32nd NUSSU Executive Committee elected into office: Christopher Cheong is new NUSSU President
By Joel Chow
Sep. 20 2010
The 32nd National University of Singapore Students’ Union Executive Committee (NUSSU Exco) was elected in a gruelling overnight session that commenced on Friday evening and ended only in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Christopher Cheong was elected as union president by the 32nd NUSSU council.
Cheong, vice-president of the 31st NUSSU Exco, beat Ang Yu Qian, former President of the School of Environment and Design faculty club by a margin of 31 votes to 22.
This was the first time the position of union president has been contested since 2003.
Apart from the NUSSU president position, seven other positions in the Exco were contested.
In his electoral speech, Cheong had highlighted three main areas of concern: the high attrition rate of NUSSU volunteers, the apathy of NUS students and the need to sustain close ties with the university administration.
To deal with these concerns, Cheong listed three strategic thrusts: firstly, “to strengthen the students’ trust in the Union,” secondly “to promote the students’ interests and lastly “to build up the union to effectively cater to the needs of the students.”
He stressed that these changes have to be understood within the wider context of larger administrative changes, and that for incoming Exco, it is “paving the way that is important” rather than making wholesale changes.
According to Jeremy Auw, president of the University Scholars Club, “Chris stood out because of his intimate understanding of Exco dynamics and macro vision.”
One such change that Cheong highlighted was the need for the Union to “establish a presence in University Town through faculty clubs such as the University Scholars Club.”
While Cheong emphasised bigger picture policies that was influenced by his previous experience as vice-president, Ang’s speech came from his perspective as a former faculty club president.
Ang observed that there was a “conflict of interest between the Exco, Constituent Clubs and Standing Committees” in terms of procuring sponsorship funds as these organisations fight for a slice of a relatively small pie.
If elected President, Ang said that he would form a NUSSU council marketing committee that would comprise all three parties in a “tripartite relationship to create synergy between the Exco, Constituent Clubs and Standing Committees”.
He also stressed that the 32nd union should pay special attention to two groups of students: needy students and international students, as the former face considerable financial strain due to rising school and hostel fees while the latter face many housing problems.
The tight margin of nine votes suggested that the council found both candidates’ perspectives compelling.
As Auw commented, “I actually think it was a close fight, and I initially had trouble choosing. Hence you could say that the close margin was indeed an accurate depiction of council sentiments.”
However, as the results suggest, considerations eventually leaned towards the more macro issues Cheong focused on.
Lor Chun Kiak, a final year statistics major observed, “He (Ang) delivered points that constituent club members desired, but these did not strike a chord with Exco members who were allies of the first candidate.”
Furthermore, Ang’s anxiety may have contributed to his loss despite his fresh take on NUSSU’s duties to the student body.
Towards the end of his presentation Ang wavered and told his audience “I know I give (sic) a very chui (Hokkien for poor) presentation”, revealing frayed nerves.
However, he managed to regain his composure and went on to answer all questions in the Question and Answer (Q&A) section.
“He (Ang) did redeem himself to some level when he handled the Q&A with relative ease,” said Lor.
While Ang did manage to present himself much better during Q&A, he perhaps lost out because of Cheong’s electoral strategy to place Ang as his vice-president if he won.
He had said this prior to the election in an article which was published in The Ridge’s September 2010 issue.
As Zelig Dhi Lee Bai Hong, fourth year geography major observed, “Cheong clearly played the PAP card - voting one to get two, where the PAP tells Singaporean voters that they'll still get opposition (Ang) representing them through the NCMP system - which worked very well for him.”
“You have Cheong as your MP and Ang as your NCMP - and ultimately the council wanted a united union amidst the political drama,” Lee added.
NCMP stands for Non-Constituency Member of Parliament.
In Singapore’s parliamentary system, an NCMP is a member of the opposition party who is appointed as Member of Parliament (MP) even though he or she loses in the parliamentary election.
Despite the many twists and turns and front-page publicity from The Ridge, there was a poor turnout from NUS students apart from former Exco and council members.
The timing of the event on a Friday evening before the mid-term break coupled with the prolonged electoral proceedings could have been major reasons why so few students turned up.
Nevertheless, those in attendance did look forward to a good year under the guidance of Cheong, and agreed that the fact that the presidential position was contested bodes well for NUSSU.
“Both candidates possessed strong convictions and aspirations about what they desire to do for the Union, as well as to improve the welfare of the NUS student community,” said Lee.