PAP picks new face for Fengshan fight
GRASSROOTS leader Cheryl Chan will contest Fengshan Single-Member Constituency, ending intense speculation over the identity of the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate there.
Ms Chan, 38, has been a volunteer in the ward for a decade, and was unveiled together with the PAP's slate for East Coast Group Representation Constituency yesterday morning, at the party's branch office in Bedok.
While Ms Chan's appointment seemed to be a straightforward choice given her familiarity with the area, she is the first new candidate PAP will field in a new SMC since the 1988 general election, when the GRC system was first introduced.
So far, senior IT manager Lee Hong Chuang, 45, is the only other first-time PAP candidate contesting a single-seat ward. But that is in Hougang, a Workers' Party stronghold.
Ms Chan is the head of secondary industries at gas and engineering firm The Linde Group. She takes the place of incumbent MP Raymond Lim, who is retiring from politics after serving Fengshan for 14 years.
Mr Lim, 56, a former transport minister, formally announced his decision to retire on Aug 15. His ward was carved out from East Coast GRC - which has been downsized from five to four members - after a rejig of the electoral boundaries last month.
Giving his vote of confidence to Ms Chan, Mr Lim said she "knows the ground well" after a decade of volunteering in Fengshan and is "not just capable and hard-working, but also has a kind and caring heart".
"I have no doubt that if elected, she will be a very good MP," he added.
Ms Chan, who is single, said she comes from a humble family of four who emphasised character building more than education. "I started volunteering 10 years ago when I wrote to the PAP and asked how I could reach out. They said, you are a Fengshan resident, go help out there."
She recounted a memorable incident during her time assisting at Meet-the-People sessions, when a mother of four children - one of whom was disabled - wanted to stop their education.
"We took all the steps to help and two years ago, I met them. The eldest child is now in university. These are the kind of cases that make my work so meaningful."
She intends to champion two causes if elected: help for the elderly and children from less privileged backgrounds.
WP chairman Sylvia Lim, 50, set tongues wagging when her maiden post on photo-sharing site Instagram showed her tucking into a plate of oyster omelette, or orh luak, at a hawker centre in the ward. She later cleared the air by confirming that she would remain in Aljunied GRC to defend her seat.
In response to Ms Lim praising the dish, Ms Chan said she preferred laksa to orh luak. She added that the bak chor mee, not the orh luak, was the best dish at that hawker centre.
Fengshan is widely expected to be one of the most hotly contested seats at the coming polls, which will be held on Sept 11. Political watchers even mooted the possibility that the PAP's support was the weakest in that division at the 2011 General Election, and was thus hived off from East Coast GRC.
In the last election, East Coast saw the narrowest win for a GRC for the PAP, with 54.8 per cent of the vote.
But Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, East Coast's anchor minister, remained bullish about the PAP's chances of retaining Fengshan, and said that his team would be supporting Ms Chan.
"I am aware of speculation that Fengshan was the weakest link, which is completely untrue. We are going in fighting to win," he added.
"It is not important whether Cheryl is a new face, but whether she has the sincerity."
A veil of secrecy also surrounds the WP's likely candidate in Fengshan. Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam and new party members, including sociologist Daniel Goh and consultancy chief executive Leon Perera, have all been spotted walking the ground.
THE STRAITS TIMES