Teochew candidate key to their votes

AS the adage goes, when in Hougang, do as the Teochews do.

The Workers' Party (WP) has fielded a Teochew-speaking candidate in the ward since 1991, when Mr Low Thia Khiang (facing page), WP's secretary-general, won the seat.

Mr Low's heir apparent, until the General Election in May, Mr Eric Tan, also speaks Teochew.

Mr Tan, 55, who was WP's treasurer, was expected to be the party's candidate for Hougang. But he led a team for the East Coast GRC instead.

Mr Yaw Shin Leong, the former Hougang MP, speaks the dialect.

The People's Action Party (PAP), too, has fielded candidates in the ward who speak Teochew.

Mr Desmond Choo, 33, was PAP's candidate in last year's election. Like the others, he is a Teochew who speaks the dialect well.

In the 2001 and 2006 polls, Mr Eric Low, also a Teochew, was PAP's candidate for Hougang SMC.

So, why the focus on Teochew?

The New Paper learnt during the General Election last May that many of the older residents had moved to Hougang from Kampong Ponggol, a community mostly made up of Teochews.

Take Madam Betty Chan, 64.

Her extended family of about 100 mostly live in Hougang because they were relocated there after giving up their land at the old Holy Innocents' Lane (now Buangkok View) about 40 years ago.

Her father, the late Mr Chan Kia Chiang, his two wives and 26 children lived in a house in a large compound there.

The family's factory was situated on the same plot of land, which is now the location of The Institute of Mental Health.

The Chans were allocated flats in Hougang, and as the 26 children grew up, most of them chose to continue living in Hougang.

Most of Madam Chan's 56 nieces and nephews, as well as their children, also live in Hougang.

Speaking to TNP at her mother's wake last May, Madam Chan said the family still converses mainly in Teochew.

One of the first things Mr Yaw did when he delivered a speech on April 28, 2011 was to declare that he's a Teochew.

Mr Yaw won the Hougang seat in last year's elections with 64.8 per cent of the votes cast.

Incidentally, in 1991, PAP fielded its incumbent, MrTang Guan Seng, who did not speak Teochew.

He lost the election to WP's Mr Low.

This article was first published in The New Paper.