SPP 'will never give up Potong Pasir'
THE Singapore People's Party (SPP) will never give up Potong Pasir, party chairman Lina Chiam told residents yesterday during a post-election thank you tour of the single-seat ward.
"Potong Pasir is too close to our hearts," the 66-year-old said repeatedly, microphone in hand, as her entourage made its way around Sennett Estate and the heartland of Potong Pasir before ending at Toa Payoh Lorong 8. "We will fight the battle another day, at another time."
She stood in the back of a lorry with party members, including SPP candidate for Mountbatten, Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, for the drive through the constituency that she unsuccessfully contested for a second time.
Mrs Chiam's husband, veteran opposition leader Chiam See Tong, 80, was not part of the parade, but his iconic maroon-coloured vintage Volkswagen Beetle - used in the early days of his own election campaign - was in the convoy.
Yesterday, two days after the polls which her People's Action Party (PAP) opponent Sitoh Yih Pin, 51, won decisively with 66.4 per cent of the votes - the largest swing in a single-seat ward for the PAP - Mrs Chiam was still coming to terms with her loss.
This year's contest was a far cry from 2011, when Mr Sitoh won Potong Pasir on his third try by just 114 votes, a margin which led to Mrs Chiam entering Parliament as a Non-Constituency MP. Friday's result meant that, for the first time in 31 years, the Chiams will not be in Parliament. Mr Chiam served as Potong Pasir's MP for 27 years till 2011.
Mrs Chiam attributed the scale of her defeat largely to the PAP's resources and what Mr Sitoh was able to provide residents after he won in 2011. She cited the $5 million for the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme and subsidised community-organised overseas trips for residents.
Mr Sitoh also initiated other estate improvement projects and brought in a FairPrice supermarket and a POSB outlet.
"The swing towards the PAP, the biggest carrot, was upgrading," she said. "I have a feeling residents were afraid that if they voted for me, upgrading of the lifts might stop - some of them may believe that."
The SPP was one of the parties that fared worst nationally, not just in Potong Pasir: it was the party with the largest drop in vote share, getting 27.1 per cent of votes in seats it contested compared to 41.4 per cent in 2011.
Mrs Chiam acknowledged that the late confirmation of the SPP slate for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, just three days before Nomination Day on Sept 2, might have contributed to the party's poor performance there. The SPP and Democratic Progressive Party agreed to jointly contest Bishan-Toa Payoh, but negotiations were difficult and took nearly a month to conclude.
The joint team garnered 26.4 per cent of the votes at the election compared to 43.1 per cent in 2011. This made Bishan-Toa Payoh the GRC with the biggest swing result for the PAP. The SPP's losses came despite the popular Mr Chiam figuring large during the campaign.
Mrs Chiam rejected talk that the Chiam era had come to an end: "As long as Mr Chiam is alive and around, he will be a force for the SPP. He may not be able to contest, but I believe the whole of Singapore looks at Mr Chiam as an iconic figure after Lee Kuan Yew."
She refused to rule out contesting Potong Pasir again and indicated that she would now find and groom new blood to take the party forward. Potentials include Loke Hoe Yeong, SPP's assistant secretary-general.
"If the party needs me to lead or to be their mentor, I will still be in politics," she said. "I will not quit politics just because I lost this time... It is an uphill battle but we will take the challenges as they come. We got this from Mr Chiam: the spirit to never give up, to persevere."