Potong Pasir residents rally behind Chiam
Chiam See Tong and Potong Pasir are united as one.
Or so it appeared, based on the proceedings of the Singapore People's Party (SPP) rally held at Potong Pasir on Saturday evening.
Potong Pasir residents were in full force as they cheered loudly and rushed to catch a glimpse of him when he arrived and left the rally, much like the adoring fans of a superstar celebrity.
Despite being physically frail after suffering two strokes, Chiam is determined to carry out his wish for better opposition representation in Parliament, hence his decision to leave Potong Pasir to contest in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC was a difficult one.
The soon-to-be former Potong Pasir incumbent was explaining his reason for leaving the SMC in his speech, saying, "Some of you don't understand why I am leaving Potong Pasir for Bishan-Toa Payoh." But a section of the crowd interjected, screaming, "We understand Mr Chiam, we understand!"
"In order to have a fair and just government, the opposition needs to be better represented in Parliament," he said.
Acknowledging the cheers and support from the crowd, the 71-year-old said, "Together we can make history in Bishan-Toa Payoh!"
Chiam also admitted that it is a dangerous move on his part to go into Bishan-Toa Payoh, and risking his chances of retaining his seat in Parliament, as residents there do not know him that well.
But his Potong Pasir 'fans' were nevertheless supportive.
"Your dream will come true, don't worry Mr Chiam," added another section of the estimated 3,000-strong crowd.
Video (Chiam See Tong):
Benjamin Pwee, a member of Chiam's Bishan-Toa Payoh team, said, "Chiam did not walk out of Potong Pasir, it is the spirit of Potong Pasir that walked into Bishan-Toa Payoh."
Such is the respect and support Potong Pasir residents have for Chiam, who has been at the helm of the single-seat ward for the past 27 years.
"I have to really applaud Mr Chiam. He has been ever present to this neighbourhood the past 20 over years, and even with his health so poor, he still wants to serve the people of Singapore and Potong Pasir. He has my utmost respect,"32-year-old accountant Joshua Teo told Yahoo! Singapore.
"I feel sad that Potong Pasir is losing such a great leader, but I wish Chiam See Tong well and hope that he can succeed in Bishan-Toa Payoh," added 41-year-old businessman Peter Lee.
However, with Chiam leaving Potong Pasir, the task of contesting the seat has fallen to his wife, Lina.
She quashed talk of nepotism when Chiam decided to pass the baton of leading Potong Pasir to her, but said, "My husband did not choose me because I'm his wife. He chose me because I have been helping him for more than 20 years in Potong Pasir."
On the note of being unknown to residents in the area, she added that her conservative nature as a wife led to her doing more of the background work, and leaving the spotlight on her husband.
Seemingly having the support of the Chiam faithful, who were loudly chanting her name, some people Yahoo! Singapore spoke to said she will still have to prove herself to residents.
Madam Tan, 52, an administrative assistant who has been living in Potong Pasir for 19 years, said, "I've seen her (Lina) once in a while, but never really spoken to her at all.
"Chiam See Tong has been a very dedicated MP here, that's why I came tonight to support him and also to hear what Mrs Chiam has to say. Honestly, I am not sure who I will vote for this time," she added.
With their huge loyalty to Chiam See Tong on one hand, and a relatively unproven successor on the other, will the people of Potong Pasir stick with the Chiam name, or will People's Action Party's Sitoh Yi Pin finally get his break and be third-time lucky?
We will know, come 7 May.
Video (Lina Chiam):