Mr Samir Salim Neji, 45, was a surprise candidate when he showed up at the Keming Primary School Nomination Centre on last Tuesday, turning what was till then a straightforward showdown between the People's Action Party's (PAP) David Ong and the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) Sadasivam Veriyah into a three-cornered fight. Just like the other media persons in Singapore, we were also keen to know about his adventure.
In a telephonic interview with Pravasi Express, Mr. Samir said that he is getting positive response from residents during house visits and is confident that he can make a difference. Since his nomination, there has been a ruckus online about him not being born in Singapore and about his lack of political experience.
Mr.Samir Neji hails from Kerala, India. He obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering from the University of Kerala and later a Master's in Business Administration as well. He first set foot in Singapore in 1997 when he came here to gain a professional Finance Certification. He worked at various tech companies such as Vishay Intertechnology and Atos Origin in Singapore before striking out to form his own start-up. He has been a Singapore citizen for 15 years and is currently the Managing Director of software firm Anaplan Asia.
Pravasi Express wanted to know why he stood for election rather than adopt a charity or do voluntary service in order to give back to society. Mr. Salim reasoned that having turned 50, Singapore needs more politically attuned citizens if it wants to survive the next 50 years or beyond. "The political landscape in Singapore is changing," he says. "Maybe a decade down the line, I will be known as one of the guys who initiated that. In the meantime I am also doing charity work and voluntary services. "
One of his visions for the Single Member Constituency (SMC) of Bukit Batok is to transform it into a Start-up Village with co-working spaces within the estate. "We might even be able to bring in global start-ups to Singapore. I would also give money to Singaporean graduates from local Universities for them to work on their ideas," said Mr Samir.
On the personal front, Mr Salim is married with two daughters aged 11 and 13. He says his wife Ms Sabeena Ahamed, 39, is “very supportive” of his decision to contest the Sept 11 polls. It was she who collected the nomination forms for him last week!
Even though he is a new face in Bukit Batok, Mr Samir is confident of getting enough votes so that he would not lose the $14,500 deposit. “I'm just taking baby steps," he says. "I have a point of view, which is a very strong point of view, which is to represent the 'first generation' Singaporeans in Parliament." Mr. Samir added confidently.
This independent candidate is contesting to “reduce stress” and promote happiness among Singaporeans. Will the agendas of entrepreneurship and work-life balance go hand in hand; will this ‘start-up’ of his political career lead him to a happy victory, only time can tell.