5 observations of DPM Tharman's unveiling of the PAP team for Aljunied GRC

For the first time in Singapore's post-1965 history, there is an underdog PAP GRC team.

Jonathan Lim| August 28, 08:38 PM

Photos by Pandora Wong unless otherwise stated. 

The People’s Action Party (PAP) on Friday (Aug 28) introduced its candidates for the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in the coming General Election (GE). This is the final team that was unveiled.

The five-member team Aljunied team is a different one from the GE2011 team which lost to the Workers' Party (WP). The all-male team consists of current Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Yeo Guat Kwang, and new candidates Chua Eng Leong, K Muralidharan Pillai, Victor Lye and Shamsul Kamar.

Other PAP members present at the press conference include Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, former Minister Lim Boon Heng and Chan Hui Yuh.

Here are the 5 observations Mothership.sg has on the PAP's Aljunied team:


1. The presence of DPM Tharman and former Minister Lim

Most of the PAP's team unveiling press conferences involved only the contesting candidates as well as retiring MPs. Tin Pei Ling's press conference featured her grassroots volunteers. Lim Biow Chuan's Mountbatten SMC press conference featured Minister Tan Chuan-Jin whose GRC shares the same town council.

The Aljunied team, which consists of four new faces and four-term MP Yeo Guat Kwang, also took the path less traveled and had DPM Tharman sharing the centre stage with Yeo for the press conference. Former Minister Lim was also invited to give his testimonial for each candidate and explained how this team was fielded.

aljunied team 28 au MP Yeo and DPM Tharman in the spotlight. Photo by Jonathan Lim

This move can be read as the PAP placing a lot of importance in winning back Aljunied GRC and would provide more support for the team to do so; or it could also mean that Lim alone may not be able to withstand the WP campaign in Aljunied.

Or both could be true.


2. An anchor-less co-led GRC

aljunied team 28 august 2 L-R: Chua Eng Leong, Shamsul Kamar, Yeo Guat Kwang, Victor Lye, and K Muralidharan Pillai

If this PAP team is elected, Aljunied GRC will be the first GRC held by the PAP that will have no anchor Minister, or political office holder or anyone with office experience for that matter.

The issue of an anchor Minister was brought up by a reporter and both Lye and Pillai were quick to point that the team will be sharing the responsibility of leading the GRC, with Pillai saying, 'we have our Aljunied model, and that model is to be co-leaders.'


3. PAP knows that the ground in Aljunied is not exactly sweet for them

Lim over the course of the press conference noted twice that the PAP team had faced hostility from residents in Aljunied post-2011.

It must be a hit to the pride of the PAP to acknowledge that WP has the upper hand in perceived popularity, but DPM Tharman calling the Aljunied team the underdog could aid towards framing this team as the David in this David vs Goliath fight against the WP's star team.

DPM Tharman's full point:

I think this team has a fighting chance. They go in with the mindset of the underdog, they go in with the mindset of being humble in everything they do, but they go in with more than a fighting chance. They really want to prove their worth and serve the residents better in Aljunied.


4. A missing man?

Before today's unveiling, it was originally speculated that the team would consist of Chua Eng Leong, K Muralidharan Pillai, Victor Lye, Chan Hui Yuh and Kahar Hassan.

However, Chan and Kahar were left out of the team, being replaced by Yeo and Shamsul. Both Chan and Kahar had been walking the ground in the GRC for more than than a year.

During the press conference, Lim took time to explain Chan's exclusion in the team due to her commitment as a young mother of two young children. Lim shared, "So even as we wanted to bring her into Aljunied, the PAP will not put family relations at risk. It’s not win at all cost. We value the family, because the family is the foundation of society. So we heeded Hui’s appeal not to stand at this time. She will remain the branch chair of Serangoon to help in this campaign, and expects to continue to serve in that capacity."

Chan Hui Yuh (leftmost) asked not to be fielded due to family commitments. Chan Hui Yuh (leftmost) asked not to be fielded due to family commitments.

Lim did not talk about Kahar until asked by a reporter about Kahar's departure from the team. Lim, on the behalf of the PAP, thanked Kahar for the year spent at Kaki Bukit, and explained the PAP deployed its potential candidates on the ground much earlier to assess them. They had found someone who was a better fit for Kaki Bukit in Shamsul who hit the ground running three weeks ago in the area.

Kahar, who announced last month that he was stepping down as the chairman of the PAP Kaki Bukit branch, was not present at the press conference.


5. The AHPETC bone of contention

Several of the candidates mentioned that residents have given their feedback on the level of cleanliness dropping in the GRC post-2011.

Lim also chimed in that residents may not necessarily understand what was happening with the town council brouhaha but 'knew that something was not quite right'.

DPM Tharman added that the town council issue was not a political thing and 'not aimed at putting the Workers' Party down'. He said all the Government wants is for there to be honest and responsible politics in Singapore.

Yeo also added in Mandarin that a lack of experience should not be used as an excuse for the way the town council is run.