Rabu, 27 April 2011

The Malaysian Insider :: World

The Malaysian Insider :: World

The drama on nomination day in Singapore

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 06:17 PM PDT

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (second right) speaks after his team for Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) filed their nomination papers at an election nomination centre, April 27, 2011. Flanking Lee are (from left) PAP candidates Ang Hin Kee, Inderjit Singh and Seng Han Thong. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, April 28 — If yesterday morning's events were anything to go by, plenty of thrills and spills are in store over the next 10 days as the general election goes into full swing on an unprecedented scale.

There were missing assentors; an Independent candidate who tore up his nomination papers in front of a stunned press pack; a pullout by a new People's Action Party (PAP) candidate at the eleventh hour; a late, and ultimately unsuccessful, Opposition bid to file nomination papers for Tanjong Pagar GRC; and a failed attempt by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) to disqualify the PAP's Holland-Bukit Timah GRC team.

But once all was said and done, Today's prediction in yesterday's edition was proved right: Singapore's 11th general election will see 82 out of 87 seats contested, making this the biggest electoral battle for the PAP since Independence. For the first time since 1965, more than 90 per cent of the seats are being contested.

Only in Tanjong Pagar GRC was the PAP returned to office in a walkover, though it saw plenty of early-morning drama. The party was forced into a last-minute tactical switch after prospective candidate Steve Tan pulled out of the Tampines GRC team, citing "personal" reasons after discussions with his wife.

An emotional Mr Baey Yam Keng broke the news to his Tanjong Pagar activists that he would be replacing Mr Tan in Tampines — and Mr Baey's place was in turn taken by Dr Chia Shi-Lu, a Singapore General Hospital consultant formally introduced to the media after the walkover granted him a straight ticket to Parliament.

But it is on Aljunied GRC that all eyes will be turned. The scene of the most heated contest in the 2006 GE is likely to see an even fiercer battle this time, with the Workers' Party fielding its "Dream Team" that includes Mr Low Thia Khiang, Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Chen Show Mao, taking on the PAP's team led by two cabinet ministers — Foreign Minister George Yeo and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua.

The early buzz on cyberspace was kicked off when Mr Low boarded his party's bus bound for Deyi Secondary School, the nomination centre for Alunjied GRC — a sure sign that Today was spot-on when it predicted that Mr Low would not be standing in Hougang.

"By now, you should know where I'm going," Mr Low told reporters moments before he stepped into the bus.

There was more drama at the nine nomination centres across the island.

Independent candidates Ooi Boon Ewe, a 70-year-old former tutor, and Mr Boon Suan Ban, a 53-year-old remisier with OCBC, were involved in frenetic scrambles to find enough assentors to back their bids for Sengkang West and Mountbatten respectively.

A third, Mr Zeng Guo Yuan, turned up in a yellow baju kurung and a songkok. When reminded by a reporter that he had an unpaid fine — from a previous conviction for molesting a woman — that could bar him from running, he tore up an envelope, believed to contain his nomination documents, and stormed off.

Although up to seven Independent candidates had earlier expressed interest in contesting the GE, none made it to the contest in the end, just like in the 2006 GE.

This paved the way for straight fights between the Opposition parties and the PAP in all but one of the 26 contested wards — the exception was Punggol East single-member constituency, where the Singapore Democratic Alliance and WP have thrown their hats into the ring.

Objection raised

Even before the hustings begin, there was controversy after the SDP filed an objection — which was overruled — to the nomination of new PAP candidate Sim Ann on the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC slate.

The SDP claimed that Ms Sim — who had stated that she was "unemployed" in the nomination forms — was still serving her notice after resigning from the Civil Service on March 18.

At a press conference later, Ms Sim described the claim as "utterly and completely baseless". Her last day of work was April 3 and she had to pay a financial penalty for falling short of the stipulated period of notice, she explained.

The SDP has demanded that the Elections Department look into the matter, signalling that the gloves are officially off.

About 3.30pm, the Elections Department issued this statement: "The Singapore Democratic Party raised an objection that Ms Sim Ann, one of the People Action Party's candidates for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, is technically still in the Civil Service and thus should be disqualified from standing as a candidate in the General Elections.

"Any objection to a nomination paper is permitted only if it falls within one of the grounds specified in Section 30 of the Parliamentary Elections Act. Objections may be made on the ground, amongst others, that it is apparent from the contents of the nomination paper that the candidate is not capable of being elected a Member of Parliament.

"A civil servant is disqualified.

"Ms Sim Ann stated 'unemployed' as her occupation in the nomination paper. It was not apparent from the nomination paper that Ms Sim Ann is still in the Civil Service. Hence, the objection was disallowed.

"The Public Service Division has confirmed that Ms Sim Ann is no longer in the civil service." — Today

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Hsien Loong: Strong contest will force voters to pay attention

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 05:54 PM PDT

Prime Minister Lee: "Think carefully . . . If the country doesn't do well ...": — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, April 28 — With a historic 94 per cent of electoral seats being contested, this general election is no "routine thing" — and this is good, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The "strong" contest would "force voters to sit up and pay attention and decide what is at stake" for them, Mr Lee said at the People's Action Party (PAP) press conference yesterday afternoon following the close of nominations for the May 7 GE.

"A stronger Opposition will crystallise the issues" and "galvanise a response from the ground, and people will stand up on both sides and ask themselves: 'What counts, what matters, what am I going to do about it?'" said Mr Lee, the PAP's secretary-general.

He added: "The fact that people now have to take a stand and decide where they are, I think that emphasises how important this election is. It's not masak-masak, it's for real and it has very serious consequences."

At least one in two voters will likely be casting their vote for the first time, and post-1975 voters comprise more than one in four of the 2.2 million who will be voting.

What gives Mr Lee confidence, he says, is the fact of "a property-owning democracy" — a term coined by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew — for Singapore voters would want to ensure their assets, jobs, children's future and their parents' retirement are protected.

"When they go into the ballot box to vote, their motivations, their incentives, the consequences for them of casting the vote will be aligned with good outcomes for the country," said Mr Lee. "If the country does well, they will do well.

"If the country doesn't do well, they too will suffer in many ways, and therefore I think, people will be very careful and will be very sober when voting on May 7."

During the hour-long press conference, he was asked about Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang moving out of his Hougang ward to contest in Aljunied GRC and his party's slogan of a "First World Parliament".

Mr Lee urged voters to "think carefully" as it would affect their property value, neighbourhood and future.

Pointing to the work done by the PAP-run Aljunied Town Council, he said: "If you have the right town council looking after your estate . . . it will prosper . . .

"Conversely, if a town council doesn't look after your estate, well, of course, many things can go wrong."

Would the various constituency master plans rolled out by PAP teams proceed if they are not elected? Mr Lee said if the PAP teams were not there, they would not be able to implement the plans and "a new team would have to come up with new plans".

But beyond their estates, Mr Lee said Singaporeans' votes would decide the country's future, job prospects and new opportunities for future generations, which would depend "on a good government".

"If you vote for a less than the best government, then you are just taking unnecessary chances and his against yourself," he said.

He called on voters to give the PAP Government "a firm mandate" but also said it was "good" that the party was "contested strongly" by the Opposition. "They will fight to win, we will fight to ensure they do not win."

In the 2006 GE, a WP team garnered 43.9 per cent of the votes in its defeat at the hands of the PAP — the best Opposition showing in all GRCs. With another close contest again expected in Aljunied GRC, Mr Lee was asked if there was "a fallback position" if Foreign Minister George Yeo lost.

None, replied the Prime Minister. "Ministers have to be elected and have to win the support from voters." And if they did not, the PAP would "accept the voter's judgment".

He added: "It's not just Aljunied. Any constituency can win or can lose. Eighty-two seats are at stake and if Ang Mo Kio loses, or Pasir Ris-Punggol loses, what's my fallback solution? So I think we fight, and we put the choice carefully and squarely and it's for people to decide and for voters to decide." — Today

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