Potong Pasir SMC Rally – SPP’s GRC and SMC Gamble
The SPP Potong Pasir rally on April 30 was largely an inspiring one. Not because of Chiam See Tong. Certainly not because of Lina Chiam, who is standing for election in that ward held by Chiam since 1984. But because SPP’s next generation members like Benjamin Pwee, Wilfred Leung and Jimmy Lee can really work the crowd in a rally and can deliver eloquently simple arguments to engage the people. They are certainly not duds and myopic PAP groupies must realise that.
Chiam See Tong however good he was, is recovering from his stroke and this certainly affected his rally speech. It did not affect his wit and ability to touch the crowd, but there were uncomfortable pauses as he formulated his thoughts and he needed help getting to and from the podium. Much credit is due to Today Digital for omitting footage that showed the longest serving opposition MP as a frail man. He did not spend much time talking about election issues but the crowd was nonetheless entertained as Chiam talked about how he became an MP despite the Old Lee’s attempts to mock his academic qualifications. At the end of the day, Chiam still has an an powerful personal connection with his loyal people, stroke or not.
Chiam’s replacement for Potong Pasir, Lina Chiam, however might be SPP’s folly in that SMC. She was not much different from the CNA free-for-all discussion some weeks ago. During the Saturday rally, she spent her time complaining about how her husband was belittled in parliament and only had about 5-10 minutes in her half hour speech on what she intends to do for Potong Pasir residents. Most of the SPP speakers that night stressed on the need for residents to support Lina Chiam while Chiam heads into Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. Lina Chiam’s tactic to anchor her suitability as an MP to her husband undermined whatever the other SPP candidates tried to build since the rally began at 7pm. She did not choose to focus on how good she can be as an MP but squandered away those precious minutes in her first rally on home ground talking about her husband and mocking Sitoh her PAP competitor in Potong Pasir. For instance, she complained that the PAP’s KTV room in the community centre closed and residents could not sing as a KFC occupied it now. Crowd pleasing rhetoric but low on substance.
In total contrast to the SPP old guard were the SPP’s next generation. Clearly the best speaker for Saturday night was Benjamin Pwee who was impressive in stirring up the crowd by going through the Singapore pledge and that everyone needed to have the courage to vote for SPP. He won the crowd by talking about the PAP sneakily feeding people with carrots and the people feeling pressured to remain silent as a result. With flourish, he pledged into the media cameras that MNCs etc should not be afraid if SPP entered parliament and that more opposition would not be bad news for foreign investment. Wilfred Leung assured the crowd that property prices in Potong Pasir have not plummeted and that the PAP cannot buy over the soul and hearts of the community there. The crowd approved and cheered. They were impressive and to be brutally honest, performed much better than the Chiams. The PAP should be worried about these young blood in SPP.
Nevertheless, all has not been perfect in SPP’s ambitions since Chiam’s similarly bold attempt to tie-up with the Reform Party. Chiam is frail and more likely to get sympathy and loyalty votes in Potong Pasir than Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. Opposition hero he may be in the past, because of his health, his usefulness as an MP in parliament and in the town council is a big question. Bishan-Toa Payoh residents would know that. Chiam’s brave venture into Bishan-Toa Payoh is risky and he himself admitted that he is entering dangerous ground. His team is not the same team as that led by Low Thia Khiang into Aljunied.
Furthermore, the handover of the helm to Lina Chiam is also a politically risky move. Looking at the big difference in the quality of Lina Chiam and the new SPP candidates like Benjamin Pwee, Chiam should have let the younger generation like Benjamin take over Potong Pasir. Low Thia Khiang did exactly that by passing the torch to Yaw Shin Leong in Hougang SMC. If Lina Chiam enters parliament as part of her husband’s future for SPP, she is out of her depth and unable to hold her ground in debate in parliament unlike Benjamin, Wilfred or Jimmy. That is obvious to any objective observer, including Potong Pasir residents presumably.