Two years after TOC first wrote about the possibility of a fierce fight in the making in Potong Pasir SMC, it does look like the area will end up becoming one of the hotspots in the next General Elections.
While there were changes to the boundaries after the release of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee report — the blocks in Toa Payoh Lorong 8 have paved the way for a group of blocks from Joo Seng – Potong Pasir will surely end up becoming one of the areas where political pundits and the neutral observer will have their eyes fixated at during the upcoming General Elections (GE).
While there was constant speculation that the area would disappear after the boundaries review, that it did not materialise also confounded political watchers, especially with changes to Sengkang West, Fengshan and Punggol East SMCs.
The upcoming GE will be historic for Potong Pasir in quite a few ways.
For one, the upcoming GE will see a changing of the guard and the name on the ballot for the alternative party will not be a Chiam.
Since a 1979 by election and the 1980 GE, the People’s Action Party had been challenged by Mr Chiam See Tong (1979, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1991, 1997, 2001, 2006) and his wife Mrs Lina Chiam (2011 and 2015), first as an independent, part of the Singapore Democratic Party and then the Singapore Democratic Alliance and then Singapore People’s Party.
When Mr Chiam left his stronghold to lead a team to the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC in 2011, Mrs Chiam lost by a narrow margin of 114 votes, securing 49.6 per cent of the votes in the GE2011.
But the margin was extended in the GE2015 when Mrs Chiam garnered just 33.6 per cent of the votes, a paltry and poor return.
In 2017, the party started its groundwork in Potong Pasir with Mr Jose leading the charge.
Since then, there were numerous reports of his work on the ground which have been reported in the media.
For example, his assistance of Eugene Png, a wheelchair-bound resident of Potong Pasir in getting back to the swimming pool was reported in TODAY.
The resident went on to represent Singapore in a para-swimming championships held at the OCBC Aquatic Centre in 2019.
He also challenged the authorities who labelled a Potong Pasir ex-offender as “not fit and proper” and sought assistance for a group of visually handicapped residents in Toa Payoh who had their application for aid rejected.
It has been reported that Mr Jose’s lawyers are currently assisting a resident of Potong Pasir in their legal claim against the contractors who are involved in the estate upgrading after an accident left an elderly paralysed from the neck down.
Which is why when the Singapore People’s Party announced on 14 March that its candidate for Potong Pasir will be its Chairman Mr Jose Raymond, it was not unexpected.
A recent Master of Public Administration graduate from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Mr Jose was also an award-winning senior correspondent with Mediacorp and a former senior public servant and has served in multiple social sector agencies including as Vice-President of the Singapore Swimming Association (2014 – 2018).
Since the appearance of Potong Pasir SMC as a contested area at elections in 1968, two of its MPs have been minorities. In 1968, the People’s Action Party’s Sellappa Ramasamy was the area’s first MP.
Then Ivan Cuthbert Baptist served two terms as the PAP MP for the area before Howe Yoon Chong’s win’s in 1979 (by-election) and at the 1980 General Election. Mr Chiam won the ward in a straight fight against the PAP’s Mah Bow Tan in 1984.
So far, Mr Jose has not made any statement about the SPP’s announcement of the possibility of his first-time candidacy.
However, in a Facebook post made on 19 March, he shared that he had started reaching out to the households in Joo Seng, after the redrawing of the boundaries to include blocks in Joo Seng which were under Marine Parade GRC to Potong Pasir SMC.
In response to TOC, he said, “Our work in Potong Pasir SMC has to continue, with safe distancing, given the current situation surrounding the COVID-19. With about 5,000-odd voters added to Potong Pasir SMC, we need to reach out to get to know as many people as possible in a short period, while maintaining our friendships in the heart of Potong Pasir.”
When asked if he expects the GE to be called soon, he said, “That’s not within my control but the GE needs to be called by April 2021. What is within my control is ensuring that we reach out to as many people as possible, and to keep helping as many as we can along the way. That has always been my intent.”
Apart from Potong Pasir, the Singapore People’s Party has announced that it will be sending candidates to Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, Mountbatten SMC and Marymount SMC.
However, Progress Singapore Party — headed by veteren politician and former People’s Action Party MP, Dr Tan Cheng Bock — has also voiced its intention to contest Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and Marymount. This means that the two parties have to sort this out if a three-corner fight is to be avoided.