Looking back at the past 4 years

Parliament-Locker-YJJCleared my locker in parliament and gave chocolates to the nice staff in parliament who have been most helpful, whether in finding information in the library or helping with my filing of parliamentary questions and in other administrative things, as well as those looking after our welfare.

I have enjoyed my 4 years in parliament. It has been an enriching experience for me. Looking back, I am happy to see changes in the early childhood sector which I believe will lead to child care becoming a higher quality public good affordable to the masses. I am also glad that there is better recognition of the need to have more pathways for late bloomers in education and in their careers (although a lot more still can be done).

There are also changes which I had pushed for frequently which I hope can come soon. These include:

  1. Pilot 10-year through-train schools from primary to secondary. I had spoken on this every year in parliament, as well as outside of parliament. I do hope that more will feel convicted to push for this as an option for those who do not wish to have their children being caught in an academic rat race of constant sorting by academic abilities.
  2. School-based student care centres in all primary schools and greater government support to grow the student care industry. While MOE has pushed for more school-based centres in the last couple of years, we should not stop till every school has such facilities. In addition, I believe that better support by both MOE and MSF can be given to the industry so that student care can become a quality public good with private/VWO partnership, and fees will stay affordable.
  3. Grow our local industries and make winners out of them internationally. This can be in the form of better supporting infrastructure and schemes, and importantly to cultivate a mindset to support our local enterprises so that they can have a strong local base to move forward in the international scene. We will need to have the spirit of innovation, quality and risk-taking in our next generation of local enterprises.

I congratulate all who have made it back into parliament. I also wish a fruitful journey to those who are coming in for the first time. Let’s empower our future!

Thank you for journeying with us

Below is the gist of the impromptu speech I delivered when the result for Marine Parade GRC was announced on polling night:

Dear voters of Marine Parade GRC, dear supporters of the Workers’ Party, dear Singaporeans.

It has been 7 weeks since we were thrust into the battle for Marine Parade GRC when the EBRC report was announced. It has been a very tiring 7 weeks as we pounded the streets day and night to make up ground.

We are very grateful to supporters and residents whom we have met that have shown us your care and love. We are very touched by the volunteers who have put in hundreds of hours each of toil and sweat to help us see to every aspects of our campaign, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning. You have been most wonderful. Thank you!

I am very proud of my team who have run a good campaign. Although Marine could not be blue this time, we believe one day it will!

I pray that the young and passionate candidates whom we have offered to you for this GE will find it in them to overcome the setback in this GE and continue on the journey with you, so that we can move together on the long and difficult road of building a rational, responsible and respectable alternative for Singapore.

Thank you.


Separately, our team were out and about this morning in our preambulatory truck across the GRC to thank residents. It was a day of bad haze that clouded the place. Despite, the haze, our team kept our spirits up as we greeted residents and waved to them from afar. Thank you for your support. The Workers’ Party thanks all friends and supporters for being with us through this challenging campaign. We will take lessons from this as we move forward to the next battle.

Setting off from Siglap / Frankel Street

Setting off from Siglap / Frankel Street

Winding through Ubi / Paya Lebar

Winding through Ubi / Paya Lebar

Residents waving from high up their flats and shouting "Workers' Party!" to you

Residents waving from high up their flats and shouting “Workers’ Party!” to us

Greeting cars at every traffic stops

Greeting cars at every traffic stops

Chatting with supporters at traffic junctions

Chatting with supporters at traffic junctions


YJJ 4th Rally Speech – 9 Sep 2015

Bedok Rally - 9 Sep 2015

Bedok Rally – 9 Sep 2015

Dear East Coast GRC and Fengshan SMC residents, dear Singaporeans. Good evening to you.
This place is special to me because I have many relatives and friends living here. My alma mater, Temasek Junior College, St. Patrick’s School and St. Stephen’s School are near here.

Good evening dear residents of East Coast GRC and Fengshan SMC. Dear Singaporeans. I am sure many residents of Marine Parade GRC are here too! I am Yee Jenn Jong, a candidate for the Workers’ Party for the Marine Parade GRC.

During GE2011, I also spoke at this stadium. Today, I am happy that we have very good candidates for East Coast GRC and Fengshan SMC. I have worked with fellow NCMP Gerald Giam on many parliament and party work. He is hardworking and passionate. Daniel Goh has been a key pillar for our policy research. I often worked with Leon Pereira in policy research on economics. Fairoz is a committed and very principled person. Dennis Tan first joined me doing house visits in 2011. He has since been involved diligently in many aspects of the Party’s work. I am very happy that he is our candidate for Fengshan SMC, because many of my relatives live here, and they will be well taken care of by Dennis when you elect him into parliament.

As you have heard, the Blue sky will come up first in the east. And with the blue sky, will also be the blue Marine. Remember: Marine is blue, not white! Please vote for our candidates in East Coast, Fengshan, Marine Parade and in the other constituencies that we are contesting in!

Today, I want to talk about a topic close to my heart – Fear.

Fear is real and personal to me. The first fear I wish to talk about is fear of being an active participant in the political process.

Fear had kept me from being involved in the Workers Party until 2011. I had long wished to be part of the fight for a better Singapore by building a stronger alternative to the PAP. I had been a critic of policies in the forum pages of newspapers and in government’s policy workgroups which I had been a member of.

Taking the stand against the PAP in the political arena was something else. I remembered that in 1994, prominent government critic Catherine Lim was taken to task by then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for stepping over the Out-of-Bound or OB Markers. Mr Goh had told Ms Lim that if a person wishes to comment regularly on politics, the person should do it in the political arena. I was also a critic, and one who did not yet dare to do it in the political arena.

Many of the contracts in my businesses were with the government. Even after I had sold away my main business, I had to deal with the fear in my close family members. I had to deal with their strong objections for me to be in the opposition. I am thankful that eventually, I received their blessings in time to take part in the last GE. They have since become some of my strongest supporters.

Having taken that leap of faith, I have learnt that I can overcome fear. As long as one is responsible and rational, people will accord you respect. My businesses are still mostly with the government. It has not suffered. I am especially grateful that my alma mater, Temasek Junior College gave me the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2013, two years after I had enter opposition politics. My friends have not deserted me.
For Singapore to have a credible alternative, we need people unafraid to step into the political arena. Today, we present to you 28 candidates. I know there can be more. People need to overcome their inner fear.

The second fear I want to talk about is the fear in some voters that your vote is not secret. I know it is secret because I had taken part in the last GE and we had witnessed the ballot papers being sealed in boxes after counting, with our signatures on the seal of the boxes. The boxes are taken to be burnt 6 months later. We have the responsibility to check that our seals are still intact on the boxes before they are burnt.

Two days ago, I was in a condominium doing a town hall-styled presentation with residents. This question was asked. One of my volunteers, a medical doctor in a restructured hospital, shared with the group that he has openly made known that he has been and will be voting the opposition, and he continues to receive his promotions.

Your vote is your sacred choice. You can choose freely who you wish to support. You need not fear how you vote. I have been voting for the opposition for many elections already and I have not been deprived of opportunities, nor have my businesses been affected.

The third fear is the fear of a freak result. At every GE, the PAP will tell you about freak results in one way or another. Now with all 89 seats being contested, they are saying it again.

Firstly, it is extremely difficult for an opposition to win in an election, especially in seats that the PAP is the incumbent. I know this, because I had worked very hard in GE2011 and came 1% short. The closer you are to the 50% mark, the harder it is to win the extra swing voter. But we will continue to work hard.

The PAP knows the election results by precincts, which they can study to decide electoral boundaries. The GRC system works to their benefits as they can decide the best configuration to strengthen their chances.

In any case, election results reflect the will of you, the people of Singapore. Election results should be respected.

Fourth, is the fear that investors will go away if the results are not favourable to the PAP. We should not be having this fear. Many developed countries, including those with population sizes comparable to Singapore, are able to have change of government without issues.

It is more risky to put all our eggs with one party. What if the current ruling party fails? All the more, we need to ensure the future of Singapore by ensuring that there will be continued good leadership in the alternative camp. This GE, you see many young and professionally competent candidates that the Workers’ Party has offered to you. I strongly believe that as we can build up alternatives that are respectable, rational and responsible, investors will not be afraid. The only people who will be afraid will be the PAP!

Finally, there’s the fear that the PAP has been trying very hard to put into you that if you vote the alternative in, your estate will be in a mess. Your town will be messed up. People of Hougang, Aljunied and Punggol East have shown the way. Their lives have gone on as per normal. A couple of days ago, the newspaper reported that residents in Aljunied have seen more of the human touch in their town. After years of the brave voters of opposition wards resisting PAP’s upgrading carrot, the PAP has relented on their bad policy of ‘upgrading for votes’. Today, you see lifts and estates being improved in Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East.

Our commitment, our firm commitment will be to ensure your estate will continue to be run well.

American president Franklin D. Roosevelt had said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Dear Singaporeans. Fear will only set us back. Fear will stop us from realizing what we are capable of. We need to empower ourselves to have a better future.

Come September 11, vote with your heart. Vote without fear. Vote The Workers’ Party. Empower your future!

YJJ’s third rally speech – 7 Sep 2015


 3 天前,在义顺的群众大会结束后,我去了在如切的德明路小贩中心吃orh luak. Wah, 马林百列的orh luak真好吃,和凤山的有的比

 在小贩中心里,我碰到了一个人。这个人说他学过中医。他看到我穿着工人党的制服,就跟我说,在中医学里面,单单有素质 (“quality”) 是不够的:除了有,还要有‘ (“quantity”)。一个人不可以只吃了一两次药,就问为什么药没有见效。药,一定要吃得够,才会有效。

 这是什么意思呢?新加坡的国会里很久以来只有2位反对党议员。在2011年,我们有了6位反对党议员。在榜鹅东的补选之后,我们有了7位。2011年之后,我们就看到政府的政策有了改善。我们一定要继续给行动党服药。7个反对党议员够吗?不够! 我们一定要把更多的工人党候选人派进国会,才可以继续看到政策改善!



Good evening dear voters of Marine Parade GRC, dear Singaporeans.

Two days ago, ESM Goh Chok Tong had said that voters can have their cake and eat it. He said that the NCMP scheme is good enough for opposition to be in parliament. You can vote the PAP in and there will still be NCMPs to be voices in parliament. Do you know what the PAP wants? They want to bring Singapore back to the dark days of politics where they have absolute control over everything. The PAP just wants a blank cheque to do what they want so that they do not need to listen to you. Voters of Singapore, you, you have the power to stop them. You must stop them!

ESM Goh seems to like cruise ships. He likened the PAP and opposition to cruise ships. He said that the PAP’s ship has a clear destination. Yes, it is destination to a population of 6.9 million. The PAP ship is sailing there even though Singaporeans have clearly rejected this destination. It is sailing away with a Swiss standard of living for selected elites, but a Swiss cost of living for all of us! This year, the Economist Intelligence Unit has listed Singapore as the world’s most expensive city to live in, for the 2nd year running. And I am not sure what type of cruise ship we are in when our elderly needs to collect cardboards, not for exercise, but to make a living.

ESM said that the opposition is like a ship on a journey to nowhere. They are like casino ships.

Hey, wait! Who put casinos into Singapore? No the Workers’ Party! We had rejected casinos when it was debated in parliament.  ESM is mistaken. The casinos are on the PAP’s ship on the destination to 6.9 million. The Workers’ Party’s ship is on a journey towards a dynamic population for a sustainable Singapore!

Yes, a dynamic population for a sustainable Singapore is what we like to see for our children. When one looks at the government’s argument in its population white paper, you get the sense that Singapore is a big factory. We need 2-5% economic growth yearly. Our local workforce will shrink. To achieve the economic targets, the population white paper worked out a 1-2% increase to our workforce yearly. Based on that, Singapore will receive large number of immigrants. It will bring our population to 6.9 million by 2030. It will bring the percentage of citizens in our population to just 55%. In just 15 years from now, almost half of anyone in Singapore will not be a Singaporean. It is hardly a sustainable Singapore. And after 2030, what’s next? What will this government continue to do in order to have that desired economic target?

If we are just Singapore Inc.; if we are a business that looks coldly at hard economic data and at the bottom line, then what the PAP is doing will sound logical. However, we are not a business. We are a country, a nation. We can coldly grow the economy, but it will lead to cracks in society. It will lead to a crowded and divided Singapore. It will lead to a Singapore with high income inequality and where people do not feel they belong to.

As difficult as it may be, we need to invest in Singaporean workers and in our local enterprises. We need to empower ourselves to be sustainable in the long-run. In our businesses, we need to develop confident Singaporeans and dynamic Singapore companies, able to compete on innovation with the world. I have spoken on this topic in parliament on several occasions and we have outlined proposals in our manifesto as well. We need to empower our future. Vote our WP candidates and I into parliament, and we will continue to push for a dynamic population for a sustainable Singapore!

As you all know by now, I contested in Joo Chiat SMC in 2011 and lost by 300 over votes. I did my best to reconnect with residents of the SMC for the past few years, mostly in publicly accessible areas. On 24 July, just 6 weeks ago, I found that the field that I was playing in had suddenly grown 5 times in size. I had to take the ball from a far end and start running towards the goal post again.

I am thankful that we have received lots of support. Over the past few weeks, several condominiums have allowed us to meet with residents. I am sorry that we are not been able to enter some condominiums because permission has been refused.

I recently visited several condominiums in the now defunct-Joo Chiat SMC. I met again with people that I had met during GE2011. Some had told me that they are happy that I did not go away, but expressed their concern if the battle is now too difficult because this is a big GRC and it is a PAP’s stronghold. My response is, “Yes, my opponents may wish me to go away, but I am still back. (In hokkien, they say, ‘par si beh ciao’!) I am back with a dedicated team of 4 others, with people that I know are professionally competent and most importantly, passionate about serving the people. We are here because we want to offer a committed alternative to you, the voters of Marine Parade GRC.”

In the course of our visits to many parts of the GRC, I had found that the Workers’ Party had contested actively in many of these areas in the past, and some very recently. The Workers’ Party had contested in areas such as Joo Chiat, Kembangan, Chai Chee, Ubi and Eunos. Boundaries were shifted at every General Elections, with very short notice between the EBRC report and nomination day. Marine Parade GRC has had constant change of boundaries. Residents in Serangoon Central can claim to have sea view property because they are in Marine Parade! I think it is time. It is time for the Workers’ Party to offer ourselves as a choice to serve residents of Marine Parade.

People have asked how we will manage this GRC if we are elected.

First, the TC will be directly managed. We already have 7 WP MPs and staff who have town council experience. This will provide us considerable expertise to tap on for advice in how to handle a changeover of management and to establish operations quickly. A key priority will be to ensure that there will continue to be proper maintenance and cleanliness.

We will also want to focus on the Heartware, as in H.E.A.R.T. As in how WP had managed Aljunied, we will move in quickly to establish our own grassroots. There will be regular activities amongst residents to create bonding and to build a community spirit. We will also work with Voluntary Welfare Organisations and government institutions to ensure that essential help will continue to be given to vulnerable sections of the community that need them.

I have now been in WP for nearly 5 years. I can say with conviction about something that I have observed first hand. Given access to fewer resources, our MPs and volunteers work a lot harder. There is a greater human touch, something that is coincidentally reported in today’s newspaper about how Aljunied has changed. There is a bigger human touch in Aljunied now than before.

I dare say this for my team members too, because I have worked with them and I know know that they are hands-on people. They have all joined the Workers’ Party first as a volunteer, working hard on the ground in all sorts of activities such as helping with meet-the-people sessions, grassroots events and with policy work. They stepped up to our call to be candidates in this GE. They are qualified professionally, but we did not pick them only because they are qualified. We saw how they had worked quietly and diligently for a long time and hence we want them to be your representative in parliament, your representative to see to your needs.

At this juncture, I like to give a big thank you to the many volunteers who had helped diligently, into the wee hours of the morning every day just to get our campaign here going. It is difficult because we had just a few weeks to put everything together after the EBRC was out. I am so proud of my team of volunteers. Thank you!

Let me introduce the team of candidates again. Terence Tan, lawyer and entrepreneur. He Ting Ru, head of legal department in a public listed company. Firuz Khan, entrepreneur, the chocolate man and a social activist. Dylan Ng Foo Eng, head of wealth management in a foreign bank. People with different and complementary backgrounds but with something common. They are people with passion and heart for the people. This is Team Marine Blue.

Come Sep 11, vote Team Marine Blue, vote Workers’ Party. Empower your future!

Yee JJ’s Rally Speech – 4 Sep 2015



我成为了非选国会区议员。我在4年的任期中在国会里提出了许多方面的课题,其中就包括了教育、商业、人力、环境、幼儿教育、经济等等。我和我的同事在国会上提出课题时一直都按照着工人党 理性负责任互相尊重 的信念。我们会继续这么做,因为我们都热爱新加坡。

我为什么会在2011年加入工人党?因为当时我觉得,一党独大是不健康的,人民应该可以选择另外一个有实力的团队。 我相信新加坡人非常有才华。行动党低估了我们。我们的国家有足够的空间支持多个优秀的团队。 在制定政策有的时候,国会中有更多不同的声音是好的, 是有益的!

在那以后,我很高兴,看到更多的人加入了工人党。马林百列集选区的团队除了我之外,虽然都是新面孔,但是,他们都非常努力地在我们的基层组织活动里服务选民,也帮忙为政策进行资料搜集和研究。 我们的团队年轻、有活力,也热心地帮助居民。这是新加坡走向SG100必须经历的更新的故事。


Dear Singaporeans, thank you for being here tonight. In my house visits these 2 days, I have met so many residents that have come from far away to attend our rallies. Your support has given us strength to press on in our campaign.

Today is Teachers’ Day. A happy Teachers’ Day to all educators out there!

Being Teachers’ Day, I want to share a quote:

“The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate ‘apparently ordinary’ people to unusual effort. The tough problem is not in identifying winners: it is in making winners out of ordinary people.”  -K. Patricia Cross, Education Scholar

This quote stands out for me because this is what I believe is important in education – making winners out of ordinary people, making winners out of Singaporeans. For too long, our system sorted students through various major exams, trying to pick winners. We had ranked and branded schools and made parents so anxious. They are afraid that their children will lose out if they miss on a desired choice by just one point on the PSLE T-Score.

In my 4 years in parliament, I have raised many issues, the most is in education. I have asked for putting school-based student care facilities in all schools, even before MOE started increasing the number of such places.

I have raised issues on the number of foreign scholarships given out and found that many of these scholars had graduated with second lower honours or with poorer results. Just 2 months ago, in response to my parliamentary question, MOE revealed that their expectations for a foreign scholar is still a second lower honours because that is the Grade Point Average which they are expected to maintain throughout their studies. We have some 3,600 – 4,000 foreign scholars at any time in our local universities, at a cost of $25,000 per scholar per year. We spend up to $100 million each year just on undergraduate scholarships for foreigners. Yet we expect these scholars to graduate with just second lower only? We should set our expectations much higher when funding foreign scholars, especially when our universities now rank amongst the top 4 in Asian and around the top 20 in the world. Instead, let us invest more in our own people to make them into winners!

One proposal you have heard from some of our candidates in the past 2 days is a 10-year Through Train School. I like to emphasize that we have proposed this as an option, starting with just 2 schools in each zone, or a total of 8 schools across Singapore. In parliament, I had also suggested that we exclude top schools from this pilot so we do not have the pressure being passed down to primary 1 admission. Only parents who truly believe in the education provided by these pilot schools should subscribe to this.

After several decades of high pressure system, sorting at PSLE and ranking and branding of schools, even MOE has trouble trying to implement what PM Lee has promised in his 2013’s National Day Rally, which is to move PSLE away from T-score into banding by grades. 2 years after this announcement, no details have been released. It seems this issue will be passed on to perhaps the next Education Minister.

Having such pilot 10-year Through Train schools is one way for parents to see how such a system would work, starting with neighbourhood schools. When parents see that it is possible for their children to go through such schools and still do well in life, we can start to talk about making more structural changes to our education system, with the aim of educating our children to make winners out of them.

The Workers’ Party believes in empowering our people, to make them into winners. Come September 11, vote Workers’ Party. Empower your future!

YJJ Rally Speech – 2 Sep 2015

Below is the speech which I had delivered in Hougang on 2 Sep 2015, on the first night of the WP’s series of rallies:

Dear Singaporeans, dear voters of Marine Parade GRC, dear supporters of the Workers’ Party, a good evening to you! Thank you for coming by the thousands, by the tens of thousands to show us your support.

4 and a half year ago, I started on the journey with the Workers’ Party. Voters of Joo Chiat SMC gave me a very strong support, even though I was a new politician then.

I was greatly encouraged by your support. It motivated me to work hard. I became a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament. I have raised many issues in Parliament in the 4 years of term, in areas such as education, business, manpower, the environment, early childhood, finance, and many more. My colleagues and I have raised issues in parliament a manner that the Workers’ Party strongly believes in, which is, being rational, respectable and responsible.

On the ground, I have made many visits back to the SMC, almost on a weekly basis. I have gotten to know more residents.

ESM Goh and MSF Minister Tan Chuan-Jin had said that the WP is like a rooster claiming credit that the sun rises each morning because of its crowing. Actually, they are mistaken. The rooster does not crow to make the sun rise. It crows each morning to tell people that, it is morning. It is telling the people, “Hey, wake up!”

That’s what WP has been telling PAP. That’s what you, the people of Singapore have been telling the PAP for so long and they did not want to listen. You told them that the transport system needed fixing, that letting it being run by private companies as a duopoly was a big mistake. They didn’t want to listen. You told them the prices of new flats had gone crazily high beyond what young Singaporeans could afford. You told them that you cannot peg new flat prices to the resale market and that there were simply not enough flats for the so many people they keep taking into Singapore. They didn’t want to listen. Life was good, at least for them. Why change the system?

There may be a Swiss standard of living for some, but not for many. In the words of former PAP MP, Mr Inderjeet Singh, who had said in Feb 2013, “We can safely say that we have failed to achieve the goal set by the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, of a Swiss standard of living for most Singaporeans, except for the higher income Singaporeans including foreigners who just recently decided to make Singapore their home. “

You, the brave voters of Singapore, gave them a BIG wake up call in 2011 when for the first time, a GRC, the Aljunied GRC was lost by the PAP. “Hey, wake up! You have ignored us for too long”, you told them. “Wake up from you sleep and go get the system fixed!”

Then they started to listen.

In GE2011, when it was announced that I had lost the election for Joo Chiat SMC narrowly, I gave a Thank You speech on stage. It was a difficult speech to make and I then wished Charles Chong well and even asked residents to support him in his work there as their elected MP. But I said, “Keep Joo Chiat, and I will be back!”

4 and a half years later, by the grand wisdom of a small but powerful committee, Joo Chiat SMC is no more. A wise elder stateman recently said that oppositions are like nomads looking for territories to contest every elections. Well sir, I am no nomad. You didn’t keep Joo Chiat SMC, but hey, nevermind. I am still here!

In the past 4 years, besides visits within the Joo Chiat SMC, I sometimes also ventured into nearby areas such as the original Joo Chiat, to Chai Chee, to Kembangan, to Eunos and to Ubi. Guess what some people are saying to us?

Some are confused too as to which constituency they are in. Some have been in a SMC before, some in Aljunied GRC, and some in the East Coast GRC. So some residents even described themselves “nomads”, shifting constituencies at GEs without ever moving away from their homes.

So on 24 July, when the new electoral boundaries were out and Joo Chiat SMC was removed, I have to admit that I was initially quite lost, for the next few hours, about where to contest in. Then I remember some valuable lessons I had learnt from young; that if someone pushes you around, stand up to the bully and take the fight back to them. Otherwise, they will just keep doing it, again and again.

More importantly, I believe we are all, first and foremost Singaporeans, who love our country. We all want a better future, not only for ourselves but also for our future generations – regardless of which constituency we are in. I know we can form a very passionate and good team to serve Marine Parade residents. My team and I are here today ready to serve the Marine Parade residents!

The EBRC report also made me reflect on why I had joined the Workers Party in the first place. I had wanted to see a fairer democratic system, where rules are clear and contests are fair, and Singaporeans can choose the leaders without fear of repercussions. I had wanted to see a stronger alternative being developed, because I think it is dangerous to leave it only to one ‘A’ team. I had strongly believed that Singaporeans are talented. We are more talented than the PAP thinks we are. There is enough for more than one ‘A’ team and that we can benefit from a contest of ideas.

So my mind became very clear. The next morning after the EBRC report was out, I requested for the Party’s leadership to let me lead a committed team into Marine Parade GRC.

I didn’t have to look far for the passionate team members whom I had wanted. They have been right in our midst, serving alongside with our many volunteers.

Let me first introduce you to Terence Tan, lawyer. Many would know that he fought the cases for AHPETC with NEA and with MND, pro-bono, without charging us any fees. He also does pro-bono work for capital offences cases and others requiring legal aid. He is not just a lawyer, but was an entrepreneur who started a popular bar and restaurant establishment early in his career. He had stints overseas that included being the Managing Director of a multinational hotel group with operations from Spain to South-East Asia.

Terence joined WP after GE2011 and has been walking the ground with me for over 2 years. He’s also a local boy of Marine Parade GRC, a Peranakan who lives in the traditional part of Joo Chiat.

Terence has served faithfully in our grassroots and meet-people-sessions. Today, he’s your candidate for the Marine Parade GRC.

Next, we have He Ting Ru, just 32 years old and already a successful corporate lawyer heading up the legal department in a public listed company. She volunteered as a helper in our Meet-People-Session right after GE2011. She came on her own, seeking to find ways to contribute to Singapore. From there, she expanded her work into our community events and diligently assisting in the policy work of our parliamentarians. You may find it hard to believe that a bright, successful and busy lawyer would spend so much of her free time to volunteer week in, week out with us, but here we have the living proof. Ms He Ting Ru, your candidate for Marine Parade GRC.

And right in the Malay heartland of Singapore, is your local boy, Mr Firuz Khan from Haig Road. He has been in the Party longer than I had, since 2006. His service was disrupted when he went with his family to UK for several years, where he started a successful chocolate factory. Then he came back to Singapore in 2010 and continued his service with the Workers’ Party serving Singaporeans.

Firuz’s heart is in the right place. He took a pay cut from his banking career in 1999 to be the principal for the Pertapis Children’s Home, where he had learnt first-hand the issues of those that have fallen through the cracks in the Malay-Muslim community. He is also a hands-on guy, who started and grew the Royce’ Chocolate business for the Japanese company in Singapore and in the region, before starting his own chocolate factory in Wales, UK. Mr Firuz Khan, a hands-on person with commitment to help the vulnerable and needy in the community, your candidate for Marine Parade GRC.

Last but not least, Mr Ng Foo Eng, Dylan. Foo Eng came from a humble family background, studied in neighbourhood schools, worked his way through university. He found success in his banking career, working in both local and foreign banks. He has built up the wealth management business for the bank from scratch.

Foo Eng is passionate about serving the community, and has served as a volunteer in WP’s grassroots and in the meet-people-sessions. Mr Ng Foo Eng, your candidate for Marine Parade GRC.

This is a team that’s part of the renewal story in the Workers’ Party. This is a team that’s willing to take on the difficult task in what the PAP considers as one of its strongholds, to give you a credible alternative to choose from. We know the challenges are not just in fighting this election. We know there will be lots of start-up issues. This is a team with a good range of complementary strengths and operational expertise that can see this through. You will hear more from this team in the coming days.

This is team Marine Blue, because Marine should be blue, not white!  Come September 11, vote the Workers’ Party. Empower your future!

Mr Lim’s two-thirds target of Singapore core – For how long?

Today’s TODAY headline reads, “Two-thirds S’porean core in all sectors a firm target.”

The Manpower Minister, Mr Lim Swee Say had say that “The Government will hold fast to its goal of having a two-thirds Singaporean core in the economy, and this will be the structure of the country’s workforce in the ‘medium to long term’.”

This two-thirds target was first established in 2010. Mr Lim’s predecessor, then Acting Manpower Minister Mr Tan Chuan-Jin had also said this during his Committee of Supplies (COS) rounding up speech for the Manpower ministry in 2013.

Mr Tan had said, “First, we are watching very closely the growth rate of our foreign workforce. We want to slow the growth of the foreign workforce significantly in this decade, so that the proportion does not increase significantly beyond the one-third ratio that we adopted in 2010. Last year, our foreign workforce grew by about 67,000, excluding foreign domestic workers. This is still too large, and we have tightened our policies to bring it down further. We will be watching the numbers closely this year sector by sector.”

I had just two months prior to this COS debate, worked with the WP’s team to prepare our alternative proposal to the government’s Population White Paper. The figures were then fresh in my mind. I knew from the government’s own projection that this ratio of one-third foreign manpower did not hold in their own projections in their own White Paper. So I sought clarifications from Mr Tan. Below is an extract of the debate on 14 March 2013 from parliament’s records:


The Chairman: Before I call the next two Members, I note that Mr Dhinakaran and Mr Yee Jenn Jong have been raising their hands very diligently. The reason I did not call you earlier is because you did not raise any cuts under this Head and, therefore, I am giving all the other Members the first right. I will come to you, Mr Yee Jenn Jong.

Mr Yee Jenn Jong (Non-Constituency Member): Thank you, Mr Chairman. Just a quick clarification from the Acting Minister. The Acting Minister has said in his speech that the foreign workers will not go significantly above one-third of the total workforce. But during the tea break, I took the Population White Paper and I did some quick calculations. I found that the foreign worker workforce could grow to around 45% by 2030 and it is not difficult to understand this if you look at the chart 3.4 of the White Paper, where the foreign workforce growth is growing much faster than the local workforce for the next 17 years. So my question is: how long can we keep foreign workers to one-third of the total workforce?

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin: I thank Mr Yee for the question and the opportunity to clarify. When we are looking at the ESC’s recommendations, I think we are looking at keeping to about a third where we can, and we are really looking at this decade. For the following decade, the dynamics are a bit different. So for this decade, depending on how it unfolds, with the measures taking place, we would aim to hover at or around one-third if we can. I think we can probably manage to do that but it will be painful. But beyond that, of course, as you all know, by 2020 our own domestic labour force growth will basically end up at about zero. So whatever growth we have thereafter will largely be foreign labour growth. So what happens in the following decade? A lot depends on productivity. A lot depends on where we are in terms of restructuring efforts which is why this phase is particularly important. So it is really about one-third for this decade until about 2020.

Chart 3.4 of the Population White Paper (source: http://population.sg/whitepaper/resource-files/population-white-paper.pdf)

Chart 3.4 of the Population White Paper (source: http://population.sg/whitepaper/resource-files/population-white-paper.pdf)


In his reply, Mr Tan had admitted that the one-third target is possible only for this decade. That I agree with. Whilst doing our own computations for alternative models, we had then studied all the publicly available numbers about population in Singapore. There will be net addition to the local workforce from 2013 till 2020, the end of this decade. This is because there will be more Singaporeans turning of age to be included into the workforce than there are Singaporeans retiring. Beyond 2020, the numbers are horrible. In order to get the kind of economic growth the government had wanted in the White Paper, there has to be more addition of foreign labour without any addition of local manpower. How much to add will depend on productivity growth, which the government had set a target of 2-3%. Sadly, this productivity growth has been near zero or negative in recent years.

So Mr Lim’s comments that the two-thirds Singaporean core will be something for the  ‘medium to long term’ is rather puzzling. What is  ‘medium to long term’? His predecessor had already agreed with me that “by 2020 our own domestic labour force growth will basically end up at about zero. So whatever growth we have thereafter will largely be foreign labour growth.” and that “it (foreign workforce) is really about one-third for this decade until about 2020.”

At the point that I had asked the question in March 2013, based on available manpower data of 2012, locals made up 63.0% of the workforce. By 2014, this figure has dropped to 61.9%. It was 62.1% in 2013. (Source: http://stats.mom.gov.sg/Pages/Labour-Force-Summary-Table.aspx)

Mid 2012 Mid 2013 Mid 2014
Total Workforce (‘000) 3,361.8 3,443.7 3,530.8
Local Workforce (‘000) 2,119.6 2,138.8 2,185.2
% Local 63.0% 62.1% 61.9%

               Figure 1: Summary of data from MOM’s website

Is Mr Lim’s definition of long-term up to 2020 only? If it is beyond 2020, how is he going to achieve that because even with a growing local workforce in this current decade, the ratio has been declining well past the two-thirds ratio already while productivity has failed to improve.

What do you think?


A tribute to our volunteers

Livia and Qiqi getting ready to cycle home after house visits

Livia and Qiqi getting ready to cycle home after house visits

One of the most amazing things I have experienced since entering politics in 2011 is the wonderful commitment of volunteers. I am reminded of that again yesterday with Livia and her daughter Qiqi.

Livia first signed up to help WP in 2011 through our website. She was assigned to help in the Joo Chiat SMC campaign. I remember her asking for permission to allow her daughter Qiqi, then in primary 2 to tag along because there was no one to look after her. I agreed and Livia joined us on several visits with Qiqi, a very obedient girl who could follow us on our tiring visits without any fuss.

Since GE2011, Livia went on to help in WP’s grassroots activities, first in Kaki Bukit and now in Punggol East, with her daughter following along on many occasions. Qiqi has become a darling amongst our grassroots volunteers.

Today, Livia and Qiqi turned up in bicycles at the start of our evening house visits. They had cycled from a relative’s shop in Hougang and after a tiring evening of visits, they had to cycle for about an hour to their home in Pasir Ris. I was concerned if it would be too strenuous on them, but Livia said they are used to such long cycling. Qiqi is in primary 6 this year, with her PSLE starting next month. Livia assured me that Qiqi is doing ok in school.

Livia’s dad had brought her to WP rallies when she was young and she felt her daughter should also have a similar exposure. Livia is a busy professional who has to also look after her daughter.

I am constantly humbled by the commitment of those who volunteer their time to help in our political work. Grassroots and campaigning activities are time consuming and require dedication. We are not able to provide big titles like BBM and PBM to them, nor offer privileges for primary school registration or free parking within the wards they are serving in. Yet many continued to help silently, committed to the cause of helping residents.

I was reminded yesterday again of how I had started my GE2011 campaign with just one Party member assigned to be my Election Agent. I was then relatively new to the Party and did not know who else in the Party to recruit to help in campaigning. Campaigning for Joo Chiat SMC seemed like an impossible mission. I had committed to the leadership that I would cover every house that was publicly accessible and will write to all the major condominiums for permission to visit. The campaigning time was short and I was desperately short on manpower.

Family members and friends joined in along the way. Volunteers signed up. Some residents of the SMC were so enthusiastic that they immediately became volunteers after we had met them. An amazing story is that it turned out that two of the residents whom we had met and recruited separately turned out to be great-great grandchildren of Mr Chew Joo Chiat, which Joo Chiat is named after. They continue to help with the Party till today.

The sincerity and dedication of the volunteers had spurred me to make the GE2011 impossible mission into a possible mission. Now, two weeks after the EBRC report was published, with an ever larger mountain to climb, I am once more encouraged by the enthusiasm of supporters who are again coming alongside to help in the mission. Thank you!

* story and photo shared with Livia’s permission

A story to warm your heart

We conducted our first house visit yesterday since the release of the EBRC report. As usual, it was a tiring affair, going door to door. People were noticeably more interested to engage with us now that the report is out. They were curious if we will be the ones that will contest in their constituency. As usual, we tried to cover as many houses as we could given that GE is imminent.

At this house, a lady in her mid 40s, Miss J, came to the door. We introduced ourselves. She opened the door and invited us in. Usually, we would just converse with residents at the door. This time, I saw an old lady sitting on a sofa gazing at us. Something made me want to go in and talk to the old lady, so we accepted the invitation to enter.

She was highly advanced in age, body deeply bent and her legs looked like they were too weak to support her. I spotted a wheelchair nearby, presumably used to transport her around the house and outside. Miss J went in to the kitchen to make drinks for us. It was extremely difficult making any conversation with the old lady. We used a mix of Chinese and Hokkien. Sometimes she seemed to understand, sometimes she would say something unintelligible to us. If not, she would gaze at us or at the television.

Miss J came out with the drinks and explained that her mother, aged 87, has dementia. It became very severe two years ago, so she quit her job to become a full-time caretaker. She said that her mother would get confused easily. Sometimes, she would think that Miss J was her daughter, sometimes her ah-ma, sometimes a maid, etc. At times, she seemed to understand and apologised to Miss J for causing her not to be able to work because of her poor health.

I told Miss J that she is very filial and that it must be really difficult for her to play the role of the sole caretaker. To my surprise, Miss J replied “No, it is my privilege that I have my mother to love and to care for”. Every night, she would hug and kiss her mother before she goes to bed. She said that whenever her brother’s children visit their grandmother, the grandchildren will do the same thing to their Ah-ma. She said that it is important for them to do this so that they will do the same thing for their own parents when their parents are old.

Miss J struggles with the finances. Her savings are mostly dried up. She tries not to ask for too much help from her siblings as they have their own family expenses. She has to buy adult diapers and to pay for all sorts of medicine that her mother requires. However, there was no trace of any bitterness in her. She said these as a matter of fact and ended by saying that this is what she wants to do as this is her mother. It is her privilege.

I was deeply moved and asked for permission to share her story. As she was narrating her story, the image of the recent viral video of a daughter beating up her mother and making her eat faeces and drink urine came to my mind. How did something go so wrong in that family, and how did Miss J find the strength to go through all these difficult daily duties with such a big heart?

May God bless people like Miss J for showing to the world what filial piety is.

Time to review our scholarship framework for international students

I had filed two questions during the recent parliament sitting on 13 July 2015, with answers as follow:

75 Mr Yee Jenn Jong asked the Minister for Education (a) since 2012, what percentage of international students on scholarships awarded by the Ministry have graduated with second class upper honours or better; (b) how does this figure compare with the 97% of Public Service Commission scholars who graduate each year with second class upper honours or better; and (c) whether the Ministry intends to set a base score of a second upper honours or its equivalent which international scholars must attain to maintain their scholarships at each renewal review.

Mr Heng Swee Keat: Since 2012, about 68% of international students on undergraduate scholarships have graduated with second upper class honours or better. This is comparable to the performance of Singaporean scholarship holders studying at the local universities. It is also higher than the overall percentage of students graduating with second upper class honours or better, which is about 38%.

Mr Yee asked how these figures compare with that of PSC scholars. There is no good basis for comparing as the number of PSC scholars is extremely small and they undertake their studies in a variety of top-tier universities, both local and overseas.

The basic grade that the international scholars have to meet in order to maintain their scholarships is a cumulative Grade Point Average of 3.5 out of 5 for NUS, NTU and SUTD, and 3.4 out of four for SMU. This is commensurate with what is required of Singaporean scholarship holders studying at these universities. These criteria strike a careful balance between encouraging students to achieve certain standards in academic work, while giving them the time and space to learn deeply and widely through a variety of activities


  1. Mr Yee Jenn Jong: To ask the Minister for Education (a) since January 2012, how many scholarships have been awarded each year by Ministries to international students to do their undergraduate studies at our local universities; and (b) what is the current average cost of each scholarship a year including but not limited to school fees, accommodation and other allowances.

Mr Heng Swee Keat: The annual number of scholarships awarded to international students at the undergraduate level has come down in recent years. Since 2012, about 900 such scholarships are awarded each year.

The scholarships include school fees, and typically include accommodation and some allowances. The annual cost per scholarship is about $25,000 on average.

The questions were to get an update from data I had obtained when I first entered parliament. In January and February 2012, MOE had revealed then that it awards 170 and 900 scholarships at the undergraduate level each year to ASEAN and non-ASEAN students respectively, making a total of 1,070 new international scholars a year. Budget per scholar then was between $18,000 and $25,000 a year.

A GPA average of 3.5 out of 5 is roughly the grade that will secure a student a second class lower honours degree. 68% of international students graduated with second class upper honours in the last four years, a slight improvement compared to the figure I had obtained in 2012.

At $25,000 per year per international scholar and with a scholarship lasting typically 4 years, the annual budget on international scholars would be $25,000 x 900 x 4, giving a total of $90 million a year (this figure excludes the amount spent on pre-tertiary and post-graduate scholarships, as well as that spent on tuition grants). The expenditure on an international scholar would be $100,000 over the 4-year time period to obtain his/her first degree. I believe this figure excludes tuition grants of typically $10,000-$20,000 per annum per student which almost all international students will get.

MOE had said that the expectation of a GPA of 3.5 out of 5 (or 3.4 out of 4 for SMU) is the general expectation for Singaporean scholars as well. It had said that we cannot compare PSC scholars’ performance with that of international scholars on MOE’s scholarship, as the number of PSC scholars is “extremely small” (5 President’s and 83 PSC Scholarships were awarded in 2014) and they study in a variety of top-tier universities, both local and overseas. DPM Teo had in May 2012 revealed that more than 97% of PSC scholars graduate with Good Class Honours (2nd upper or better) each year. PSC scholars I had spoken to have told me that if they did not maintain the GPA required for a good class honours for two semesters, their scholarship would be suspended.

The question then is whether our expectation for international scholars has been set too low or we have set a target number for recruitment and have not been able to attract applicants of suitable quality. When the expectation is a GPA of 3.5 out of 5, you can expect many of them to graduate without good class honours, as the case has been for many years.

Our universities have been constantly rising in their rankings to be amongst the top internationally. Since we expect our PSC scholars to study in top-tier local and overseas universities, we should also set top-tier standards for those we wish to fund generously for their studies in Singapore. I do not object to having top quality international students to study here on scholarships. Some Singaporeans do get scholarships from overseas to study in their top universities as well. I can imagine how difficult it is for Singaporeans to get fully funded scholarships to study in top universities internationally. You have to be really good and will likely graduate with good class honours if you manage to get a fully funded scholarship from a foreign government to study in their top institutions.

Perhaps we can draw lessons from how PSC maintains the consistently high standard of academic performances of its scholars. It takes in an “extremely small” number each year, puts them into top-tier universities including top local universities, sets a high expectation for the scholars in terms of GPA and monitors their performances continuously.

Since our universities are now world class, it is time to review and raise our expectations for those who we wish to fund generously to be in Singapore to provide competitive interaction with our local students. Perhaps the number has been too large and standards were set too low. Other international students can continue to come here to study on their own, subject to already established quotas for international students. With our universities’ top rankings, do we expect difficulties to attract enough international students to study here on their own?