Singapore GE2020: Covid-19 led to late announcement of PAP new faces, says PM Lee

SINGAPORE – The ruling PAP finalised its line-up of new candidates “very late” for this election. The Covid-19 outbreak also caused the party to delay introducing its 27 new faces to the public until last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (June 30).

It did so in quick succession over three days last week after the Writ of Election was issued.

“In the last few months, we have been busy with Covid-19 and I think if we had gone ahead and announced candidates formally in the middle of Covid-19, while we are doing a circuit breaker and other very major policy measures to keep Singaporeans safe, people will misunderstand, accuse us of politicking away, and not keeping our eyes on the ball,” he said.

The PAP would have liked to deploy and make known its first-time candidates earlier, he added.

Still, it had placed potential candidates on the ground in various constituencies to gain experience. Their presence had not gone unnoticed, and some had made the news.

“So I don’t think that very many of our candidates were a surprise,” Mr Lee said at a virtual press conference held on Tuesday afternoon, after nominations for the polls closed .

Speaking at the same event, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the Government’s full attention had in the past few months been focused on managing the healthcare and economic threat posed by Covid-19.

“I will say that the situation on Covid-19 and the situation on the economy are┬álikely to get worse globally,” Mr Heng, the PAP’s first assistant secretary-general, warned.

“(Even though) we have been able to manage this so far, we should not be complacent. We must continue to keep our energies on it.”

Mr Lee, who is the PAP’s secretary-general, also noted that due to the safe distancing measures, the Internet and social media have become “a much bigger factor” this election.

One significant “downside” is that people can mobilise “overnight Internet storms”, he said.

“It happens faster than people are able to digest and make sense of information and facts, and in an election, that’s a dangerous thing,” he said.

Mr Ivan Lim, 42, who was introduced as a PAP new face, withdrew from the election over the weekend after allegations emerged online about his past conduct.

Covid-19 also means that election rallies are not allowed this time, but Mr Lee said he hoped the additional television broadcasts for parties and candidates would give voters a good feel of them.

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Singapore GE2020: Two new faces in PAP's Sembawang GRC team, led by Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE – Two new women candidates from the People’s Action Party (PAP) are set to be fielded in Sembawang GRC for the general election on July 10.

They are Ms Poh Li San, Changi Airport Group’s vice-president for Terminal 5 Planning, and Ms Mariam Jaafar, Singapore managing director and partner at the Boston Consulting Group.

The two new faces were featured in a video posted by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Saturday (June 27 ) that paid tribute to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who is retiring from politics. Mr Khaw has anchored Sembawang GRC for 14 years.

In his post, Mr Ong said the Sembawang GRC slate was a five-man team when he joined in 2015.

“When the team was introduced publicly, Mr Khaw Boon Wan described it as the ‘boy band’. Our lead singer has retired, and we have inducted two new lady candidates. We now look more like ABBA..+1,” he said, referring to the Swedish pop group.

“We share the belief that Sembawang can be a very special place in Singapore, and must build upon the achievements of our predecessors,” he wrote.

Ms Poh, 44, a former helicopter pilot with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), is set to replace Mr Khaw in his Sembawang ward.

Ms Mariam, 43, is likely replace Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin in his Woodlands ward.

Mr Amrin is tipped to move to the new Sengkang GRC, to complete the four-man PAP slate that includes labour chief Ng Chee Meng, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min and lawyer Raymond Lye.

The new line-up for Sembawang GRC wiould then comprise of Mr Ong, Ms Poh, Ms Mariam, lawyer Vikram Nair and ophthalmologist Lim Wee Kiak.

They are set to face off against the National Solidarity Party (NSP), which contested the constituency in the 2015 election. NSP secretary-general Spencer Ng said he will be leading the party’s Sembawang team.

In 2015, the PAP team won 72.28 per cent of the vote against the NSP team formed by Mr Ng, Mr Eugene Yeo, Ms Kevryn Lim, Mr Yadzeth Haris and Mr Abdul Rasheed.

Ms Poh and Ms Mariam were officially introduced by the party last week. The former is vice-chairman of the Sembawang Citizens’ Consultative Committee, while the latter is vice-chairman of the Woodlands Community Club management committee.

Ms Poh believes women should have greater access to more opportunities and leadership roles at the workplace, especially in the emerging sectors and in STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) industries.

Ms Mariam, who grew up in a one-room rental flat, said she hopes to help others and preserve the social mobility that she had enjoyed.

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