SINGAPORE – While opposition veteran Chiam See Tong will continue to support the party candidates, he will not be taking active part in the upcoming campaign, Singapore People’s Party chief Steve Chia said on Saturday (June 20).
“Mr Chiam is already very senior and very fragile. He’s the best he can be at this stage, so he can’t possibly be involved in the election any more,” Mr Chia told The Straits Times.
The party formally unveiled its four candidates for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC during a walkabout in the constituency on Saturday morning. ST reported last week that it plans to field just five candidates in two wards at the coming elections – its smallest line-up since its first electoral contest in 1997. And it is also its first election without any candidate named Chiam.
Mr Chia said that Mrs Lina Chiam, 71 – who contested Potong Pasir at the last two elections – was also unlikely to feature prominently in the campaign.
“Mrs Chiam is taking care of Mr Chiam, so it is not advisable for her during this Covid situation to come out and interact with people and it is not fair to the voters if she is not able to be out due to her family duties,” he said.
There had been speculation that Mrs Chiam would return as a candidate in a single-seat ward.
The 85-year-old Mr Chiam stepped down as secretary-general of the SPP last year. He has been in poor health following multiple strokes and a hip injury.
He remains an ordinary party member, while Mrs Chiam is a member of the SPP central executive committee.
On Saturday, Mr Chia confirmed he would lead the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC team alongside:
– Party vice-chairman Williiamson Lee, 40, who has been volunteering with the party since 2006 and served as an election agent for the team led by Mr Chiam in the 2011 general election;
– Mr Osman Sulaiman, 45, who owns a media design business and contested the previous two elections as a candidate for the Reform Party; and
– Mr Melvyn Chiu, 41, who owns a pet shop and contested the 2015 general election as a member of the SingFirst party.
In Potong Pasir, the SPP intends to field party chairman Jose Raymond.
“We have been working very hard to form a good team, a team that has committed members with Singapore and Singaporeans at heart,” Mr Chia told reporters during the walkabout at HDB blocks on Bishan Street 12.
He added: “For this general election, we decided to reduce (our target) from our original seven seats to five.”
“After discussions with other political parties, we decided to just focus on these areas to avoid three-cornered fights as much as possible and also to consolidate our resources.”
The party had previously expressed interest in two other seats – Mountbatten and the newly carved out Marymount SMC.
Over the past two days, the candidates and other party volunteers have been distributing fliers to residents across at least five precincts in Bishan-Toa Payoh and Mr Chia said they welcomed a straight fight between the SPP and the ruling PAP.
“They are happy to hear that there is no three-cornered fight in Bishan-Toa Payoh, so they can make a better decision.”
He said the key issues SPP will focus on in the next election include cost of living, income inequality, good jobs for Singaporeans and greater accountability with regards to the use of the national reserves.
Both Mr Chiu and Mr Osman only recently joined SPP.
Mr Chiu said he joined the SPP because it was fighting for many issues that he agreed with. Mr Osman said he had been without a party and joined the SPP in April after he was approached by Mr Chia.
“I had been following some of the political news and knew there was a leadership change (in the party). Mr Chiam is someone whom I regard very highly, so it was only natural for me to join the new leadership and make good use of their experience in Parliament to make the party more credible,” he said.