SINGAPORE — Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock claimed that he was “un-invited” to the annual Chinese New Year Garden Party at the Istana for grassroots leaders this Sunday, in a Facebook post that has gone viral since it was published this morning (Feb 7).

Dr Tan, a former long-time People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament, said that he had received an invitation from the People’s Association (PA) on Dec 27 last year, and had said he would attend with his wife.

However, he said that PA deputy chairman Lim Swee Say informed him that this was an “error” on Jan 8. “There was a change in ‘policy’ to invite only those ex-advisers to grassroots organisations, from the immediate past GE (2011). I did not fit into this category as l stood down in 2006,” wrote Dr Tan.

Dr Tan, who stood for election in the Presidential Election in 2011, said he has been invited to the event every year since 1980 and has never failed to go. “I get to meet grassroots leaders and old colleagues and we exchange warm New Year greetings. The warm reception usually given me by those grassroots leaders at the function, were overwhelming, more so, after the Presidential election,” he said. “I shall miss meeting all these friends there again this Sunday.”

The post had been shared over 420 times as of this morning.

In a written statement, Mr Lim Swee Say explained the PA’s decision to refresh the list of invitees, and also expressed surprise that Dr Tan was bringing the matter up publicly.

“Many people serve and contribute to the community,” his statement read. “We review and refresh the list periodically to enable a wider base of invitees to attend the reception.

“The most recent review was conducted a few months ago. Instead of inviting all ex-advisers to grassroots organisations repeatedly for 20, 30 years or even longer, we decided to limit the list to only ex-advisers who stood down in the immediate past general election.

“It is most unfortunate that PA made the mistake of using the old list instead of the updated list. We are sorry for the error, and this is why I phoned Mr Tan and the other affected invitees personally to explain the mistake, and followed up with personal emails to apologize again.

“I was heartened that Mr Tan very graciously accepted my explanation over the phone. So I am surprised that he now brings this up publicly as an issue.”

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