YP rejuvenates PAP
PUBLISHED ON 24 Nov 2014

Grooming leaders for the PAP is an important goal for the YP. Three MPs, who cut their teeth in politics through the YP, share their experiences.

Tin Pei Ling: I did not want to be observer or armchair critic

Of all the new candidates introduced by the People's Action Party in the 2011 general elections, Ms Tin Pei Ling probably had it the toughest.

Her relative youth, her husband's occupation in the public service as well as THAT infamous Kate Spade handbag (which was auctioned to raise funds for charity causes in 2012) all turned her into the punching bag of non supporters.

But she has survived that baptism of fire and come out of it stronger than ever, with a recent glowing report from none other than the Prime Minister.

Ms Tin, who turns 31 in Dec, said PM's praise came as a great morale booster. "My grassroots leaders, volunteers and myself - we were all very touched and elated that PM did it. It meant a lot to me and my team."

She is aware that the political landscape is changing, with more people willing to express their views.

"Nobody can please everyone all the time and so we will all face new criticisms from time-to-time, no matter how good a job we are doing. In a more contested political space, we must also be prepared for rigorous debates, and be ready to expect personal attacks and perhaps even smears and lies meant to discredit or intimidate candidates," Ms Tin said.

"Having sufficient support from peers is important, but more importantly, I think that each of us needs to be prepared with two things - the right reasons to fight for and have a thick skin," she said.

Ms Tin joined the Young PAP in 2004 while still an undergraduate. Her father had been an active grassroots leader and she had a chance to observe their work.

She was invited to volunteer at Dr Vivian Balakrishnan's meet-the-people sessions and a particular incident one night led her to become even more interested in joining the YP.

A mother with children crying from hunger came to seek help. While some volunteers drafted letters to appeal for financial aid for her, others bought food for the children.

"I was touched by the volunteers' kindness… when I was eventually asked if I would join the PAP, I said yes. I did not want to be a mere observer or an armchair critic. I believe there are causes worth defending and causes worth championing for," said Ms Tin.

"The YP is a good place for young activists to get acquainted with issues of the day and build camaraderie among peers."

HER BIRTHDAY WISH FOR YP: "I wish YP all the very best in its endeavours ahead! Majulah YP! Majulah Singapura!"

Liang Eng Hwa: Building Singapore's unique brand of politics

When Mr Liang Eng Hwa joined the Young PAP in 2000, he signed up for a trip to observe the presidential elections in Taiwan that year.

It was an eye-opener to combative and divisive politics and made him eager to be more involved in politics in Singapore.

"I wanted to contribute my part to uphold our unique brand of politics, which is all about improving lives and to always plan and act in the long-term interest of the country," he said.

Mr Liang, now 50, Buona Vista branch as an activist.

Even though he is one of the rare MPs to have gone through the polytechnic route, Mr Liang said he was proud that the PAP was inclusive in selecting candidates from different backgrounds.

"At a YP event in 2006, where candidates were introduced, PM Lee Hsien Loong described me as a 'poly comeback kid', " he recalled.

"I was not the straight A type and was a late bloomer academically. I only really did well when I entered poly and thereafter, the university."

Mr Liang eventually graduated from the University of Melbourne and also what he dubbed the "Lim Swee Say School of Grassroots".

"I was lucky to be able to work very closely with Swee Say as an activist at his branch for five years and learnt how he connects with people and what it means to serve with our heart and head," he said.

"Swee Say would always say that when we organise activities for our residents, it has to be resident-centric rather than MP-centric and he made it a point to practise that."

"I will always ask our volunteers to first and foremost be very clear of our cause and the purpose why we serve," he said.

"Once we settle that, everything else will take care of itself. The cause and purpose will keep us going despite the ups and downs."

HIS BIRTHDAY WISH FOR YP: "I wish that YP will draw even more caring, passionate and talented young people into the party. Hopefully, among them, one of them will be Singapore's future PM."

Vikram Nair: From political observer to practitioner

As a student, Mr Vikram Nair was always interested in politics.

In 2008, he joined the Young PAP (YP) to get a first-hand view of how policy-making was done.

At the same time, having worked in the same law firm as current Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, Mr Nair decided to volunteer at the Chong Pang branch with him.

While he learned about the practice of law in Allen & Gledhill from Mr Shanmugam, he also picked up tips on being a politician at the grassroots level from him.

"I learnt a lot from Mr Shanmugam by observing how he works at the Chong Pang branch, how he managed people," said Mr Nair, who is now with another law firm, Rajah & Tann.

Around the same time, the chairmanship of the YP changed from Dr Vivian Balakrishnan to Mr Teo Ser Luck. Dr Balakrishnan's farewell speech, with a message about the party's history, inspiration and challenges moved Mr Nair.

"After that, I became even more involved in YP and party activities, helping to organise events. I guess it was an early practice for me in learning how to mobilise people," he said.

"I was really exposed to a whole spectrum of things - at the Chong Pang branch, I learnt about grassroots activism; at YP, I had the chance to learn the perspective of policy-makers," he said.

"I learnt different things from different people and it has really helped me."

Mr Nair ran as part of the Sembawang GRC team led by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in the 2011 general elections.

"From my YP days, I had a rough idea of what being an MP would be like. But living it is a different experience and you get different types of challenges," said Mr Nair.

In his second week as a newly-minted MP, a dead body was found in a water tank at the top of a HDB block in his Admiralty ward and he had to work the ground to assure residents that their water supply was fine.

"The most important lesson I learnt was that every problem is a chance to communicate better with people and overcome the challenge together," said Mr Nair.

HIS BIRTHDAY WISH FOR YP: "I hope the Young PAP will still be the platform for younger party members from all over Singapore to get together, build bonds, share experiences and learn from each other."

This article was first published in the November 2014 issue of Petir Magazine.