By: Misaki Tan and A J Jennevieve
On July 20, the interns from The Independent Singapore (TISG) interviewed Progress Singapore Party (PSP) candidate, Kumaran Pillai. Mr Kumaran is the co-founder of TISG and contested in the Kebun Baru SMC in the 2020 General Elections against the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Henry Kwek.
Mr Kumaran shared a few of his most memorable moments from walking the ground and reflected on his experience from the elections.
One time, it was about to rain when Mr Kumaran and his team were walking the ground at the Teachers’ Housing Estate, and some residents came out with umbrellas, and others invited them in for coffee. Another memorable experience he shared, was when Aunty Jo, a resident in the Sembawang Hills area gave the team some muffins and cake. These experiences, he said made him feel very welcome in the Kebun Baru constituency.
He also spoke about a resident who invited him to his house, where he showed him his roof which had concrete falling. The resident had allegedly made several complaints, but nothing was done about the roof. Mr Kumaran said that this was an encounter that stayed with him.
When asked about his favourite spots in the constituency, he laughed and said that there are many great places, including a historic walk starting at Casuarina Curry, all the way down to the Salem Chapel at Thomson Hills. He also added that Mayflower Market had great food in the morning, offering bee hoon with vegetarian condiments for “just $2”.
“Great food, great people, great stuff to do” is how he describes Kebun Baru.
Speaking about the elections, Mr Pillai said that the highest performing precinct within the Kebun Baru SMC saw 47% of the voters voting for PSP. He mentioned that the results were generally good in the private estate areas.
He also shared his thoughts on the results of GE2020, speaking about both his results and the overall results.
“It’s my first outing as a political candidate”, he started off, before moving on to explain how he felt about how the majority of the people he met in Kebun Baru seemed to be more inclined to vote for the opposition.
Even though he was disappointed by the election results, upon further reflection, he noted how there were 9000 houses in Kebun Baru and he was only given nine days to properly campaign. He postulated on how if he had been able to meet all 23,000 people, the results may have been tilted in his favour.
But, of course, he acknowledged how most of these people may have simply been paying lip service as the electoral results showed. “The incumbent MP was just riding on a massive brand- the lightning brand, and I think he was successful because of that,” he noted.
For the election results as a whole, he felt that PAP may have regretted its decision to hold the elections during the pandemic as shown by how it conceded yet another GRC to the opposition as well as the 9% swing. He hopes that in the next elections, more people will vote for the opposition.
When asked about his thoughts on whether PSP was able to resonate with younger voters, he elaborated on how he felt more younger voters were inclined to vote for the opposition. He cited Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s Instagram as an example which had recently become a hot topic amongst the younger people, with many people christening him as “Hypebeast Ah Gong”.
Reminiscing back to his door to door visits, he spoke of how he met a lady who assured him of her 15-year-old daughter’s vote in future elections. She was not the only one, and he hopes that in the future years, leading up to the next elections, PSP will be able to engage them and keep them enthused.
He noted how the issues raised by the different generations varied vastly- with the older generation more concerned with economic issues such as job prospects and CECA and the younger generation focusing more on social issues such as climate change, gender diversity and LGBT issues.
“There is gulf between the younger voters and the middle aged voters and the biggest challenge for us as a party is to bridge the gap” he noted.
Reconciling the issues of the different groups will be a tricky challenge and not one that can be conquered overnight and on that note, he ended up by acknowledging it was an arduous road ahead and that a 10 year plan was required in order to achieve these goals.