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Singapore GE2020: Climate change, social inequality, and BTO flat prices tackled in WP's third e-rally

SINGAPORE -Addressing climate change would not only make the future more liveable for today’s young voters, it would also provide opportunities for job creation and economic growth, said the Workers’ Party (WP) in its third e-rally on Friday (July 3).

The 35 minute-long talk show, broadcast on Facebook at 8pm, tackled other issues of concern for young voters, including social inequality, and the affordability of Build-To-Order (BTO) Housing Board flats.

“Climate change is not an isolated issue and is connected to social and economic development,” said Ms Raeesah Khan, part of the WP’s slate for Sengkang GRC.

Developing a green economy in Singapore, for example, could create jobs while ensuring the economy grows in a more robust and ethical way, she said.

“We need to include a variety of stakeholders in this conversation: not only consumers but also industries,” said Ms Khan, who at 26 is the youngest candidate being fielded by the WP this general election.

“This would allow for implementation of policies surrounding the use of green energy on an industrial level… ultimately, creating a green economy.”

Ms Khan, a social activist, was one of four WP candidates who were quizzed on issues that concern young voters by moderator Nicole Seah – who is part of the team contesting East Coast GRC – on the third Hammer Show.

The others included chief technology officer Gerald Giam, who is being fielded in Aljunied GRC, as well as lawyer Fadli Fawzi and digital product owner Nathaniel Koh, both of whom are part of the WP’s Marine Parade team.

Mr Koh touched on the issue of inequality, and how institutional structures disadvantaged families in the lower-income groups.

For example, he said he has met families on house visits who have children placed in primary schools far from home.

“Every cent matters. Public transport or school buses cost money,” said Mr Koh, 36. “So, how can we improve this situation? Can we have the children from low-income families placed in a school near their home, so they can reduce the cost of travelling to school?”

Mr Fadli also noted that the mandatory home-based learning for students because of the Covid-19 pandemic had shone a light on the inequities that have an impact on learning outside of school.

He said: “We should also think about the informal social ecology which affects young kids.” For example, a child from a big family may not have a room in which to study or do his homework, he said.

On the cost of  BTO flats, Mr Koh noted that they are currently priced on two criteria. One, they are priced lower than resale flats in the vicinity. Two, prices are determined by the attributes of the new flat, such as its size, and floor level.

But Mr Koh said that these criteria could be subjective.

Instead, BTO flat prices, especially in non-mature estates, should be based on the median monthly household income of Singaporeans, said Mr Koh. “I think that objective criteria will make affordability more sustainable in the long term.”

Mr Giam said that expensive flats could have knock-on effects for Singapore’s fertility rate.

He said: “The problem with expensive flats is that couples will end up delaying their marriage because… they can’t afford to find a flat right away. So they delay marriage and that has a knock-on effect on things like childbearing.”

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Singapore GE2020: Parties debate foreign worker policy, GST

In its election manifesto, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) called for a review of free trade agreements (FTAs) that touch on labour exchanges, such as the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.

Homing in on that point during an online Mandarin dialogue last night, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said such reviews would also have to take into account the compromises and potential trade-offs that Singapore will have to make with the other country.

“If we want to review an FTA with India, for instance, what do you have to give up and what does India want from this side? What do we offer in exchange?” Mr Chan asked.

He added that opposition parties also have to contend with the possibility of having to form an alternative Government when they field candidates for election, and this means they have to think through and make clear the potential trade-offs of their policy proposals.

The dialogue, which was broadcast on Zaobao.sg, also included PSP’s vice-chairman Hazel Poa and Workers’ Party candidate Kenneth Foo. It covered several areas, including the upcoming Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike and Singapore’s policy on foreign labour.

Ms Poa asked Mr Chan, who is the PAP’s second assistant secretary-general, about the PAP’s plans for Singapore’s foreign labour policy.

In response, Mr Chan said Singapore’s foreign manpower needs are not determined by the Government, but rather, by the needs of businesses. “If we tighten the foreign manpower policy, we will need to think about how it will have an impact on SMEs and other businesses,” he said, adding that the policy is not a zero-sum game as hiring foreign workers does not come at the expense of locals.

“If we don’t have foreign labour tomorrow, does that mean our enterprises will have better capabilities and opportunities, or that our workers will have more opportunities? I don’t think it’s that easy… I am not worried that we will lose out (to other countries), Singaporeans are not afraid of competition, we just want fair competition,” he said.

In response, Ms Poa countered that the Government still plays a role in regulating and calibrating the flow of foreign labour into the country. The policy still merits further discussion, she said, pointing out that other countries have been able to attract local workers to blue-collar professions as substantial wages are offered to the locals.

Mr Chan later asked Mr Foo about his party’s proposal to scrap the planned GST hike, which will increase the tax rate from 7 per cent to 9 per cent some time between 2022 and 2025. Some $6 billion has been set aside to help cushion the impact of the tax hike on Singaporeans.

The WP has argued in its manifesto that the Government should tap alternative sources of revenue, such as the income from land sales. It also suggested increasing the net investment returns contribution by up to 10 per cent.

Since 2016, the returns from Singapore’s invested reserves have been the single largest source of government revenue.

“I want to ask them a very simple question – who will foot the bill?” Mr Chan said, adding: “An ageing population, infrastructure that has to be renewed, all these are very large undertakings.”

Singapore has three options to fund its expenditure, he added. It can rely on the money left by previous generations, get the current generation to foot the bill, or pass the buck to future generations.

“Which of these choices does the WP want?” he asked.

Mr Foo responded that the Government has not made public its income and expenditure projections over the next 10 years.

“In the absence of data, would a responsible opposition be able to support this Budget in Parliament?” he asked. “Would it be able to support the GST increase from 7 per cent to 9 per cent? This is completely impossible.”

On the question of who foots the bill, he added that the WP’s manifesto is “budget-neutral”.

But if money needs to be spent, the most important thing is to focus on who the money is being spent on, he said. “If we put our people first, we have to ask: do we use the money, or not?”

Mr Chan replied that given the global economic downturn, raising other forms of taxes – such as income tax, property tax and corporate tax – will be challenging,

It will also be difficult to earn as much as before from investing the country’s reserves, he said.

“This is not child’s play. These are challenges that we will be facing over the next 10 years.”

Mr Foo responded that the WP’s stance remains the same, to which Mr Chan replied: “Let me be frank: If we had, in the past, done what the WP is proposing, we would not have enough money to see us through the crisis today.”

  • Additional reporting by Tee Zhuo

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Singapore GE2020: Peoples Voice begins introducing its candidates online

SINGAPORE – The Peoples Voice (PV) party has started to introduce its slate of candidates online, through videos posted on its Facebook page.

On Wednesday (July 1), it posted videos of two of its 10 candidates, with the rest to follow in the days ahead, said the party, which is contesting two group representation constituencies and one SMC.

The duo are blogger and financial adviser Leong Sze Hian, 66, one of its four candidates running for Jalan Besar GRC, and pre-school teacher Vigneswari V. Ramachandran, 38, who is in a five-member team contesting Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

The party had been tight-lipped about its line-up and where it would be contesting until Nomination Day on Tuesday, when it disclosed that it was contesting single-seat Mountbatten as well.

Party members had previously done outreach activities in various constituencies, including Pioneer and Punggol West single-member constituencies.

On Wednesday, the candidates were campaigning in their respective constituencies.

At Jalan Besar GRC, Mr Leong was campaigning at Bendemeer Market and Food Centre with fellow team member Nor Azlan Sulaiman, 48, who runs a halal certification consultancy business.

The duo said they had been frequenting the area and speaking to residents since last year. They told The Straits Times that their focus is on bread-and-butter issues, such as the growing unemployment rate among Singaporeans, and the high cost of living.

“It’s about getting the voices of the people heard,” Mr Nor Azlan added.

The other two members of the team are: party chief and lawyer Lim Tean, 55, and Mr Michael Fang Amin, 43, a medical administrator and entrepreneur.

LEONG SZE HIAN, 66, FINANCIAL ADVISER


PHOTO: PEOPLES VOICE

Mr Leong told The Straits Times that he had spent the last 20 years analysing Singapore’s policies and data points, and writing about them on his personal blog.

He said he agreed to join the PV party readily when he was approached by party chief Lim Tean, who had defended him when he was sued by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for defamation in 2018.

In his introductory video, Mr Leong said that he had seen many people in Singapore struggling to make ends meet. He also criticised the Government for calling the election amid the coronavirus pandemic, and wanted it to give figures daily of the number of people who were tested.

He added that he had been chairman and president of four professional bodies, including a non-governmental organisation.

“My experience, I hope, can help to bring more transparency and accountability in Parliament.”

VIGNESWARI V. RAMACHANDRAN, 38, PRE-SCHOOL TEACHER


PHOTO: PEOPLES VOICE

Having been a pre-school teacher for 12 years, Ms Vigneswari, 38, said she has witnessed how stressful the Singapore education system is.

If elected, she will fight for change for Singaporeans, she said in her video.

“I will speak up on the costly childcare fees, and the rising cost of living. I will help you with your issues to the best of my abilities,” she added.

She said the challenges and difficulties faced by ordinary Singaporeans often go unnoticed by an “elitist” People’s Action Party.

But the Peoples Voice party “puts you, your family and your generations to come first”, she added.

“When we have alternative voices in Parliament, we will have more social justice and accountability,” she said.

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Politics

Singapore GE2020: Political broadcasts to air daily from July 2-9

SINGAPORE – The two party political broadcasts (PPBs) for the upcoming general election will begin on Thursday (July 2) while those for constituency political broadcasts (CPBs) will roll out from Friday.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on Wednesday announced that the PPBs will be aired across 19 TV and radio channels from 8pm on July 2 and July 9.

Since the 1980 election, parties that field at least six candidates under a recognised party symbol are eligible for airtime on free-to-air radio and television.

Independents and political parties fielding fewer than six candidates under the same recognised party symbol are not eligible for the PPBs. This means the People’s Power Party, Singapore Democratic Alliance, Singapore People’s Party and Red Dot United are not eligible to put out a PPB.

The broadcast of the party fielding the least number of candidates will be aired first, and vice versa. The amount of airtime allocated to each party is determined by the number of candidates it fields. The time allocation is:

Reform Party (six candidates): 2½ minutes

National Solidarity Party (10): 3 minutes

Peoples Voice (10): 3 minutes

Singapore Democratic Party (11): 3 minutes

Workers’ Party (21): 4½ minutes

Progress Singapore Party (24): 5 minutes

People’s Action Party (93): 13 minutes

Meanwhile, in between the two PPBs, Singaporeans will also be able to watch candidates speak in the constituency political broadcasts on Mediacorp’s Channel 5 from 7pm, from Friday to Wednesday.

CPBs are one-off arrangements to give parties and candidates more airtime to put their messages out to voters in view of the Covid-19 situation, which has meant that traditional election rallies, which typically attract thousands, are off the table.

Each candidate will get three minutes to speak, which means the broadcast for a single-member constituency (SMC) will last three minutes. That for a group representation constituency (GRC) will be 12 or 15 minutes, depending on whether it is a four- or five-member GRC, and regardless of how many candidates speak.

Candidates can choose to speak in any of the four official languages of English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, said the Elections Department on June 24, which rules out dialects, which were sometimes used by candidates at previous election rallies.

The CPBs will be broadcast based on the alphabetical order of the constituency, and the broadcasts for each constituency will start with the incumbent, which means Aljunied GRC’s Workers’ Party slate will kick off the CPBs and Yuhua SMC’s Singapore Democratic Party candidate Robin Low will wrap things up.

Details of the PPBs and CPBs will be released on Mediacorp’s website.

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Singapore GE2020: Uphill battle but WP candidates are no pushovers, says Pritam

The election will be an uphill battle for the Workers’ Party (WP) but its candidates will prove that they are no pushovers, said party secretary-general Pritam Singh yesterday, after the party completed the nomination process for its 21 candidates.

Asked about his expectations for the general election, he said the party expects it to be difficult – with Covid-19 making campaigning even more challenging – and again raised the possibility of a clean sweep by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

“The WP is always up against an opponent which is much more well resourced, and which always fights hard in every election,” he said.

“So, obviously I want our candidates to do well and to fight equally hard.”

The WP is fielding 21 candidates in six constituencies for this general election.

It sprang no surprises on Nomination Day, having earlier announced the number of candidates and constituencies it was contesting.

It is contesting Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, where it is the incumbent, as well as East Coast, Marine Parade and Sengkang GRCs and Punggol West SMC.

The list of WP candidates includes several who are taking part in the election for the first time.

In Sengkang GRC, for example, three of its four candidates are new faces. Only lawyer He Tingru, 37, has stood for election previously, as part of the WP team contesting in Marine Parade GRC in 2015.

The other members of its Sengkang team are economist Jamus Lim, 44; equity research analyst Louis Chua, 33; and social activist Raeesah Khan, 26.

But Mr Singh, 43, said the party has full confidence in the younger candidates.

CHALLENGING SITUATION

It’s always an uphill battle but now, I think, in the situation of Covid-19, it will probably be more challenging for us. We have to devote resources not just on the ground, which is still the main thrust of our campaign, but also… on social media.

WORKERS’ PARTY CHIEF PRITAM SINGH

“I think they will do well for the Workers’ Party and I think they will prove to voters that they’re no pushovers,” he said.

“They will be prepared to fight for the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans, not just in Parliament, but in the constituency and in their town councils as well.”

During the interview in Hougang – which Mr Singh said was chosen as the venue because it was where the “new spirit of the Workers’ Party bloomed” – the WP chief said that restrictions on campaigning due to the coronavirus crisis will make this general election more difficult for opposition parties.

“It’s always an uphill battle but now, I think, in the situation of Covid-19, it will probably be more challenging for us,” he told reporters.

“We have to devote resources not just on the ground, which is still the main thrust of our campaign, but also… on social media.”

His comments came after the WP rolled out a number of slickly produced campaign videos on social media that introduced party members and highlighted its achievements in some of the constituencies where it is contesting the upcoming polls.

On the PAP’s move to field Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in East Coast GRC, Mr Singh said it is “an important signal that (they) are sending, that they take our challenge in East Coast very seriously”.

He added: “I would say we take their challenge equally seriously, and that’s why we’ve put together a strong slate of candidates in the East Coast team.”

Meanwhile, Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Dennis Tan, 49, the party’s candidate for Hougang SMC, addressed the argument that the opposition did not need to fear a wipeout as the enhanced NCMP scheme guarantees at least 12 opposition MPs in Parliament.

The PAP’s Ms Indranee Rajah made this point on Monday during an interview, saying that NCMPs had the same voting rights as MPs.

While Mr Tan acknowledged that NCMPs have the same speaking rights as elected MPs, he said the NCMP scheme is not a solution for having a vibrant opposition.

“It will create a problem for all opposition party members. It will prevent us from sinking roots into the constituency, because… we are not allowed to hold events, for example.”

If people keep thinking that the NCMP scheme is a solution, he said, there is a strong chance that opposition parties will never be in sync with the constituencies.

Mr Tan added: “So one day, whether in the near or further future, if the PAP were to fail, if the PAP were to do very badly, how is another party going to take over as government?”

Last night, in a message to voters uploaded on its website, the opposition party said it was pro-Singapore – and was rational, responsible and respectable.

Signed by Mr Singh, it also stressed the value of having an opposition in Parliament. For example, it cited how the victory of the WP in the 2011 General Election forced PAP MPs and ministers to walk the ground more frequently.

Mr Singh added: “An elected opposition is necessary to keep the ruling party on its toes and to challenge the PAP for the betterment of Singapore.”

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4G leaders have done well in fight against Covid-19: PM Lee

SINGAPORE – The PAP’s fourth-generation leaders have acquitted themselves well in leading the fight against Covid-19, and shown Singaporeans what they can do, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (June 30).

PM Lee, the PAP’s secretary-general, asked Singaporeans to support the party in the upcoming general election so that the 4G team would have a “good start to establish themselves and take Singapore the next step forward”.

Asked for his assessment of the 4G leadership’s handling of the pandemic at a virtual press conference following the nomination of candidates for the coming GE, PM Lee said it was a “serious fight”, and the 4G leaders had stepped up and kept Singapore safe.

“I would say that in handling Covid-19, the 4G leaders have done very well,” said PM Lee.

“They’ve been on the front line. They’ve been chairing the ministerial task force. They’ve been directing the whole of government response, the public communications, the presentation, the explanations, the mobilisation of our people to understand, to accept the very many intrusive and inconvenient measures which we have to take to keep ourselves safe from Covid-19.”

The pandemic was a baptism of fire for the 4G leadership, who helmed the country’s response. Some observers have noted that the opposition could find fault with their handling of the crisis and turn it into an election issue.

The Government’s multi-ministry task force directing Singapore’s response against the disease is co-chaired by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, and advised by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Various other 4G leaders, including Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, have taken charge of other aspects of the nation’s response.

PM Lee said the coming GE would be an “important step” in the party’s renewal process.

He added that a good result for the PAP would be an endorsement for the 4G team, the party’s strategies and its renewal process.

PM Lee had previously stated his intention for his successor to take over in the next term of government, before he turns 70 in 2022.

But on Tuesday (June 30), he hinted that this coming election might not be his last, given the disruption caused by Covid-19.

This is the ninth election that PM Lee will be contesting since he was elected in 1984.

“I very much hope that Covid-19 will not disturb my plans, but Covid-19 is a very wily and dangerous virus, and we will have to see how things develop on that front,” he said.

Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.

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Singapore GE2020: PAP to face PSP in Tanjong Pagar GRC

SINGAPORE – Tanjong Pagar GRC is set to see its second electoral contest in history, as a People’s Action Party (PAP) team led by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing goes head-to-head with a Progress Singapore Party (PSP) slate helmed by its organising secretary Michael Chua.

The PAP slate comprises Mr Chan, 50, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah, 57, Ms Joan Pereira, 53, and two first-timers – Mr Alvin Tan, 40, LinkedIn’s Asia-Pacific head of public policy and economics, and former public servant Eric Chua, 41.

The PSP team is led by Mr Chua, 55, who runs a private firm in the environmental sector, and includes lawyer Wendy Low, 43; technologist Harish Pillay, 60; senior trainer Abas Kasmani, 67; and new face Terence Soon, 29, a Singapore Airlines pilot.

There was one issue with the PSP team’s nomination papers on Tuesday morning (June 30).

The PAP team noted that the PSP did not fill out the constituency.

Amendments could not be made because the deadline for making changes had passed. Officials accepted the papers because no objections were raised.

Speaking to the media before leaving the nomination centre, Ms Indranee said the PAP team decided to waive its right to object as it did not want to be returned to power because of a technicality. 

“If we are returned, we want to be returned because our voters have said they’ve given us the right and the privilege to return,” she said. 

Asked about the mistake, PSP’s Mr Chua said his team could have also found fault with the PAP’s forms,  which listed its candidate Mr Eric Chua’s occupation as “retired SCDF officer”.

“That is not an occupation,” said Mr Michael Chua. 

“So I think in that spirit of competition, we really want to give Singapore a choice of two very good teams, and for them to cast a vote for the future. It’s not about paperwork, and these very minor technicalities,” he said.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the estranged brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is not contesting the general election despite having been seen on walkabouts with fellow party members.

He caused a brief moment of excitement in the morning when he joined the PSP team for breakfast at a Bendemeer Road coffee shop, prompting passing residents to ask him for photographs.

Asked what he was doing with the team, Mr Lee said: “I’m here with my friends.”

Both sides will vie for the support of the GRC’s 134,642 voters.

This is the second time Tanjong Pagar GRC residents will go to the polls since the group representation constituency was formed in 1991.

Residents last voted in the 2015 General Election, when the PAP team beat their opponents from the Singaporeans First Party, garnering 77.71 per cent of the vote.

Before that, Tanjong Pagar residents had voted in 1988, when the ward was still a single-member constituency.

Its staunch PAP support has often been attributed to founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who had been representing people in the area from 1955 until his death in 2015.

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Singapore GE2020: First-term PAP MP Henry Kwek in straight fight with PSP's Kumaran Pillai in Kebun Baru

SINGAPORE – First-term PAP MP Henry Kwek, 44 is up for a straight fight in Kebun Baru, where he will face off against Progress Singapore Party candidate Kumaran Pillai, 57, who runs a consultancy to develop start-ups.

Kebun Baru had been part of Nee Soon GRC at the general election in 2015, and has been carved out as a single seat for the July 10 election. Mr Kwek has been in charge of Kebun Baru ward since 2015.

Kebun Baru has 22,653 voters. Two in five residents in the ward are Pioneer and Merdeka Generation seniors, and it has traditionally been a PAP stronghold, consistently scoring above the national and GRC average over the past few elections.

The Democratic Progressive Party had earlier indicated interest in Kebun Baru, but dropped out of the race for Kebun Baru to avoid a three-cornered fight.

 

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GE2020: PAP to battle it out with Peoples Voice in Jalan Besar GRC

SINGAPORE – A Peoples Voice (PV) team led by party chief Lim Tean will contest Jalan Besar GRC, going against a refreshed PAP team led by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

Mrs Teo’s team will include Mr Heng Chee How, 58, Ms Denise Phua, 59 and PAP new face Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah, 42.

PV, which has carried out its outreach in the area largely under the radar, revealed its full slate for the GRC for the first time on Nomination Day (June 30).

The PV team includes blogger Leong Sze Hian, 66, Mr Nor Azlan Bin Sulaiman, 49, and Mr Michael Fang Amin, 43.

Mrs Teo, after spending three terms in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, will be taking over the Kreta Ayer – Kim Seng ward from five-term MP Lily Neo.

Polytechnic lecturer Wan Rizal is replacing former communications and information minister Yaacob Ibrahim in Kolam Ayer. Both Dr Neo and Dr Yaacob are retiring from politics.

The People’s Action Party team, led by Dr Yaacob clinched 67.7 per cent of the votes against the Workers’ Party in the 2015 general elections.

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Singapore GE2020: PAP team in Sembawang will 'go all out', says Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE – The People’s Action Party (PAP) and the National Solidarity Party (NSP) are up for a rematch in Sembawang GRC.

And the PAP intends to “go all out”, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who has taken over as anchor from retiring Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

The rest of the team include familiar faces lawyer Vikram Nair and ophthalmologist Lim Wee Kiak.

There are also two new faces – 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.

Addressing the team and supporters at the PAP Gambas branch in Canberra Street before heading out to the nomination centre at Chongfu School on Tuesday (June 30), Mr Ong said: “Next few days, we have to go all out… People must know we are here to serve.”

Mr Khaw, who sent off the Sembawang team, said he was a “mixed bag” of emotions. He felt the same way when he married off his daughters, he said.

The NSP team, which lost to the PAP team in the 2015 polls, will be led by the party’s secretary-general, business consultant Spencer Ng.

Also included in the line-up are businessman Ivan Yeo Tiong Boon, consultancy firm managing director Sebastian Teo, business development director Yadzeth Hairis and a new face, business owner Sathin Ravindran.

Mr Ng and Mr Yadzeth ran in Sembawang GRC in 2015. That year, the PAP team won 72.28 per cent of the vote against the NSP.

Sembawang GRC has 147,876 voters. Under new boundary changes, residents in the Yishun Link area on the edge of Yishun New Town, previously part of Gambas ward, have moved to Nee Soon GRC.

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