Singapore

MP David Ong quits after admitting to 'personal indiscretions'

PAP MP David Ong quits over alleged affair

Bukit Batok MP David Ong, 54, has abruptly quit politics.

Initially, "personal reasons" were cited but in response to The New Paper on Sunday's queries, he said it was due to a "personal indiscretion" which he "deeply regretted".

While Mr Ong would not clarify the nature of this "indiscretion", Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao last night identified a group sales director at a logistics company, Ms Wendy Lim, 41, as the other party in an alleged affair.

Mr Ong is married to a housewife and they have three sons, who turn 21, 19 and 17 this year.

Ms Lim is also married, with three children of her own. She's an active member of the Bukit Batok People's Action Party's (PAP) Women's Wing and was seen in many photos on its Facebook page.

Ms Lim could not be contacted yesterday, and her Facebook page was made private yesterday evening.

It is believed that the affair lasted six months and that it was Ms Lim's husband who lodged a complaint.

A PAP spokesman refused further comment on this information last night. Mr Ong also did not respond to our further queries.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said Mr Ong's resignation was "completely unexpected" and apologised to constituents. "David Ong has apologised but I want to say to Bukit Batok residents, on behalf of the party, that we are deeply sorry this has happened," said Mr Tharman. "It is totally unexpected but it has happened, and we must now rebuild. And we will."

Jurong GRC MPs Desmond Lee and Ang Wei Neng will be stepping in to help.

Mr Lee, the Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, will look after Bukit Batok residents while Mr Ang will take over Mr Ong's role as chairman of Jurong-Clementi Town Council, with immediate effect.

An opposition watcher and one-time Singapore Democratic Party candidate, retired doctor Wong Wee Nam, 68, told TNPS that an alleged affair would have an impact.

As the ruling PAP had emphasised choosing only the best for the job, the electorate tended to expect a flawless figure, he said.

Prof Eugene Tan, political watcher and law don at the Singapore Management University, said: "It's a dent to it, PAP has always prided itself with its selection process, fielding men and women of integrity."

The former Nominated MP noted how in 2012, PAP MP Michael Palmer resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean chaired a press conference where Mr Palmer publicly apologised.

In Mr Ong's case, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the announcement via press releases to the media and on Facebook.

Also in 2012, then MP for Hougang Yaw Shin Leong was expelled by The Workers' Party after he refused to address allegations about multiple extramarital affairs. He has never publicly addressed the allegations.

HURTING

Prof Tan said that by not addressing the intense speculation, the PAP could be hurting its own chances in the upcoming by-election.

In the General Election last September, Mr Ong had won the three-way fight against Singapore Democratic Party candidate Sadasivam Veriyah and independent Samir Salim Neji by 73 per cent of the vote - above the national average of 69.9 per cent.

Bukit Batok Youth volunteer Chong Hui Xian, 28, described Mr Ong as "a very humble MP".

She told TNPS: "He often encouraged us (the youth volunteers) to interact and take part in or lead ground-up initiatives.

"He also listened to residents' feedback and tried his best to improve the situation as much as he could within a short period of time."

The question remains if people will accept a flawed MP. Residents of Mr Ong's ward were divided.

Madam Karen Yeo, a housewife in her 50s, told TNPS that if the allegations were true, she would not accept an MP like him.

"I would not accept an MP with flaws like that because this is Singapore and public servants must uphold integrity and good values," she said.

But another resident of Bukit Batok, 23-year-old student Halim Rosman, said the decision was not so simple: "I think we should judge the sin and not the sinner. So I would still accept an MP with flaws."

Opposition parties declare plans to contest by-election

A by-election will be held soon for Bukit Batok SMC, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Within hours after the announcement, opposition leaders were already laying claim to contesting the territory.

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) was the first to announce its intentions.

Its chief, Dr Chee Soon Juan, said in a statement that it will "continue to push for the alternative policies that we advocated during the last GE and we look forward to be the people's voice in Parliament".

Even as the online space descended into frenzied searches for the alleged third party last night and despite no announced timelines to the by-election, SDP announced its first walkabout for the SMC - slated for 9am today.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chief Benjamin Pwee has also thrown in his name in the hat.

He told Channel NewsAsia that while he ran for a seat in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC under the banner of the Singapore People's Party in the last General Election (GE), this time he will represent DPP in vying for the SMC seat.

Independent candidate Samir Salim Neji, who engaged the SDP and PAP in a three-cornered fight for the ward in last year's GE, said that it was "very likely" he will stand as well.

He said he hoped the ruling PAP will support him as its candidate for the area.

Notably quiet last night was the main opposition, Workers' Party.

"Most certainly, this is an opportunity for opposition parties, and they will be relishing it," said political observer Eugene Tan.

WHEN?

"The question now is when the by-election will be. It probably won't be in March or April due to the Budget. But holding a quick by-election will be critical for the PAP," added Prof Tan, who teaches law at the Singapore Management University.

Last year, the fight for Bukit Batok SMC was three-cornered but this might not be the same case for the upcoming by-election.

"Right now, SDP will have the best claims to contest in this by-election, but I suspect the other parties, depending on who they can field, might be interested too," said Prof Tan.

"In the last election, Mr David Ong won by around three-quarter of the votes.

"Because of the by-election effect, people will be watching to see how far the vote share will slide for the PAP because of this.

"That is why the party should address the speculation to reduce this slide, though it is a comfortable margin to begin with.

"We can also expect prominent members like Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam to feature prominently in this by-election."

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