Singapore GE2020: New Yio Chu Kang MP Yip Hon Weng unfazed by task of running a constituency alone

SINGAPORE – Being a political rookie running a new single-member constituency does not faze Mr Yip Hon Weng, the newly elected MP for Yio Chu Kang SMC.

“I think one advantage is that I have a bit more autonomy in terms of what I want to do here for the residents,” said the People’s Action Party (PAP) new face, who was at the Ang Mo Kio 628 Market on Sunday (July 12) morning.

“Ultimately, it is to serve the residents here, to make sure that this is a place that they are happy to live in and their needs and issues are addressed,” he told The Straits Times.

Despite being untested in electoral battles, Mr Yip, the former group chief of the Silver Generation Office under the Agency for Integrated Care, was sent to contest in the new constituency that was carved out of Ang Mo Kio GRC.

But the PAP’s move to field the 43-year-old there paid off, with Mr Yip garnering 61 per cent of the votes against Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Ms Kayla Low, a fellow newcomer.

Mr Yip said he had gone into the contest expecting a tough fight, and the result is reflective of the hard work put in by his campaign team.

“It is not easy being a newcomer in an SMC. The team here has helped me quite a fair bit,” he added.

“We have put in our best efforts to cover the ground in Yio Chu Kang, and we’ve managed to cover all the blocks, condominiums and landed estates. I am happy with the results and credit goes to the campaign team that has helped me tirelessly.”

Mr Yip said he brings a wealth of experience from the public sector to his constituency.

He started his civil service career as a physical education and mathematics teacher, and later served in the education, manpower and defence ministries. He also helped to set up and run the Municipal Services Office – work that involved coordinating with various government agencies.

Yio Chu Kang, a traditional PAP stronghold, was previously helmed by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, who was elected as an MP for Tampines GRC at this year’s general election. Yio Chu Kang has about 70 blocks of flats, seven condominiums and two private estates.

PSP candidate for Yio Chu Kang SMC Kayla Low receives a photo album from a supporter on July 12, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Mr Yip, whom observers believe has the potential to become a political office-holder, will continue to engage residents over the next few weeks to find out their needs and concerns.

“It is not what are the plans that I want to implement, but rather what are the things that residents need in Yio Chu Kang,” he added.

The father of five shared that ageing issues remain a priority. This includes infrastructure improvements to help elderly residents move around better and helping them and their caregivers to access resources and help.

An estimated 40 per cent of the SMC is made up of senior citizens from the Merdeka and Pioneer generations.

Mr Yip also commended his rival, Ms Low, for her determination and for putting up “a very good fight”.

Ms Low, who is also 43, had pushed for issues like welfare and job security, noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused many Singaporeans to lose their jobs.

The chartered accountant and former prisons officer was also at the market on Sunday morning, about 15 minutes after Mr Yip left.

Ms Low, who appeared emotional when speaking to reporters, said she had tried her best.

“For me, as a newcomer in a new party, getting nearly 40 per cent of the votes is actually quite good. I am thankful to the residents who have given me a lot of support,” she added in Mandarin.

Ms Low, who volunteers with low-income families and the elderly, will continue to walk the ground for the next few years.

“There are residents here who believe in me and trust in me, so I need to step up,” she explained, adding that it would not be easy. “But I will try my best.”

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