One month ago, Mr Jose Raymond was just an ordinary member of the Singapore People’s Party (SPP).
And he barely made the cut for the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the SPP, and only made it after a face-off with Fazli Talip, a 2011 Workers Party candidate and a serving CEC member of the SPP.
But on 5 November at the SPP’s election for office bearers, Mr Raymond was elected as chairman of the SPP, replacing long-serving chairman Mrs Lina Chiam. Many thought Mrs Chiam would stay on in the position as she made no indication that she would after the CEC was elected.
Mrs Chiam remains as an ordinary CEC member with the title of Immediate Past Chairman, according to the statement posted by the SPP on its Facebook page.
While eyes were on former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, Steve Chia who was named as the successor to Mr Chiam See Tong, it may be worth noting that the 47-year-old’s entry into politics has been much more eye-catching than the new SPP Secretary-General.
Prior to stepping into the opposition political arena, Mr Raymond had been serving as the press secretary of People’s Action Party candidate and current Foreign Minister, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan for the General Election 2011 and 2015. But despite the 70% victory by PAP in the 2015 GE, he made the “illogical” move to distance away from the ruling party.
In a Facebook post after his appointment as Chairman, the Chief Strategy Officer of a communications and strategy firm again brought up how his intent was to pay it forward for the kindness shown by Mr Chiam towards his family in 1990.
He said, “This is an emotional moment for me…”,”…I never imagined that this day would ever come, to be named as Chairman of the Singapore People’s Party, to continue to work and legacy of Mr Chiam See Tong.“
Earlier in 2016, Mr Raymond revealed how Mr Chiam had helped put a roof over the heads of his family when his father needed help back in the late eighties after retiring from the police force and not being able to hold down a job.
He wrote, ” I will never forget how Mr Chiam helped us when we needed it most, and unconditionally at that. You have been an inspiration to me, and I will continue to pay it forward.”
In previous posts, he had also shared how he was at the Westlake Secondary School counting centre in 1984, when Mr Chiam was announced as the elected MP for Potong Pasir.
And true enough to his words, Mr Raymond, a recent Masters graduate of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy has been able to strike up a formidable ground presence in Potong Pasir since he emerged as a member of SPP to do the groundwork in Potong Pasir in 2017.
Since then, the SPP’s presence on the ground has been heightened through block visits, and events such as the Mid-Autumn Festival and mini-home parties.
Other than organising events, Mr Raymond has started a befrienders programme in the estate called Potong Pasir Sayang and also put together a panel of lawyers to support the needs of the residents in the estate who have sought legal advice from him.
In his post announcing the formation of the programme, Mr Ramond said that “as a result of our outreach and engagement, we are proud to announce the start of our very own befrienders programme called “Potong Pasir Sayang” which aims to provide support and be in constant touch with the elderly in the estate who either live alone or with a caregiver.”
These are not the only things that Mr Raymond has done. He has been vocal publicly on issues concerning residents and also written to various agencies to help individual residents in resolving problems.
An example out of many others, Mr Raymond voiced out for a resident who was denied job opportunities due to his past conviction. After the matter was raised up in public, the resident got a job offer which he accepted.
Following his appointment as Chairman of the SPP, Mr Raymond said “We have a lot of work ahead of us, as a collective leadership. It is immaterial what positions we hold within the party, and we must always work together as a team.
“It is our duty and responsibility to carry on the work of Mr and Mrs Chiam and the values of the SPP – of being loyal to the country, of bringing good policy ideas to the table, to help people in need, to be their voices, and to always be their ray of hope.”
Apart from his ground and political work in Potong Pasir, Mr Raymond is a founding vice-chairman of the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund, a charity which was started in 2017 to assist athletes in need of support and also the current Vice-President of Flash Athletics Club.
An obvious rising star of the SPP, it will be an interesting showdown between Mr Raymond and the incumbent MP for Potong Pasir, Mr Sitoh Yih Pin. Based on TOC’s observation, Mr Sitoh has stepped up his social media outreach in recent months. Prior to that, Mr Sitoh had only been posting on his Facebook page around twice a month. (In comparison, Mr Raymond has 56k fans on his Facebook page while Mr Sitoh’s Facebook page has 2.1k fans as of the time that this article is written.)
But it remains to be seen if Potong Pasir will remain as a Single-Member Constituency in the upcoming General Election as ground sentiments for the PAP do not bode well for them, particularly in this hotly-contested seat.