The National Solidarity Party (NSP) has received a boost to its campaign for the upcoming General Election. At the press conference at its party headquarters on Thursday, NSP President Mr Sebastian Teo announced that Mr Tony Tan, Ms Hazel Poa, Mr Jeisilan Sivaligam, Ms Jeanette Chong Aruldoss and Ms Nor Lella Mardillah have officially joined the party.
The first four were previously members of the Reform Party (RP).
Mr Teo also disclosed that the NSP is looking to contest the four-member GRC of Moulmein-Kallang with a team tentatively made up of Mr Tan, Ms Poa, Mr Jeisilan and Ms Nor Lella Mardillah.
Ms Jeanette Chong has been slated to contest the single seat ward of Mountbatten.
It was reported in the press that the former RP members had been in talks with the Singapore People's Party's (SPP) secretary-general, Mr Chiam See Tong, last week. So, why have they decided not to join the SPP?
Mr Tan explained that when the group met Mr Chiam last week, they had already held several discussions with the NSP and that Mr Chiam was aware of this. “Mr Chiam told us to persevere and to stick to what we believe and why we got into [politics] in the first place,” Mr Tan says.
“The reason why we think NSP is a good choice for us is because we are a good fit. If I could describe it in one word - complementary,” says Mr Tan. “NSP has many veteran politicians whom we can learn from.”
“NSP has a long history and experience which we can benefit from,” explains Ms Poa. “On our part, Tony was in the Ministry of Defence and myself, I was in the [Administrative] Service. So we bring to the table some experience in Public Service.”
The party’s intention to contest the four-member Moulmein-Kallang GRC, however, has run into a hitch. The Workers’ Party is interested in contesting the constituency as well. Talks between the parties are still ongoing and so far, neither has budged.
Mr Goh Meng Seng, NSP secretary general, says he hopes the “WP will reconsider their position”, given NSP’s “long-term groundwork” which they have put into the area.
The newly-created GRC is made up of the soon-to-be-erased Jalan Besar GRC, which NSP contested in the 2006 and 2001 elections, and most of Tanjong Pagar GRC's Moulmein ward.
It is understood that the WP is laying claim to Moulmein-Kallang GRC because of its close proximity to Aljunied GRC, which the WP contested in 2006 and received good support.
“I believe the Workers’ Party is a credible, responsible opposition party,” Mr Teo says. He then explains why NSP should have the priority in contesting Moulmein-Kallang. “First, voters do not want to see the NSP and the WP in a three-cornered fight.” Second, he says, NSP has contested Jalan Besar GRC the last two General Elections. “The NSP has in fact put in a lot of resources and effort … in 2001 and 2006… and we have stepped up our ground activities since 2008 to prepare for this election.” Mr Teo says now that the NSP has four credible candidates to contest the GRC, they should be given the chance to prove themselves and voters given the chance to vote them into Parliament.
When pressed on whether the party will go ahead with a three-cornered fight with the WP if talks with the WP fail to resolve the matter, Mr Teo said it is “premature” for him to give an answer at this moment. “We still will try to talk to them in a friendly manner, rather than in a three-cornered fight.”
The other areas which the NSP is interested in contesting are Tampines GRC, Jurong GRC and Whampoa SMC.
As for lawyer Ms Chong, who potentially could be contesting Mountbatten, she says she will be working with the Moulmein-Kallang team “in a joint campaign” as the two constituencies are geographically close to each other. Also, she hopes to raise the level of debate and engagement in Parliament, should she be elected. “There are a lot of national issues which [affect] Singaporeans across the island,” said Ms Chong, a practising laywer of 22 years. “I would like to bring fresh ideas to Parliament and contribute from different perspectives. More ideas can only benefit Singaporeans.”
Mr Jeisilan, who has a Bachelor degree in Management, feels that “Singapore’s political scene needs some fresh blood” and he hopes that he will be able to convince voters that the NSP is the best party to represent their interests in Parliament.
“It’s not just about walking around [the constituencies],” says Ms Nor Lella Mardillah, when speaking about what her team would do. “Most importantly it is the engagement with the residents out there, to get them to speak up, to tell us [their concerns].”
Ms Poa says her team, besides working the ground in the constituencies, also intends to contest on national issues which affect all Singaporeans. “This is a General Election, after all,” she says, “and it ought to be about national policies.”
“The most important issue,” Mr Tan says, speaking in Chinese about the elections, “is for Singaporeans to think about the future. In five years, ten years, what will Singapore be like?” Mr Tan urges younger Singaporeans, especially, to take an interest in national policies as they will affect them. “This to me is most important because they will be the custodian of this country,” he explains.
“After this election, I hope that Singaporeans absolutely understand that policies affect them, especially long-term policies,” he says.
As for Mr Goh, he has set his sights on Tampines GRC and in particular, the Minister for National Development, Mr Mah Bow Tan.
“I hope Tampines residents will do Singaporeans a favour and send a strong signal to PM Lee’s Government: Enough is enough,” he says. “HDB prices cannot [continue to escalate]. The system must change. So they must change the minister.”
About the new candidates:
Tony Tan: 41, CEO of a private education provider which he co-founded in 2001. Recipient of the Spirit of Enterprise Award in 2006. Prior to founding his business, he was a military officer involved in, among other things, the Joint Operations and Planning Directorate from 1992 to 2000. Graduate from Cambridge University, UK, with First Class honours. Masters in Business Administration, Leicester University, UK. BSc in BioMed, Central Queensland University, Australia.
Hazel Poa: 41, business partner with her husband, Tony Tan. Graduate, Cambridge University, UK, First Class Honours in Mathematics, under a PSC scholarship. Served in the Administrative Service, Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office. Also served in the Ministry of Finance as Asst Director.
Nor Lella Mardillah Binte Mohamed: 37, consultant for business management for companies. Diploma in Business Administration. Involved in community, charity and counseling work. Member of Redstar Community Services and was Deputy President from 2007 to 2009. Head of NSP’s Malay Bureau.
Jeisilan Sivalingam: 41, Bachelor of Management, University of South Australia. Process Manager in a multinational company. Speaks English, Tamil and Malay.
Jeanette Chong Aruldoss: 48, Lawyer, Director and co-founder of Archilex Law Corporation. Masters in Corporate and Commercial Law, London School of Economics (LSE). Volunteer in community work and social welfare services. Management Council of Mandarin Gardens. Married with four children.