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Two private-sector leaders in PAP's Nee Soon slate
A BUSINESSMAN and an animal-rights activist have been named among the five candidates contesting in the Nee Soon group representation constituency (GRC) under the People's Action Party (PAP) banner in the coming general election (GE).
All eyes were on these two fresh faces from the private sector - Henry Kwek and Louis Ng - as the ruling party officially introduced them on Thursday, a day after the writ of election was issued.
They join the GRC's anchor minister, Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Health Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and backbencher Lee Bee Wah.
Mr Kwek, 39, is an executive director of food-supply company Foodtraco Supplies. He replaces retiring Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh in the Kebun Baru ward, which was moved from Ang Mo Kio GRC to Nee Soon GRC with the redrawing of the electoral boundaries.
Mr Kwek told reporters that he had mulled over this plunge into politics.
"Several years ago, (Mr Shanmugam) asked me to join politics - twice, if I'm not wrong. I thought long and hard and finally decided to say 'Yes'. Why? Because I felt that Singapore is at a crossroads," said the alumnus of The Chinese High School and Victoria Junior College.
"We are going into the future with resources that our founding generation could only dream of. We can build a compassionate society that is sustainable, and a city of the future and a best home for everybody," he added.
Mr Kwek also shared that one of the issues he is concerned about is the current state of the global economy. He is calling for a government cost-cutting committee to be set up to address the cost challenges faced by local companies.
"Right now, our businesses are trying their best to adjust to the changing manpower situation and trying their best to be productive. But if the economy continues to deteriorate, we have to look at costs comprehensively," he said.
As for Mr Ng, he has helmed the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society - more widely known as Acres - since he founded the charity in 2001, while in his second year as an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore. Last year, the organisation reported annual revenue of more than S$1 million.
The 37-year-old has volunteered at various branches in Singapore in the last seven years or so, including Chong Pang, Kembangan-Chai Chee, Joo Chiat and Nee Soon East.
The father of one said he agreed to stand for election as a way for him to "do more" for Singapore, over and above the work he has put in as an activist in the last 14 years.
"I want to do more, and in more diverse ways. I want to focus on developing community projects here ... and at the national level; animal welfare is a cause I will always champion and it will remain close to my heart," he said.
The PAP's Nee Soon team is likely to face the Workers' Party (WP) once again at the GE on Sept 11. At the last polls in May 2011, the PAP defeated the WP with 58.4 per cent of the valid votes.
When asked for his take on the possibility of this rematch, Mr Shanmugam mentioned the fact that the Nee Soon Town Council has never had its accounts qualified and there is a surplus - even after spending S$26 million to improve the lives of residents.
"We are in a healthy position. Voters can decide if they want to subsidise another town council in deficit. It has happened before. When there is a deficit, one way to cover it is to merge with another with a healthy amount of money," he added, alluding to the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council, which has come under fire for the way it has managed its finances.
Mr Shanmugam, who has been an MP since 1988, said voters would soon be choosing their next leaders based on three factors:
"Who do you trust to run your country, your economy, keep your jobs safe, guarantee security? Second, who do you trust to run your town council, to make sure monies are not taken away, or (end up) in deficit after four years? Third, who do you trust to represent you well in Parliament, speak up for you and bring up your issues?"