GRC or SMC, the task for MPs remains the same

New electoral boundaries mean first-term Nee Soon GRC MP Henry Kwek is likely to contest in a single-member constituency for the coming election, but as far as he is concerned, the task remains the same.

The 43-year-old, along with grassroots leaders, spent the morning meeting residents at the Mayflower Market and Food Centre. He told The Straits Times: “For us, the job remains the same, which is to serve our residents regardless of whether we are an SMC or GRC (group representation constituency).”

Over in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, first-term MP Sun Xueling, 40, finds herself in the same situation. Her Punggol West ward has been carved out as a single seat, and yesterday she continued her routine walkabout to meet residents.

While it is not clear who will contest in Kebun Baru or Punggol West this round, SMCs are typically seen as more contestable for candidates from opposition parties.

When asked if she is expecting fierce competition from opposition parties in what would be her second election, Ms Sun said: “I think historically, single wards have tended to be contested. So I am mentally prepared for that.

“But at the end of the day, I’ve been walking the ground, engaging my residents consistently, and that isn’t going to change.”

Four out of 14 SMCs will be new ones, according to the report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee made public last Friday. These new SMCs have been carved out from larger GRCs. They include Marymount, which was part of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, and Yio Chu Kang from Ang Mo Kio GRC.

The carving out of Kebun Baru from the five-member Nee Soon GRC will take 22,413 voters with it, while Punggol West will have 25,440 voters. If the People’s Action Party (PAP) does not make changes in the line-up in these two SMCs, the two first-term MPs will have to battle solo.

Mr Kwek, an executive director of an investment, trading and management consulting firm, said: “We are always prepared for all eventualities. It doesn’t change the work.”

He added: “Over the last few years, I have been serving here and have built a deep bond with our residents. So I would love to continue to serve here with our team.”

But he said the final decision on who is fielded lies with his party’s central executive committee.

Kebun Baru, where two in five residents are Pioneer and Merdeka Generation seniors, has traditionally been a PAP stronghold.

In the 2015 General Election, Mr Kwek was part of the PAP’s Nee Soon team led by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam and also comprising MPs Lee Bee Wah, Louis Ng and Faishal Ibrahim.

They got 66.8 per cent of the vote against the Workers’ Party’s Mr Kenneth Foo, Ms Cheryl Denise Loh, Mr Gurmit Singh, Mr Luke Koh and Mr Ron Tan.

Since then, a slew of initiatives, including social work programmes and a networking club for professionals to gain insights from business leaders, has been put in place. A new MRT station, Mayflower, is set to open later this year.

In 2015, the PAP also retained Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC with 72.9 per cent of the vote against the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA). The PAP team led by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean also comprised Ms Sun as well as MPs Ng Chee Meng, Janil Puthucheary, Teo Ser Luck and Zainal Sapari. Their challengers from SDA were Mr Desmond Lim, Mr Abu Mohamed, Mr Arthero Lim, Mr Ong Teik Seng, Mr Harminder Pal Singh and Mr Wong Way Weng.

In her first term as MP, Ms Sun has overseen transport and infrastructure projects in the area such as covered linkways, libraries and study rooms for students, childcare facilities and pre-schools. Punggol West is mostly made up of young families, with over 60 per cent of residents under 40 years old.

Resident Vaishnav Manish Ishwarbas, 43, said he sees Ms Sun in the neighbourhood every alternate week. “She has a routine, she will go to the blocks, then come to the coffee shops here. I really appreciate that,” said the finance manager.

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