting in the Kebun Baru Single Member Constituency – lamented that the nation's "hyper-competitive" economic environment and "far-right policies" have left many Singaporeans behind.

The current government is creating jobs that are out of reach for ordinary Singaporeans, said the 49-year-old, who wants to focus on the social underclass that is struggling to make ends meet. 

He called for more entrepreneurial and cultural leaders and called on Singaporeans to move away from a "university-based system".

"The government seems to be very technocratic. When you look at it, the blueprint looks good, but they are not able to inspire people. We need cultural leaders who can lead the people out of this recession. We don’t need people who are just shoving policies down our throat," he said.

Mr Pillai, who left his role as publisher of The Independent News to join politics, is currently chief executive of venture accelerator Appleseed. 

Intellectual property lawyer Wendy Low, 43, said she wants to use her expertise to help startups and small businesses leverage technology and navigate legal blind spots. 

Ms Low, a partner at Eldan Law LLP, who has vivid memories of her father struggling with his textile business back in the day, said the challenges that business owners are facing amid the current recession hit home for her.

She also called for more support for Singaporeans living on the edge, such as the destitute elderly. 

"I think this is a responsibility that I have as a lawyer… (Knowing the law makes me) question at a very deep and structural level how policies can be better made, so that injustices of the society can be better addressed and so that more creative and better solutions can be made for a wider spectrum of our fellow Singaporeans," she said.

Customer services officer Damien Tay, the final candidate introduced on Thursday, said he hopes Singapore would focus not only on becoming an economic powerhouse, but also enhancing quality of life for its people.

The 51-year-old said he was inspired to enter politics after hearing from PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock at the party’s launch last year.

"I think fear is a very strong word here in Singapore and if we can overcome this fear, we can definitely do much much more… That's why we're here today. We are here today because we love Singapore. We are here today to make Singapore a better place," said Mr Tay.

Asked by The Business Times on the higher average age of the party’s candidates compared to other parties, the panel called on the electorate to focus instead on the respective candidates’ experience and commitment.

There are young members in the party, Mr Tay stressed, but the veteran members are leading the way in the coming polls. 

"When we lead the way, the young ones will follow, they will come through, and everything will just fall into place," he said.

"The young ones are always advising us in the background, that’s why we are here today. A good example is Dr Tan. Previously, he didn't know how to use Zoom and all that, but with the younger ones coming in and giving him advice, he's gone leaps and bounds."

Mr Chua added: "Age, yes, is an important consideration in terms of how many years they can serve, but we're looking for people who have the commitment and the willingness to do what is good for the country. That's all."

PSP, who has confirmed that it is contesting at eight constituencies, will unveil its final six candidates on Friday.

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