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WP unveils fourth and final slate of candidates, with one new face

Abdul Shariff Bin Aboo Kassim
Mr Shariff, who is married with two children, says: “I want to dedicate my candidacy to people who have been dealt a bad hand in life, who find themselves in a vulnerable and precarious situation.”

HELPING the vulnerable and fostering healthy debate are some of the key priorities of the Workers’ Party’s (WP) fourth and final batch of candidates unveiled on Sunday for the upcoming General Election.

The fresh face among them is 54-year-old former researcher Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, together with three familiar names – Gerald Giam, Leon Perera and He Ting Ru.

They were introduced by WP chairman Sylvia Lim and secretary-general Pritam Singh in a virtual press conference, where Mr Singh also launched the party’s “Make Your Vote Count” slogan and manifesto.

Relative newcomer Mr Shariff, who is married with two children, left his role as a researcher to join WP to run in the upcoming election.

He started grassroots work in Aljunied, assisting in Mr Singh’s Meet the People sessions since 2012, as well as helping out in various welfare outreach programmes and other events.

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Mr Shariff has a blue-collar background, having taken on various “menial” jobs well into his 30s, including being a security guard, taxi driver, undertaker and market shop assistant, after having disrupted his studies at Secondary Four to do factory work.

He became a full-time mature student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and obtained Bachelor of Science (Economics) and Master of Tri-Sector Collaboration degrees from the Singapore Management University (SMU), where he had worked part-time to pay his expenses.

He noted that he is among the many candidates introduced by the various parties to have come from “humble beginnings”.

“It is my firm belief that coming from humble beginnings does not mean you are humble,” he said. “When you believe that you have succeeded on individual merits, you may hold the view that those who are not successful have only themselves to blame.”

This leads to sweeping generalisations that the vulnerable in society are craving for handouts and that helping the needy could result in a crutch mentality, he said. 

“I want to dedicate my candidacy to people who have been dealt a bad hand in life, who find themselves in a vulnerable and precarious situation,” he said.

These include the poor, elderly, single mothers, ethnic minorities and the disabled, according to his profile released by WP.

Meanwhile, Cambridge-educated Ms He, 37, is keen for strong, respectful debates to build a stronger society as well to better balance Singapore’s democratic and economic system.

Married with two children, the head of legal and communications for a multinational corporation said that she wants her children to be proud of a Singapore where the “most vulnerable” are not left behind, and a country which cares about its impact on the people and planet.

She started volunteering with WP right after the General Election in 2011, and ran as a candidate in Marine Parade 2015.

As for former non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP) Mr Perera and Mr Giam, they will both be departing East Coast (where they contested in 2015) to replace Low Thia Khiang and Chen Show Mao in Aljunied.

However, the final lineup will only be revealed on Nomination Day, said Mr Singh.

Mr Giam, who is a co-founder and chief technology officer of a tech start-up, contested in East Coast in General Elections in 2011 and 2015, and served as NCMP from 2011 to 2015. This will be his third election.

In Parliament, the 42-year-old has spoken on various issues including healthcare affordability, calling for Medishield insurance premium subsidies for low-income Singaporeans and a cap on out-of-pocket co-payments.

As for Mr Perera, 49, a CEO of a market research consultancy and WP Youth Wing president, he had also contested in East Coast in 2015 and was appointed a NCMP in the 13th Parliament, serving on the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.

He has spoken in Parliament on the need to nurture vibrant local enterprises, to foster critical thinking in schools and to enhance social mobility and resilience.

WP will be fielding 21 candidates in six constituencies - Hougang and Punggol West single member constituencies, and Marine Parade, Sengkang, East Coast and Aljunied group representation constituencies.

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