The start of the Year of the Pig has brought about a fresh scent of election talk. With the Merdeka Generation Package and changes to the sale of balance flats changes announced in recent days, there has been an air of expectancy that the General Elections must surely be around the corner. There has also been chatter about election officials being called for training as the Elections Department announced that the electoral register will be opened for inspection in the second half of February.
Then Chinese New Year 2019 brought about another round of online chatter as most political parties descended into the home of Dr. Tan Cheng Bock for a Chinese New Year Open House.
While it has not been certain where candidates from Opposition parties will be fielded, there is at least one single member constituency which looks all set for a battle royale, provided it doesn’t get itself wiped out during the electoral boundaries review.
In Potong Pasir, it does appear like an intense ground offensive has been ongoing for more than a year.
In one corner is Sitoh Yih Pin, the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) and in the other, Jose Raymond who is an elections noob from the Singapore Peoples Party (SPP).
The SPP is no stranger to Potong Pasir. Its secretary-general Chiam See Tong was MP for the area for 27 years from 1984 to 2011. His wife Lina Chiam then stood at the 2011 General Elections but lost by a slender margin, which paved her entry into Parliament as a Non-Constituency MP. She stood again in 2015, but only secured 33.61% of the votes.
Enter Jose. Armed with a #PotongPasirHosay which is a play on how ‘Jose’ is pronounced – hosay.
Since the start of 2018, he has made very public his ground engagement in Potong Pasir through his Facebook posts. Whether it is showing where the best mee siam and laksa spots are at, or his knocking on doors, Jose has become a prominent feature of the estate.
Apart from the door to door visits, he has also raised issues which have been publicized in the mainstream media. One involved a resident who was an ex-offender, and another involved the lack of social welfare for a trio of blind Singaporean residents in Toa Payoh who lived in a rented two-room apartment.
His groundwork and brand of politics have not gone unnoticed. In July 2018, academic Derek da Cunha, an author of multiple books on elections posted on Facebook that he considered Jose ‘first rate’.
He has also made it into the Chinese media regularly with the work which he has done on the ground in Potong Pasir.
It also appears that even some PAP supporters have given him the thumbs up for the blend of politics he dabbles in on the ground.
In a recent post, an Alex Shanthan Gopalan has this exchange with Jose on his Facebook page.
Apart from his groundwork, the story of how Mr. Chiam See Tong, the long-serving former MP for Potong Pasir from 1984 to 2011, had helped Jose’s family when they were down and out in 1990, and how Jose then went on to lead the setting up of the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund in 2017 along with national swimmer Ang Peng Siong, must surely make the impending battle for Potong Pasir one of the most intriguing to come in the upcoming General Elections.
Potong Pasir was established as an electoral constituency in 1968, with the first MP Sellappa Ramaswamy of the PAP being returned without a contest.
Union leader and PAP MP Ivan Baptist Cuthbert held the seat for two terms from 1972 to 1980 before it was held by PAP Minister Howe Yoon Chong from 1980 to 1984.
Mr. Chiam held the seat from 1984 to 2011. Sitoh nicked the seat from the SPP’s Lina Chiam in 2011 and was returned with a bigger margin at the 2015 General Elections.