5 things we noticed from K Shanmugam’s GRC team in Nee Soon
The press conference distracted us with good food, many retiring MPs, an 8GB thumb drive, and a stray cat.
Photos by Jamie Chan unless otherwise stated.
Wednesday, aka the morning after (the date of the General Election was announced), saw the Marine Parade and Nee Soon People’s Action Party (PAP) teams introducing their slates of confirmed candidates.
The gang at Nee Soon is anchored by Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, and includes existing MPs Lee Bee Wah and Faishal Ibrahim.
New faces were wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) founder and CEO Louis Ng and Henry Kwek, who took over retiring Ang Mo Kio GRC representative Inderjit Singh — his Kebun Baru residents got carved into the GRC with the recent electoral boundaries art session.
As expected, we will, once again, bring you five things we observed at this group’s unveiling:
1. The Nee Soon team went big on how their lobbying has led to improvements to the lives of residents there.
There was a lot of emphasis on the efforts of the existing PAP Nee Soon team of MPs in enacting positive change for Nee Soon folk.
Lee Bee Wah, for instance, raised two examples of how she secured two projects that benefited both young families in the new BTO housing estates and private housing residents in Lentor:
– A mega childcare centre, which she said she gained approval from after extensive badgering in parliament. She rejected the location they proposed for it, though, and after the Early Childhood Development Agency said they were having difficulty getting approval for the location she requested, she went to HDB and LTA, proposed “engineering solutions” and got it done.
– An underpass for Lentor housing estate residents, who normally have to walk through a canal under Lentor Avenue to get to a bus stop on the other side of a six-lane Lentor Road — Lee says she took three years of convincing the LTA and the PUB before she managed to secure approval for the project to proceed.
“So I just want to assure residents that we are always on the ground, we are always listening to their needs and we will always fight to give them the best benefit.”
She practically had a mini rally right then and there.
Speaking in Malay, Assoc Prof Faishal Ibrahim also shared the ways he lobbied for enhancements to his residents’ lives.
Not wanting to be left out, the two new candidates Ng and Kwek piped up, Kwek going on about two MRT stations, a new CC and areas for “future development” in Kebun Baru, an area he said is “at an interesting stage of transformation”.
Even Ng, whose Nee Soon East ward consists wholly of public housing, had to chap in when the question was about private housing estate residents, declaring his area will see a new shopping mall, Junction 9, emerge soon.
2. Throwing not-so-subtle shade at the Workers’ Party (WP)
During his opening speech, the anchor Minister said:
“The next five years, we have exciting plans for Nee Soon. Not everything, of course, is a given. It all depends whether the town council has funds, whether it’s solvent and whether it’s run by honest people.”
When asked to elaborate on his town council comment, he added that “Today, I will keep my powder dry” before turning the screw.
“Our town council has never had its accounts qualified. It’s always run a surplus because we husbanded our resources carefully. And even while we spent $26 million on helping our residents, we ended up with a surplus. It’s in a healthy position.
The voters will have to decide whether they want to subsidise any other town council with a deficit. As it has happened before, one way of covering a deficit is merging it with another town council with a healthy amount of money.”
Lee, who spoke as if it was the hustings, laid down the marker in Mandarin: “Whether it’s inside or outside Parliament, I believe that my team and I will do better than Workers’ Party.”
With WP signalling its intention to contest in Nee Soon, September 1 to 11 is going to be really exciting.
3. The force was strong in this one.
This was pretty much the most comfortable and open press conference we’ve been to yet — and that’s saying something, considering we’ve already attended introductions for more than 10 constituencies already. Why?
– They invited online and foreign media. True, we’ve been to a fair few now, but even the wire agencies were present at the Nee Soon unveiling, with K Shanmugam entertaining a question from a Reuters reporter.
– Check out their nifty press kit: Colour-printed CVs, nicely wrapped in a plastic folder, complete with an 8GB thumbdrive that contains digital copies.
– They allocated a large, spacious room, with a professional looking backdrop and seats for everyone. Also, air con that actually made us feel cold. And free food (coin prata, siew mai, chee cheong fun and more that we may not have noticed).
– They even invited retired PAP MPs: Former Nee Soon Central MP Ong Ah Heng (father of MP Ong Teng Koon, by the way), Former Nee Soon East MP and Senior Minister of State Ho Peng Kee, Ang Mong Seng,Ibrahim bin Othman and Othman bin Haron Eusofe. Nice touch in inviting them over to salute them.
4. K Shanmugam is really the PAP’s HR manager.
The Law and Foreign Affairs Minister, while talking about new blood for the ruling party, unwittingly revealed that he’s actually one hell of an HR manager for the PAP.
“Amrin (Sembawang GRC new candidate Amrin Amin) worked with me for many years. In fact, before the 2011 elections. Some time around 2006 he’s been with me on the ground for a long time. Chia Hsing (Choa Chu Kang GRC new candidate Yee Chia Hsing) has been with me for some years. Guat Kwang (former Ang Mo Kio GRC MP, yet to be fielded), if you recall, was my branch secretary… Ser Luck (Pasir-Punggol GRC candidate), for example, was also brought in and it was an amusing story. I was on my way to New York and I stopped over at Frankfurt and I met him on the line to the restroom. We were both queuing up and that’s how I met this chap from Singapore… We started talking and I said: ‘Why don’t you come by?’
So I’m always looking out for people, even in the queues for restrooms in Frankfurt.”
And that’s not all. A Straits Times (“Getting the best talent for the team”) article in Apr.17, 2011 mentioned that:
“[T]hree of the eight private sector candidates had been recommended to the PAP by him: lawyers Edwin Tong and Vikram Nair, and commodities trader Ong Teng Koon”.
Amrin Amin, Yee Chia Hsing, Yeo Guat Kwang, Teo Ser Luck, Edwin Tong, Vikram Nair, Ong Teng Koon, Louis Ng and Henry Kwek – 10 MPs! That’s nearly three GRCs worth of MPs.
So if you see him walking towards you in the toilet, it means it’s time for that famous tea session.
5. But there were some awkward moments…
Like Ng’s stray cat photo op. One moment there was Ng and a stray cat. The next…
We were like, “Ok.”
And then, there was this interesting exchange between Kwek and Straits Times reporter Rachel Chang:
Jump to 3:27 in the video. In response to a question from ST about his favourite spot in Singapore, Kwek misheard the question and went on a tangent of his favourite sports, like volleyball and skateboarding.
Okay, we’ll let that slide. She did, too, and then re-asked the question — even spelling out the word “spot”. His response:
I think, let me just talk about various spots —I think in this season, everybody is asking what is your favourite food, and I think Kebun Baru is very blessed that they have two hawker centres, seven coffee shops and many shops, and restaurants, around the Sembawang estate, so it wouldn’t be fair for me to name just one, my favourite food.
I would say a few — first of all the prata in Casuarina, is something that I used to go from a very young; I also particularly love the prawn mee at Mayflower hawker centre, and the Chwee Kueh in Sembawang Hills.
So… you didn’t want to say what your favourite spot in Singapore is, and then asked yourself a question about your favourite food, and then you proceeded to avoid answering it…
Kudos to Rachel Chang for unwittingly posing the toughest question this morning.
We also happened to notice the fact that Minister Shanmugam forgot to mention anything about outgoing Nee Soon MP Lim Wee Kiak, who moved to join National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s Sembawang GRC team. He praised the work of retiring MPs Inderjit Singh and Patrick Tay, but was surprisingly quiet about Lim. Not sure why.
And here’s a bonus point:
Ng is lousy at Mandarin, but he has no qualms admitting it.
However, he affirmed that he will catch pythons, monkeys and humans, and is also more than an “anything” catcher — and also expressed his enthusiasm to serve and build a volunteer base in his district:
Also, does he remind you, in any way, of a certain Adam Khoo, of “Secrets of Self-Made Millionaire” fame?