MP for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah: I never feel intimidated
Ahead of next week's Parliament's session, THE NEW PAPER speaks to backbenchers whose speeches in the last one made people sit up
In an hour-long interview earlier this month, the most often used words by Ms Lee Bee Wah were "Nee Soon" and "residents" - as is the case for many of her statements made in Parliament.
The 57-year-old MP for Nee Soon GRC speaks to represent her ward and draws confidence from them too.
She said: "It comes from the residents first, then when I see that it is something that I also agree (with), I will have to keep fighting until I get it.
"I never feel intimidated. Maybe because I am thick-skinned, because I feel I need to speak up for my residents."
Ms Lee's personable demeanour does not mean she can be trifled with. In her 12 years in politics, she has built a reputation for being vocal in raising her concerns.
Her passionate speeches are popular not just among the public, but fellow politicians too.
Earlier this year, Ms Lee made a speech about how false rumours led to her encounter with racial riots in Malaysia when she was eight - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called it "powerful".
More recently, her reply to Mr Pritam Singh from the Workers' Party during the Budget debate garnered attention as well.
Responding to his suggestion of using money from land sales for national spending, Ms Lee told a fictional story in Mandarin and Hokkien about a family who sold their house to earn a quick buck. She likened this to using land sale money, which may lead to reckless spending of inherited wealth.
She said: "Maybe it is the way I delivered it, in layman language."
She turned heads in a Channel NewsAsia interview on Feb 4 when she said some ministers complained about her, and that her friends warned some civil servants may "get back" at her.
That evening, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean issued a statement saying it would be improper for MPs and public officers to do so.
While she feels there has been an improvement in the "mentality and mindsets of civil servants" compared to when she first entered politics in 2006, she believes more can be done in improving communication between agencies.
In March last year, she brought to Parliament her difficulties in getting a covered walkway linked from Khatib Court to the MRT station, even after discussions with the Land Transport Authority and Housing Board. The walkway was completed late last year.
Ms Lee acknowledged with a smile that she can be "persistent" as it is her job to bring up things that fall outside of the ministers' "helicopter view".
"So maybe I talk one time, they don't agree. Talk two time don't agree... so I keep talking, talking until it goes inside," she said with a chuckle.
Her persistence has made Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan dub her his "favourite MP" several times - an "honour", said Ms Lee.
Fellow MPs have told her she speaks "very loudly".
She said: "I remember there was one sitting I tried to speak, to tone it down. But later, (the MPs) told me, 'Bee Wah, we still like your original self.'"
Ms Lee told TNP that she was aware that chatter online concerning her is not always nice.
"When I first became MP, I know in social media there were people who said, 'Her English is so weird, how can she become an MP?' To me, so long as I can put my point across, it is okay.
"I want the minister to register and to understand what I want to tell him. I think that is more important."
Ms Lee said some MPs have asked her for advice - one of whom was Ms Tin Pei Ling, who had just joined politics.
"I did advise her, 'You just have to concentrate on serving your residents. Do your work well and people will (see it).' Don't worry too much or get bogged down by what is being said on social media," she said.