The single-member constituency of Hougang is “extremely important” to the Workers’ Party (WP), says its representative candidate Png Eng Huat.
This, he says, is why the entire party machinery is rallying behind him in his campaign to win its residents over in the upcoming by-election, which will be held next Saturday.
At a neighbourhood lunchtime walkabout on Friday, Png was accompanied by the party’s bigwigs—WP chief Low Thia Khiang, chairman Sylvia Lim, their fellow Aljunied member of parliament (MP) Chen Show Mao and non-constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong tailed Png as he walked around a few coffee shops along Avenue 5 to meet residents eating there.
The size of the group walking with Png, further beefed by members and party volunteers, contrasted strongly with the appearance of his opponent in the by-election, People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate Desmond Choo, who walked around Hougang alone both on Thursday and Friday afternoon, apart from his team of campaign volunteers.
"I have the full support of my fellow comrades, but it is important to note that I'm my own man," he said at the press conference introducing him officially as the PAP's nominated candidate last week.
"I've been on the ground, I've served, I've tackled residents' issues... this is very much my own fight," he added then.
Echoing Lim’s previous personal blog post on the uniqueness of Hougang residents, Png said the SMC’s history of constantly voting Low to be their MP stands testament to their strength.
“In 1991, when they first voted for the WP out of the blue, and in subsequent elections, they rejected attempts to retake Hougang,” he said, speaking to reporters after his walkabout.
He recalled how PAP bigwigs offered the residents “hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrading”, but despite their carrot-dangling, he said they “didn’t bite”.
“So that is special, that’s something that not many constituencies (may be willing to) experience,” he added. “That’s why the whole WP machinery is here; we view Hougang as a very, very special place to defend.”
When asked about their presence at Png’s walkabout later on, Low reiterated that Png is fronting his campaign, just that the party is supporting him.
“As you see, he’s going around on his own to meet the residents, he’s gone around himself in the past to visit residents, so we’re here to support him,” he said. “To me, it is right for the party to support our candidate.”
Responding to Choo’s previous statements of being independent, Low said he wondered how he could be independent when he was clearly nominated by the PAP to stand in the constituency.
Png also addressed Choo’s sentiment that he can be an independent, alternative voice for Hougang residents in parliament, saying there are already alternative voices in it, namely the eight members of the WP.
He mentioned the events of last year’s election where several PAP candidates said they would be independent voices in parliament.
“I don’t doubt their sincerity, but there is an existing alternative voice, there exist alternative parties, so they don’t have to play that role — we can play that role very well,” he said.
Referring to how Choo distinguished between democracy and the presence of alternative voices, Png also pointed out that democracy refers to the existence of political and social equality.
“If you look at the current composition of Parliament, it’s too lopsided — so there is no political or social equality in that sense… you have 81 members versus five plus three (NCMPs, including the Singapore People’s Party’s Lina Chiam),” he said.
Png and other WP bigwigs will be speaking at their first rally on Saturday evening at the open field outside Block 837, beside Hougang Mall. The rally will start at 7pm.
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