Singapore GE2020: Profiles of PAP's new candidates

The ruling People’s Action Party on Wednesday (June 24) unveiled its first slate of new candidates for the upcoming election.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the PAP is bringing in “more new faces from different segments of our society, so that they can represent different segments of society and can bring different interests for discussion”.

He described the coming slate of candidates as “very interesting and diverse”.  

Here’s a look at the candidates’ profiles: 


Former People’s Association head


For Mr Desmond Tan, securing a government scholarship in his teens was the only way he could afford his university education.

But such social mobility among children from low-income families has become “quite challenging” in recent years, he said yesterday. It is a cause the father of three plans to champion if he gets elected.

Mr Tan grew up in a three-room Bukit Ho Swee flat that at one time housed 12 people – his own family of six, his uncle’s family of four, his grandmother, and another uncle.

His father was a taxi driver, while his mother took on various jobs to supplement the family’s income. These included working in a factory, as a babysitter, and selling satay and nasi lemak on the streets.

Mr Tan, a former Queenstown Secondary Technical School student, later went to Raffles Junior College. He was awarded the Singapore Armed Forces Merit Scholarship and graduated from the Victoria University of Manchester in 1994 with first class honours in aeronautical engineering.

Mr Tan rose to the rank of brigadier-general before leaving to helm the People’s Association in January 2017. There, he introduced Residents’ Networks and Youth Networks to encourage social mixing.


Co-founder and managing director of Timbre Group


Helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) transform and ride out the Covid-19 crisis is one of Mr Edward Chia’s top priorities if he is elected to Parliament.

His own business, the Timbre Group, runs food and beverage venues including Timbre+ and Yishun Park Hawker Centre, and has had to grapple with the impact of Covid-19 and deal with other common challenges SMEs deal with – coping with high rentals, insufficient manpower, and staying ahead of digital disruption.

“I go through this on a daily basis,” he said. “I can truly empathise with SMEs and I hope to be an effective voice for SMEs in Parliament.”

Mr Chia, the father of a six-year-old boy, is expected to be fielded in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. He went to National Junior College and studied economics and political science at the National University of Singapore. He started Timbre at 21 when he was an undergraduate.

Said Mr Chia: “We must redouble our efforts to support our SMEs – not just to survive, but to emerge stronger. In essence, stronger SMEs mean better jobs for Singaporeans.”


Associate director at TSMP Law Corporation


Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin’s life has revolved around giving back to the community since she was 15 years old. She started her volunteer work with the South East Community Development Council, and moved on to focus on causes that help vulnerable women and children.

The lawyer, who is married and has no children, recounted how she once received a call from a child she was mentoring. The girl, whose parents were in prison, needed to go to school for a test. However, there was no money in her ez-link card. The incident prompted Ms Nadia to set up the Lembaga Biasiswa Kenangan Maulud Top-up Fund, to make sure such children have enough money for transport.

The youngest among the new faces that will be unveiled by the PAP, Ms Nadia went to Victoria Junior College and read law at the Singapore Management University.

Apart from her community work, she also serves as a panel adviser for the Youth Court, where her role is to advise judges on the appropriate orders to pass in cases involving children and young persons.

The recreational diver has also seen first-hand the havoc wrought by climate change on the natural environment and hopes to champion this cause.


General manager (Specialised Vessels) at Keppel Offshore & Marine


At age 16, Mr Ivan Lim went to work at Keppel Shipyard after his O levels in 1994, instead of furthering his studies.

“I remember on my first day, the shipyard uncles were asking me, ‘What are you doing here in the shipyard? You should be studying’,” he said.

Mr Lim was living in a rental flat in Henderson with his family at the time, and circumstances were such that he had “no choice but to start working”.

He worked hard and was awarded a scholarship by Keppel to study for a diploma at Singapore Polytechnic, after which he continued to pursue his degree in marine engineering, graduating with first class honours at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Rising through the ranks, Mr Lim is now general manager at Keppel Offshore and Marine.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who introduced Mr Lim yesterday, said he has had a very unusual journey in his education.

Mr Lim, who is married with four children, is expected to be fielded in Jurong GRC. He said he wants to champion the needs of the vulnerable. “I’m concerned about elderly residents and children who require social assistance, especially those with special needs.”


Senior vice-president at UOB


Mr Wee grew up in a rental flat and made the cut to enter junior college after finishing his O levels at Nan Hua High School. However, money was tight, so he decided to enrol in a diploma programme at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, so that he could start work early and help his family with the bills.

After completing his national service, Mr Wee joined a local bank as a non-executive staff member, and got an accounting degree after some years of part-time study.

He later qualified as a chartered accountant.

He has been a grassroots leader in West Coast for 16 years, and also speaks Hokkien and Cantonese.

Mr Wee, who has two children, is a member of the Institute of Mental Health’s Visitors’ Board. He said he hopes to help the less privileged, as well as those with mental health problems. He also hopes to help small and medium-sized enterprises.

Said Mr Wee: “I hope that… politics can be an extension of my volunteerism, and a platform for me to raise residents’ concerns and needs to policymakers.”


Former Islamic Religious Council of Singapore deputy chief executive


Mr Mohd Fahmi Aliman is a former army colonel who stepped down as deputy chief executive of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) in March. He helped to form and steer the M³@Bedok initiative, launched last year to help the Malay/Muslim community in Bedok Town.

The father of four joined the National Trades Union Congress’ Administration and Research Unit in April, and has been spotted on the ground in Marine Parade group representation constituency.

Before he was appointed to his post in Muis, he spent 26 years in the Singapore Armed Forces. His military career included a six-month deployment to Blangpidie for the Aceh Monitoring Mission in 2005, where he was the deputy team leader.

His late father was a gas checker, while his late mother was a cleaner. When he was in primary school, he would help her clear rubbish, he said. She later upgraded her skills to become a cook in a factory.

That is why, said Mr Fahmi, the welfare of low-wage workers in essential services is close to his heart.


Former group chief of the Silver Generation Office under the Agency for Integrated Care


Mr Yip received the Public Service Commission Overseas Specialist Award and started his civil service career as a physical education and mathematics teacher.

He later served in the education, manpower and defence ministries. He said he plans to help to improve aged care services in Singapore.

One incident he remembered vividly from when he first started out as a teacher, he said, was when he disciplined a student who repeatedly failed to hand in his homework.

He later found out that the student came from a poor family, and had to work part-time after school. That is why he did not have the time or energy to focus on his school work.

This incident taught him the value of empathy, said Mr Yip, who is married with five children.

“That day, I learnt that it is very important to always ask and seek to understand the situation before we come to any conclusions about how others behave… This is how I will also continue to listen to the concerns of residents.”


Director at MSC Law Corporation


Ms Soh, who was in the Normal (Academic) stream at Bendemeer Secondary School, later obtained a diploma in law and management from a polytechnic, and worked as a paralegal before saving enough money to pursue a law degree overseas.

She recounted how her secondary school teacher advised her that if she became a lawyer some day, she should serve “the lost, the least and the last”.

This, she said, became her ethos in life and inspired her to get involved in grassroots work. For the last nine years, she has volunteered in Bukit Panjang, helping outgoing Bukit Panjang MP Teo Ho Pin.

Ms Soh, who has a 16-month-old daughter, co-chairs the Law Society’s community legal clinics committee and set up the first community legal clinic in a residents’ committee centre in the area.

She hopes to increase community awareness of legal issues, like the importance of lasting power of attorney, and make legal help more accessible, especially to those who are physically disabled. During the circuit breaker period, she was able to mobilise volunteer lawyers to conduct sessions over the phone or virtually.

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