TODAY: WP works the ground at Sembawang GRC

General Election 2006

DERRICK A PAULO
derrick@newstoday.com.sg

TWO days after the Opposition hammered out a near-unanimous agreement on where to contest in the coming polls, the Workers’ Party (WP) went a-knocking at the doors of one of its reserve constituencies: Sembawang GRC.

With two PAP MPs – including anchor MP, former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan – touted to step down, the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) might be the scene for an intriguing battle.

But the ward may also pose the biggest challenge to the WP because of its size. With almost 185,000 voters and about 60 polling districts, Sembawang has the largest electorate size.

“It’s a massive task. In an ideal situation, we would need two polling agents per district (on Polling Day). For the day-today campaign, it’s all right,” said WP Youth Wing exco member Yaw Shin Leong, 30.

“The harvest might be ripe but the labourers are few,” the business analyst told TODAY.

Indeed, even if the Opposition parties could field as many as 52 candidates – which means the ruling PAP will not be returned to power on Nomination Day – it remains to be seen if they could find enough suitable candidates.

Among the Opposition parties, the WP is described as the most prepared, having worked the ground since the 2001 polls.

It is eyeing the four GRCs of Aljunied, East Coast, Sembawang and Ang Mo Kio, and the three single wards of Hougang, Nee Soon East and Joo Chiat.

Yesterday, a 10-strong team from the party ardently worked the Sembawang ground, visiting food centres and homes at Chong Pang. They distributed party pamphlets and Mr Yaw’s postcard-sized namecard.

So, if the WP stands in Sembawang, will Mr Yaw – who was part of WP’s Aljunied team that was disqualified on a technicality in the 2001 General Election – be one of the candidates?

Although he tactfully deflected the question, Mr Yaw has been involved in the party’s “outreach” efforts in the GRC since last July. He profiled Sembawang as an area where a “significant proportion of the residents belong to the new poor”, referring to a phrase coined by the WP to describe the economically disadvantaged.

Other issues the WP might raise at the coming polls may range from elitism, health care costs and reduced Central Provident Fund contributions – as noted on Mr Yaw’s name card.

A resident who gave his name as Mr Ong, invited Mr Yaw to join him at the coffee shop. The 60-year-old asked about the WP’s plans for Singapore and was told: “We want to sharpen the competitive edge in politics. We want to sharpen the decision-making process.”

Mr Ong, whose son has been out of a job for six months, said more needs to be done to minimise foreign employment and the cost of living. Would he consider giving the WP a chance at the ballot box? “I have to see what they say, but yes, I would vote for them,” he said.

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