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Potong Pasir SMC – A fierce fight in the making or will it disappear like Joo Chiat SMC?

The next General Elections may still be many months away and only need to be called by January 2021.

But if current ground activities are anything to go by, it is quite obvious that the battle for the single member constituency (SMC) of Potong Pasir has already begun.

A former Opposition stronghold under Mr Chiam See Tong. A resurgent Singapore People’s Party (SPP). A two-term People’s Action Party (PAP) MP who appears to have endeared himself to residents.

All these ingredients only point to Potong Pasir emerging as one of the hotspots to watch at the next General Election.

Mr Chiam See Tong, who turned 83 on 12 March, was the MP for Potong Pasir from 1984 to 2011, when he left his stronghold to stand in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

Mrs Lina Chiam, who contested the seat against Sitoh in 2011, lost by 114 votes.

In 2015, Mr Sitoh secured 66% of the vote and held on to the seat very convincingly.

But since the start of 2018, the SPP, led by its new member Jose Raymond, has been actively seen canvassing on the ground in Potong Pasir with a small group of volunteers.

Source: Facebook

Mr Jose is a former Straits Times and Mediacorp senior correspondent and one-time press secretary to Dr Vivian Balakrishnan who recently completed a Master of Public Administration at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

Source: Facebook

Based on information gleaned from his public Facebook page, Mr Jose has been planting himself in the neighbourhood at least twice a day, between three to four times a week, including on weekends where he appears in a signature Singapore national team football jersey with the words “JOSE” printed on the back.

Posts of where he has his breakfast meals, and the views of the town from the blocks in which he knocks on doors, right down to photos with various residents across races.

Source: Facebook

Apart from the posts, Mr Jose also raised an issue about a resident in Potong Pasir who was an ex-offender who sought his assistance over a response from the Singapore Police Force (SPF), a post which went viral.

TOC understands that as a result of the post made by Mr Jose, the resident has now managed to find a job after intervention by Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises.

There was also a floor party in one of the blocks which was held in June, a party which was organised by the SPP, and which was posted on its Facebook page.

Mr Jose’s social media activity, brought about by his ground activity has also spurred the incumbent into online action.

Over the course of 2017, Sitoh Yih Pin made a total of 11 Facebook posts, which is an average of less than one a month over 12 months.

However, something has triggered him to start getting active on Facebook. While averaging only one post a month since the start of the year, Sitoh himself has started getting more active on his own Facebook page. Or it might just be that the next General Election is around the corner, as only PAP themselves know when the election is scheduled to be held.

Source: Facebook

A resident in Potong Pasir whom spoke to TOC said that Mr Jose has been active on the ground and has been very visible to residents.

“Quite a good number of people recognise him on the ground due to his presence,” said the resident who wanted to be known as Mr Kelvin.

“But it may not be easy for him or anyone because of the work done by Sitoh and Chua. But what is good that he has started his groundwork very early, if it is true that he is contesting.”

The Chua who is being referred to is Mr Chua Kian Meng, a long-time activist and former stockbroker in Potong Pasir.

However, not all share the same sentiments. A resident who wanted to be referred to as Guna said: “Mr Jose has brought about something different to Potong Pasir - he has been very approachable, and makes the time to visit us if we need help. We also know where to find him if we need any help because he has shared with us his personal mobile number.”

But some residents have expressed fear that the area will disappear after the electoral boundaries are redrawn before the next General Elections as a result of more households in the area. It is expected that about 3000 households in the newly built Bidadari estate will come under Potong Pasir neighbourhood.

“We hope that Potong Pasir remains a single member constituency. The electoral boundaries committee has to respect the history of this town, and what makes it special,” said Mr Francis Lee.

The boundaries for Potong Pasir has not changed over 30 years, despite previous speculation prior to the 2015 General Elections that Potong Pasir could be absorbed into Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. However, with citizens' positive reaction towards Jose and the amount of work that he is putting into the groundwork, there is nothing stopping the ruling party from repeating its move with Joo Chiat SMC where Wokers' Party candidate, Yee Jenn Jong had walked on the ground for years, and absorbing the SMC to Marine Parade GRC just before GE2015.

Whatever the case, it does look like residents in Potong Pasir are enjoying the best of both worlds – an elected PAP MP and a dedicated SPP challenger with his small army of volunteers who have been fighting for residents’ material concerns.