On 10 July last year, PAP's ex-MP Amrin Amin contested in Sengkang GRC in the General Election and lost. One year on, Yahoo News Singapore spoke with him about his views on the PAP's outreach and his community work.
SINGAPORE — A year after his bruising electoral defeat, former political office holder Amrin Amin continues to be immersed in community work, saying the results have spurred him to do even more on the ground.
The 42-year-old also remains active on various social media platforms including Facebook, where he has 60,000 followers, and TikTok. Aside from catching up on reading and going trekking with friends, he also cherishes spending time with his wife and young daughter.
Over an email interview, the former Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health spoke with Yahoo News Singapore about his takeaways from the last general election and his determination to remain active in the community.
'Not so easy to knock me off'
In a Facebook post after his loss in the GE, Amrin wrote, "Don’t write my obituary just yet. I’ll come back stronger. Not so easy to knock me off."
Indeed, the former MP hasn't backed down from community engagements. He told Yahoo News Singapore, "The election results have further fuelled my passion for community work!
"During my time as an office-holder and MP, I’ve seen the impact, and have been inspired by the work of many individuals as well as groups working tirelessly to improve the lot of fellow Singaporeans. Even though I am no longer in office, I am determined to continue the good work that these groups are doing, and contribute in my own small way to their efforts."
The lawyer first stood for elections in Sembawang GRC in 2015, having been a grassroots activist there. He became Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs shortly after and moved to the Ministry of Health in 2017.
At the last GE, he contested in the newly formed Sengkang GRC, which the Workers' Party (WP) won with 52.13 per cent of the votes, in what was widely seen as the ruling People's Action Party's (PAP) biggest upset and, conversely, the WP's biggest win at the GE.
Aside from Amrin, the PAP lost two other senior political office holders in labour chief Ng Chee Meng and Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min. The final member on the PAP slate was newcomer Raymond Lye, a Punggol East grassroots leader.
At a post-GE press conference, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, "It is a loss not to have them in my MPs team and in my Cabinet, but we will move forward and move on from here, as we did after Aljunied went to the opposition in 2011."
And on Amrin, Lee said, he is "a very promising young Malay senior parliamentary secretary and he has done quite a lot in the Ministry of Home Affairs, particularly for the Malay community on drugs and on other very difficult issues".
Amrin said in the interview, "My canvas is now much smaller, but the heart is still the same." Among other community initiatives he is involved in are charity food projects, homeless shelters and children welfare homes.
He is also back where he started his political journey nearly 20 years ago: helping out Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam in his Chong Pang constituency's meet-the-people sessions.
Asked about how he handles brickbats and toxic comments online, Amrin said, "Unfortunately, I think the scourge of online negativity and vitriol will never be able to be fully eradicated. Keyboard warriors, hypocrites and trolls pay me a visit from time to time, but luckily, my skin is quite thick!"
'PAP has to work doubly hard'
Asked about his takeaway from the poll results, Amrin said, "I think the elections have shown that the PAP has to work harder in communicating as well as providing assistance to those hard-hit by the pandemic."
He noted that the swing against the PAP was not concentrated just among younger voters, but distributed among those in their 40s to 60s as well. The latter demographic group included many who had suffered income or job losses, had their businesses disrupted or forced to take up lower-paying occupations.
"We will have to work doubly hard in the coming years to reach out and lift the lives of those adversely affected by the pandemic, as well as effectively communicate the rationale of the various policies and positions we have taken, to improve our political position going into the next elections," he said.
Job opportunities and security remain the main concerns for many Singaporeans. As such, Amrin said securing jobs for Singaporeans, uplifting the less advantaged, ensuring that younger Singaporeans have a bright future are paramount issues for the PAP.
Asked how the PAP can remain connected to voters and win over those who have a negative perception of the party, Amrin said, "The incumbent will always have the tougher job of convincing the populace that they should continue for another five years. The proposition becomes even more challenging when the incumbent has been serving for more than half a century!"
The fact that the party managed to garner more than 60 per cent of total votes amidst the most severe global pandemic in recent history shouldn't be overlooked, he noted.
On the observation that the PAP could have lost some votes in Sengkang due to the party's attack on Raeesah Khan – over allegedly derogatory statements that she made in the past – Amrin was of the view that there was no single decisive incident in the GRC and at the national level which swung votes.
Pandemic-related concerns were key during the elections and remain so today, Amrin said.
But he noted that PAP MPs were themselves victims of smear campaigns – for instance, the attack on MP Murali Pullai's son shortly after he filed his nomination papers.
"This sort of politics has no place in Singapore, and it is my sincere hope that we move beyond this," he added.
Enjoying simple pleasures
Out of the political limelight, Amrin finds balancing work, family and community engagements far easier now than before.
He is an adviser at ADERA Global, a Singaporean firm specialising in artificial intelligence (AI), data security and automation.
"We’re doing very exciting work in fields such as digital identification, payment solutions, automation and smart cards, and it’s a true pleasure to be able to be at the frontiers of AI," he said.
In early 2017, Amrin married family doctor Shariffah Nadia Aljunied. They have a daughter.
Asked about his work life balance now, Amrin said that he now gets to spend more leisurely time such as trekking with friends and reading.
"I have enjoyed the simple pleasures that were hard to come by when I was in office, for example, spending quality time with my daughter, taking my wife out for simple date nights, cooking for the family," he added.
"I have more time for my family!"
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