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Youngest WP candidate hopes to inspire with his path to Oxford

SINGAPORE — At the age of 29, Chen Jiaxi Bernard may be the youngest candidate on the Workers’ Party’s (WP) slate, but he is also one of the party’s longest-serving members.

Mr Bernard Chen Jiaxi. Photo: Don Wong

Mr Bernard Chen Jiaxi. Photo: Don Wong

SINGAPORE — At the age of 29, Chen Jiaxi Bernard may be the youngest candidate on the Workers’ Party’s (WP) slate, but he is also one of the party’s longest-serving members.

Mr Chen joined the WP in 2006 when he was 20 because of an interest in history and politics. Up till his introduction as a candidate, he was legislative assistant to Aljunied GRC’s MP Muhd Faisal Abdul Manap. Mr Chen was previously legislative assistant to WP chief Low Thia Khiang.

As the role of a legislative assistant involves constant contact with residents to understand their needs, the experiences were “very humbling and fulfilling”. “You do your very best, with whatever little you have,” he said. The issue he is most passionate about revolves around the balance between the demands of a rapidly ageing population and the aspirations of young Singaporeans.

Though he is not a typical rags-to-riches story, Mr Chen hopes his unusual path to a master’s degree from the renowned University of Oxford can be an inspiration.

Mr Chen did well enough at the O-Levels to qualify for a junior college, but he performed poorly at the A-Levels and entered a polytechnic instead of a university.

That proved to be the turning point for him. “It was a chance to restart my education. I took it and never looked back”, said Mr Chen, who went on to obtain his bachelor’s degree at the National University of Singapore before making his way to postgraduate studies at Oxford.

With Singapore facing “profound changes” in an “exciting and uncertain future” after 50 years of independence, Mr Chen said the future lies in an “active investment” in Singaporeans “here and now”. Alfred Chua

About the candidate

Bernard Chen, 29

Project executive of a charitable foundation

FACT FILE:

• WP Youth Wing secretary, elected in 2010; former executive committee member and organising secretary of the party

• Bachelor of Arts (History Major), National University of Singapore; Master of Studies in Global and Imperial History, Oxford University

• Son of a coffee shop-runner father and a part-time cleaner mother

HE SAID: “My ideal Singapore won’t just be a country or a city; it will be home ... There is much more to be done, and as Singaporeans we all have a role to play.”

WARD: To be announced

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