Posters of the two rival candidates in the Hougang by-election are present on almost every lamp post in the constituency.Will voters be swayed by DPM Teo's latest allegations of dishonesty on the part of WP candidate Png Eng Huat? (Photo / Xue Jianyue)
For the third time in four days, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has kept up pressure on the Workers’ Party (WP), questioning the integrity of WP Hougang candidate Png Eng Huat.
“Mr Png was not truthful when he tried to explain away why the WP did not select him as an NCMP,” Mr Teo said in a statement to the media.
He was responding to WP’s explanation on the selection process of Non-Constituency MPs (NCMP) at their by-election rally on Tuesday, which was sparked by DPM Teo’s questions to the WP over their choice of NCMP following the 2011 poll.
DPM Teo questions WP again on NCMP issue
Published on May 23, 2012
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has fired a second salvo at the Worker's Party over its Hougang candidate Png Eng Huat's explanation for why he was not selected for a Non-Constituency MP spot, saying it 'raises a new and serious question' about Mr Png's integrity.
In a written statement, Mr Teo said Mr Png had first tried to paint the picture that he had taken his name off the ballot for consideration for the NCMP post because he was against the scheme. But comments from WP chief Low Thia Khiang at the WP rally last night showed that 'Mr Png had not been telling the truth, and had indeed been rejected by the WP,' said Mr Teo in a statement.
At the WP rally, Mr Low had said that 'the selection of NCMP lies solely with the CEC...therefore whether a candidate wanted to be NCMP or not, the decision is not his,' recounted Mr Teo.
'This is the opposite of the picture that Mr Png first tried to paint - that he had taken his name off the ballot, and that he was not considered for the NCMP post because he did not want it. Thus, Mr Low confirmed that Mr Png had not been telling the truth, and had indeed been rejected by the WP,' said Mr Teo.
Mr Teo then asserted that his original question - raised at a PAP rally on Sunday and the trigger for the events of the last three days - has still not been answered by the WP. He said that the original question is: 'If Hougang is so important to the WP, why did WP decide to send Mr Png, a candidate whom their central executive council clearly decided was not good enough to send to Parliament last year?'
WP's Png contradicted himself, DPM Teo Chee Hean says
The Workers' Party's behaviour over the last two days on the issue of why their candidate Png Eng Huat was not chosen for a Non-Constituency MP spot 'raises issues of honesty and being upfront', said Deputy PM Teo Chee Hean this evening.
He said that Mr Png had contradicted himself over the last two days in explaining why he was not sent to Parliament last year by the WP. Mr Gerald Giam, who contested East Coast GRC with Mr Png, took the 'best loser' spot.
At the PAP rally on Sunday, Mr Teo had said that the WP was asking voters to elect a man they themselves did not see fit to send to Parliament.
But, Mr Teo said this evening, he was willing to hear out the WP leadership's explanation on the issue at their rally this evening before commenting further, as this would only be fair.
DPM Teo questions honesty of Workers' Party, Png Eng Huat
Published on May 22, 2012
SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has questioned the honesty of the Workers' Party and its candidate for the Hougang by-election Png Eng Huat, and whether the party has been upfront with voters.
Speaking to reporters after a tour of the constituency on Tuesday, Mr Teo, who is also PAP's 1st Assistant Secretary-General, said that events in the last two days have raised questions.
The by-election campaign in Hougang has reached its halfway mark and Mr Teo said that it has been by and large, good and clean. But one aspect has saddened him, and it is related to what has been written online.
Mr Teo said: "Those who claim to be supporters of the Workers' Party dragged in their grandmothers, made all sorts of wild accusations, even unfortunately tried to capitalise on a tragic incident to make voters angry and emotional.
"I am very saddened by that. They claim to be supporters of the Workers' Party. I think they should stop doing that. I am ashamed people are doing these kinds of things on the Net."
One important point, which PAP leaders have been emphasising as they make their rounds in Hougang with their candidate Desmond Choo, is the need and importance for them to choose the right candidate so that he can deliver the programmes for the residents.
Mr Teo said it is not clear if the Workers' Party has been putting its best man forward for Hougang. He also said Mr Png's statements in the last two days - that he was not keen on the Non-Constituency MP post - were contradictory.
DPM Teo presented the facts against Png Eng Huat: Desmond Choo
Desmond Choo, PAP candidate for Hougang by-election, speaks to reporters Monday afternoon at PAP branch at Hougang block 328. (Yahoo! Singapore/ Christine Choo)
With things between both Hougang by-election candidates heating up, PAP’s Desmond Choo insists the battle for votes remains a gentlemen’s fight.
Over the weekend, both the PAP and Workers’ Party went into overdrive at their respective rallies, taking calibrated potshots at each other.
[see slideshow: Hougang by-election: PAP rally]
The WP had on Saturday declared that the single-member constituency is “not for sale” at any price, despite PAP’s repeated carrot-dangling upgrading promises. The party also dismissed Choo’s “free Teochew porridge” handouts, saying that voters would not be swayed by such freebies.
On Sunday, it was the PAP’s turn to hit back at their rally, with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean questioning the calibre and quality of WP candidate Png Eng Huat. When the WP had a chance to put the 50-year-old businessman into parliament under the non-constituency member of parliament (NCMP) scheme, Teo said the party instead chose fellow East Coast GRC running mate Gerald Giam.
Speaking to reporters on Monday at at Hougang’s PAP branch, Choo sought to defuse the mounting tension between both candidates.
“Those were the facts that he [Teo] said. I don’t think he interpreted it otherwise. It was true that that happened. He [Png] wasn’t asked to become an NCMP. It was the choice of the Workers’ Party. I think he [Teo] laid down the facts for the residents to decide,” said Choo matter-of-factly.
“It’s still a gentlemen’s fight. I think in a gentlemen’s fight we must present the facts to the residents. Do not add more to it; do not discount from it. Lay it out on the table for people to decide,” he added.
The 34-year-old also continued to insist he is “still his own man”.
Campaign going 'according to plan': Choo
SINGAPORE - With campaigning for the Hougang by-election now past its midpoint, People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Desmond Choo yesterday gave an optimistic assessment of his election campaign thus far.
"I think things have gone according to plan. We have worked the ground hard, we have touched hearts one at a time," he said. "Even compared to one year ago, we have improved. And compared to the start of the campaign, it (the reception) has been a lot warmer."
Mr Choo said that in the last few days, residents have come up to him to thank him "for making the effort". They also said that his speech at the PAP rally on Sunday "touched" them, he added. "Some of the key messages that I sent out during the rally resonated with them," said Mr Choo.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was with Mr Choo yesterday, concurred that the campaign was progressing well. "By and large it has been good, it has been clean," Mr Teo said.
However, he said that he was "saddened and disappointed" by the "wild accusations" making the rounds on the Internet that were made in order to anger voters "just to get a few more votes". "I am ashamed, really, that people are doing this kind of thing on the Net," said Mr Teo, who is also the PAP's first assistant secretary-general.
Apart from Mr Teo, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has also visited Hougang during the hustings.
On the visits by the PAP big guns, Mr Choo said: "It shows that we really care about the Hougang residents here and we're serious about making lives better for them."
'Younger man better for Hougang'
The other is 50.
And that age difference became the hot talking point at Sunday's People's Action Party (PAP) rally at Hougang Stadium.
PAP's Mr Desmond Choo is the younger of the two. He and Mr Png Eng Huat of the Workers' Party (WP) are contesting the Hougang seat in a by-election. Votes will be cast on Saturday.
The age difference, offered Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, is one of the reasons why Hougang voters should pick Mr Choo.
Speaking at the rally last night, DPM Teo said Mr Choo is ready to serve the residents for many more years if elected. "He is young and energetic, full of ideas," he said.
He pointed out that Mr Choo is about the same age as WP chief Low Thia Khiang was when he first became the MP for Hougang in 1991. Mr Low went on to serve as Hougang's MP for two decades.
At last year's General Election (GE), MrLow stood as part of the WP's team in Aljunied GRC, leaving his protege Yaw Shin Leong, 35, to hold the fort in Hougang.
"Last year, Mr Low encouraged you... to vote for a younger man, who has the energy and can serve you a long time," DPM Teo said.
"But now, he has twisted and changed his tune. He says that having a young man is not so good. He says old ginger is hotter, and offers you MrPng, who describes himself as a semi-retiree. Which of Mr Low's arguments should you believe?"
Battle for undecided voters in Hougang
Amid promises of clean fight, rivals stick to scripts for the hustings
Although the power equation in Parliament will not be altered in any meaningful manner whoever wins the Hougang by-election this Saturday, a key concern for both parties is not so much the final result but how well they will do at the ballot boxes.
This is where the battle for the undecided voters will be crucial, with two days of campaigning left.
The hustings have been marked by the contrasting campaign styles of the Workers' Party (WP) and the People's Action Party (PAP).
The PAP has been determined in its characterisation of the by-election as a local election. Its candidate Desmond Choo has portrayed himself as an "alternative voice" and an independent representative of Hougang voters.
On the other hand, the WP has resolutely reprised its General Election 2011 strategy and campaigned on the local-national nexus.
In addition, the WP has emphasised the need for a "First World Parliament" through a more competitive political landscape. The party argues that this will ensure that the interests, concerns and needs of Singaporeans will be better represented than in a one-party-dominant system.
Last weekend, responding to the WP's call to keep Hougang a "bastion of democracy", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is also the PAP's secretary-general, argued that "real democracy" is about choosing the party and candidate that can best serve the voters.
Leaked minutes cause confusion
Anonymous email sent to the media forces Workers' Party to explain candidate's NCMP comments
SINGAPORE - Just hours after his interview with Channel NewsAsia was aired on Monday - in which Workers' Party candidate Png Eng Huat explained why he was not selected by his party comrades to be Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) - an anonymous e-mail was sent to the media, along with the minutes of a WP central executive council (CEC) meeting.
The meeting was held on May 12 last year where 14 CEC members selected, through a secret vote, the WP's second NCMP, apart from Mr Yee Jenn Jong who had contested in the Joo Chiat Single-Member Constituency.
The mystery sender - going by the moniker "Secret Squirrel", a cartoon character that debuted in the '60s parodying the spy genre - sought to disprove Mr Png's assertion during the Channel NewsAsia interview that he was not considered for the NCMP post as he had made clear his personal stand against the NCMP scheme.
The anonymous email forced Mr Png to clarify his comments during his walkabout yesterday. It also prompted Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean to question whether the WP had been "upright and honest with the voters".
Mr Teo nevertheless said he was "looking forward to hear" what the WP had to say about it during its rally last night.
Low Thia Khiang on NCMP ballot incident
SINGAPORE: The Workers’ Party (WP) Secretary—General Low Thia Khiang has urged voters not to be distracted by recent events.
Mr Low said they were made to "intentionally damage the party" and "sabotage" its candidate for the Hougang by—election Png Eng Huat.
Mr Low was speaking on Tuesday evening at the party’s second rally for the by—election.
Mr Low confirmed that the leaked minutes of WP meeting to decide on the post of the Non—Constituency MP are genuine.
Mr Low said he does not want to speculate how anonymous sources obtained the minutes.
But he also confirmed what Mr Png has said about not being interested in the NCMP post.
Producing the NCMP ballot paper on stage, Mr Low said all the names of the East Coast GRC team members were considered for the post.
"This is the ballot which I prepared, with all the names of the team on the ballot paper. Png Eng Huat had told me before and after the General Election that he was strongly against the NCMP scheme and had not wanted to be considered for the NCMP position, just as Eric Tan had told me of his desire to be NCMP. However I still listed the names of the whole East Coast GRC team, because they were all part of the team."
He added that even though Mr Png had said he did not want to be considered, the selection lay solely with the Central Executive Committee (CEC).
Mr Png had one vote to his name.
Mr Low said this shows that the party functions on a collective leadership.
"In fact, I would invite all of you to take a look at the minutes (of the meeting to decide on the NCMP post). It shows that the Workers’ Party functions in a fair and transparent manner where decisions are made collectively. In addition, it also dispels rumours that the CEC is made up of all ’yes’ men and women or even fully controlled by Low Thia Khiang. In this case, the CEC was not unanimous in its decision," said Mr Low.
"Png Eng Huat had previously stated his position on NCMP to me and some other members of of the CEC but he still got one vote; the majority voted for Gerald Giam. When the voting result was concluded, only Eric Tan decided to resign; the other members stayed united on course with the Workers’ Party. This shows that the Workers’ Party is a credible party and can embrace different opinions while working together as a team and moving forward," added Mr Low.
Hougang By-Election 2012: WP Rally, May 22