Potential GE candidates need to get early feel of the ground: Ng Eng Hen

Potential candidates for the general election should be deployed on the ground early so they have a better feel of what it means to be an MP, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday.

It is important for new faces on the ground to gain acceptance and understand residents’ problems, he added, speaking to reporters at the official opening of drainage improvement project ABC Waters @ Kallang River.

It takes time to understand some of the issues at the community level, he pointed out, especially for those who have not been involved in grassroots activities.

Asked when new People’s Action Party (PAP) candidates would be introduced, he responded that this depended on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“But I think the assumption must be that if you’re a potential candidate, you won’t wait till then. You would already be speaking to residents and understanding their problems, so I think you should be doing your groundwork.”

Dr Ng is the first minister to touch on the upcoming election, following Wednesday’s announcement that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) had been formed. This officially kicked off a process that could see the next general election being held in a matter of months.

Asked whether his constituency, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, would be redrawn and a single-member constituency hived off, Dr Ng, who is also a member of the ruling PAP’s Central Executive Committee, said it was the prerogative of the EBRC to decide.

“But as the Prime Minister has already announced that he wanted smaller-sized constituencies, my advice to my PAP branch members is that we must assume that every constituency can be single-member constituencies.

“We must be prepared to contest the elections on that basis… if it does happen to any of the five current divisions of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, we are prepared.”

The EBRC, which was convened last month and chaired by Mr Tan Kee Yong, Secretary to the Prime Minister, has been tasked to further reduce the average size of group representation constituencies, or GRCs, as well as create more single-member constituencies. The polls must be held by April 2021.