With the next General Election (GE) slated to happen only by 2025, it seems like preparations have already started.
Just earlier today (27 March), the People’s Action Party (PAP) chairman Chan Chun Sing revealed three new candidates for its Sengkang Group Representation Constituency (GRC) team through a party statement.
The three new candidates are namely Associate Professor Elmie Nekmat, 40; Ms Theodora Lai Xi Yi, 36 and Mr Ling Weihong, 41.
They will be the PAP branch chairs of Sengkang Central, Sengkang North and Sengkang East respectively and replace former Sengkang GRC candidates Mr Ng Chee Meng, 53; Mr Amrin Amin, 43; and Mr Raymond Lye, 56.
The only other member of the four-man GRC team, Dr Lam Pin Min, 53, will continue to stay in the PAP Sengkang GRC team as the branch chair of Sengkang West. He will also be in charge of leading the PAP Sengkang GRC team.
And before you go “Who on earth are these people?”, don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about PAP’s new Sengkang GRC candidates.
Associate Professor Elmie Nekmat
An Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Assoc Prof Elmie has been involved in PAP-related activism in 2016, having taken part in events with Young PAP and Malay Affairs Bureau.
As for his day job in academia, he is an Associate Professor of Communications and New Media and Assistant Dean of Research in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at NUS.
So yes, maybe your prof might become your MP in the future.
Apart from that, he also holds the title of Research Coordinator in the Sunlight Alliance for Action Against Online Harms. It is an organisation that strives to help prevent women and girls from falling into the hands of online harms and harassment.
He is also a board member of Sport Singapore, a council member of Ngee Ann Polytechnic and a district councillor for Central Community Development Council.
Last but not least, Assoc Prof Elmie has also been actively involved in promoting his mother tongue. He is a member of the Malay Language Learning and Promotion Committee for the Ministry of Education, Malay Language Examination Syllabus Review Committee for Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board.
On top of that, he is an adviser for the Steering Committee of Community Leaders Forum Leadership and Benefactor Scheme for Yayasan Mendaki.
Ms Theodora Lai Xi Yi
Being the chief strategy officer of Burpple, a food application company, Ms Lai has been a PAP party activist for over a decade since 2009.
She previously served as chairman of the PAP Policy Forum from 2019 to 2020, and volunteers as a district councillor in the Northeast Community Development Council.
She is also one of the co-founders of the Young Women’s Leadership Connection.
As a young mother, she is also the founder of Prep Junior, which is a free application that teaches preschoolers Chinese through interactive stories around Singapore.
Beyond that, Ms Lai is also an adviser with Safespace, which is a mobile platform that connects individuals going through mental health issues with relevant healthcare professionals.
Mr Ling Weihong
Mr Ling is a lawyer in private practice and has been a party activist since 2015.
In politics, he has served as the branch secretary of Sengkang Central Branch since April 2021, as well as the assistant branch secretary of Woodlands Branch from 2016 to 2018.
He helped to launch the Woodlands Mentoring programme, which involved pairing children who were from low-income families with youth mentors in the community.
He was also an assessor for the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act from April to October 2020
The History of Sengkang GRC
After the PAP lost the newly established Sengkang GRC to the opposition Workers’ Party (WP) in the 2020 General Election, it seems like the PAP is setting its foundation for the next General Election early.
Just to recap, the Workers’ Party team, which consisted of He Ting Ru, Jamus Lim, Raeesah Khan and Louis Chua Keng Wee, won by garnering 52.13% of the votes over the PAP team, which consisted of Dr Lam, Mr Ng, Mr Amrin and Mr Lye.
WP’s team was led by lawyer He Ting Ru, 39, alongside economics professor Jamus Lim, 46, social enterprise founder Raeesah Khan, 28, and equity research analyst Louis Chua Kheng Wee, 35.
And of course, everyone knows about the Raeesah Khan incident, where she resigned from the party and gave up her seat as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Sengkang GRC after the “WP saga”, where she lied in Parliament.
That incident has left the Sengkang GRC team with three MPs, and it will remain as such until the next General Election. Ms Khan’s ward, the Compassvale ward, was split into three divisions amongst the other WP Sengkang GRC MPs after she left politics.
When asked about his opinions regarding Ms Khan’s actions, Dr Lam replied that it was an “unfortunate incident”.
“But whatever the reason is, as a new team in Sengkang, our main focus is to serve the residents,” he emphasised.
What These New Faces Mean for Sengkang
The PAP announced through a press release today (27 March) that Mr Ng will take on the role of advisor to the PAP Sengkang GRC team, while Mr Amrin and Mr Lye will continue to aid the team in ensuring a smooth transition of leadership to the new PAP candidates.
Mr Ng also took to Facebook to announce this.
Dr Lam also highlighted that these new candidates have actually been active in serving Sengkang GRC “for a while” since the previous General Election in 2020, and that they are “not new” to Sengkang residents.
“The appointment of them as the new branch chairs for the various branches will enable them to lead our activists to better serve residents,” Dr Lam explained.
He also mentioned that the early announcement of the line-up was to allow the new branch chairs to have a “longer runway” leading up to the next General Elections, giving them the chance to serve the community even before they are elected.
“I believe over these two to three years, we will have enough time to interact with the residents and assist them in whatever capacity we can so they can continue to support us,” he added.
Dr Lam added that he has continued to receive support from Sengkang residents even after losing the election in 2020, which has encouraged him to remain active in the Sengkang GRC branch
“I think it is really a privilege that residents are still showing their support to me and I am willing to continue to do so for the residents,” he said.
With regards to the new team, Dr Lam also affirmed the PAP’s decision, saying, “I think with our passion and enthusiasm to serve residents, we hope residents can see we are sincere in serving them and that they’ll give us their trust and support.
“I won’t say it’s a suicide squad,” he concluded.
“All of us are in this together.”
With regards to the outgoing branch chairs, the statement also mentioned, “The Party would like to thank the outgoing branch chairs for their service and contributions to Sengkang GRC, and we look forward to their future contributions in other capacities.”
Diverse Representation from New Team
According to the feedback provided by constituents after the 2020 General Election, Dr Lam noted that “more diverse representation” was one of the main things that constituents hoped to see in the following elections.
He then highlighted the diverse areas in which the new team are involved in and hope to better support.
Dr Lam then mentioned that Assoc Prof Elmie is eager to help in areas of digital literacy and cyber wellness.
Ms Lai, being a young mother and female representative, would be able to better understand the needs of young families.
Mr Ling also explained that residents are currently worried about Singapore’s rising cost of living, and he would like to be able to address the concerns of the “sandwiched class”.
“So that’s something we want to try and address as well,” he said.
Political observer Eugene Tan, who is an associate professor of law at Singapore Management University, brought up how the new team is lacking in terms of political heavyweights.
“Except for Dr Lam, it is a new line-up,” he mentioned.
“So the first order of business is to ensure residents know who they are and the plans they have. They will have to be creative, given that WP is also upping their game in the wake of Ms Khan’s resignation last year. The PAP team has to operate without reinforcing WP’s messaging that voting for the WP will result in the PAP serving residents well.” he explained.
He also opined that the new candidates will likely “have their work cut out for them”, and that we may see Mr Ng and Mr Amrin joining other GRCs if they join the next General Election.
He concluded by saying, “The PAP is realistic about its prospects in Sengkang GRC and they have not lined up any heavyweight or minister or even an existing political office holder such as a minister of state.
“It is still too male-dominated a line-up, although a slight improvement from the all-men line-up in the 2020 GE.”
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