Saturday, April 16, 2011

ON THE GROUND WITH... VINCENT WIJEYSINGHA IN HOLLAND-BUKIT TIMAH GRC

Apr 15, 2011
 
Showing he has a heart for the needy

By Tessa Wong

[Excerpts]

... Of Sinhalese and Eurasian heritage, Dr Wijeysingha can speak only English and a smattering of Malay, and this linguistic disadvantage is driven home to him each time he meets older Chinese residents.

'Hello, I am Vincent,' he says to them in English, before stepping back to let dialect-speaking SDP members continue the introduction.

...

He is determined to show that despite his middle-class background, he has a heart for the needy.

In person he may be genial, but his blog posts on the SDP website are fiery in their criticism of the Government's social aid system. Such ideals were honed from 16 years spent in England studying social policy and practising social work. After returning to Singapore in 2009, the following year saw him joining Transient Workers Count Too, an organisation that helps migrant workers, as executive director.

His commitment to human rights and the disenfranchised has endeared him to party leaders in the SDP, which sees itself as a champion of human rights and more help for the needy.

[Foreign workers can't vote and human rights issues are non-starters for most Singaporeans. This candidate is unelectable.]


In a clear sign of the growing regard party leaders have for him, he was sent to debate with Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Bishan-Toa Payoh MP Josephine Teo in a televised forum on Singapore's future. The TV debate, aired earlier this month, has boosted his profile. In the past, he would be greeted with curious looks. Now, he is recognised by more residents, who wave and smile at him.

At the Sunset Way coffee shop, hospitality executive Li Yingjie, 31, declares: 'Hey man, I saw you on TV. I think you did a good job.'

On TV and online videos of SDP's press conference on its alternative to the Singapore Budget, his slouched sitting position drew criticism, with people saying he looked nonchalant, even arrogant.

Still, most residents interviewed have a good impression of him, describing him as 'articulate' and someone who 'has guts'. But they are puzzled at his decision to join the SDP. A 57-year-old executive who met Dr Wijeysingha at a Bukit Timah walkabout says he is impressed by his calibre, but adds: 'Some people on his team have not attracted good publicity, why is he running with them?'

[A question I've asked too. SDP has too much baggage.]

But Dr Wijeysingha is quick to insist the image of SDP as aggressive is a 'media construct'. He sees it as the party with the most humane, coherent ideology and policies, and therefore a perfect fit for him.

He says: 'We have been involved in civil disobedience in the past, that is part of the underlying philosophy of the party, and I don't think that will go away.

'But you know, we definitely have other strings to our bow. We say very clearly that we want to form an alternative government, and we are ready to do so.'

twong@sph.com.sg

[Idealistic and unrealistic. Unelectable.]

1 comment:

philiptang said...

At this stage Vincent is very likely to get many votes.

I don't see him forming the government. Rather, a good check on the PAP.