Dear Editors,

Just 3 days ago, the new political party headed by Tan Jee Say sent out letters to all established opposition parties in Singapore requesting for what they term as a ‘courtesy call’ so that they can formally introduce themselves as the new kid on the block. https://www.facebook.com/notes/tan-jee-say/seeking-common-ground-with-other-opposition-parties/699531060126172. This reminds of me the olden days in China where the patriach of the family takes on a new concubine and she has to serve tea to all his wives as a sign of respect and humbleness. However, as a fervent opposition supporter, I am a little suspicious of this move by Tan Jee Say as I’m not sure of his intentions and where he is taking this party considering that he doesn’t exactly have a good political track record.

When Tan Jee Say made his first political debut with the SDP, many opposition supporters including myself, were impressed by him. He was a OMS scholar and served in the civil service as the secretary to Albert Winsemius and subsequently Principle Private Secretary to Goh Chok Tong before taking on directorate positions with several global financial institutions. His impressive CV and oratorical skills greatly boosted the profile of the SDP star team contesting in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and it was unfortunate that they lost to the PAP with only 39.9% of the vote. But I still had high hopes for Tan Jee Say as I felt that even though the team did not pull through at GE2011, if SDP were to field him again in GE2016, they might have a good chance of winning at least a SMC. That’s why I was quite surprised when shortly after the GE, he resigned from SDP so that he can run for PE2011! Despite my surprise, I thought ‘Ok, maybe he was denied the opportunity to serve Singaporeans in Parliament, so he wants another chance to serve as a custodian of our reserves and as a check and balance of key decisions and appointments in public office.’ Even other opposition politicians like Nicole Seah, Vincent Wijeysingha, Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss and Steve Chia endorsed his Presidential bid. Usually, the seat of President goes uncontested but for the first time, there were 4 Tans vying to be President! If it was only a 2 way fight between PAP endorsed Tony Tan and Tan Jee Say, it would have been a straight-forward choice for opposition supporters. Having 4 contenders will only split the opposition votes and the strategic thing to do would be for 2 candidates to withdraw leaving only 2 to fight it out. Based on ground sentiments, out of the 3 Tans fighting against KFC Tony Tan, Tan Cheng Bock seemed the most popular and it would make the most sense for Tan Jee Say and Tan Kin Lian to back off, but they didn’t and as expected, KFC Tan is now our President.

So now when Tan Jee Say comes out to say he wants to seek common ground with other opposition parties, I can’t help but be sceptical about it because if he is true to the opposition cause and wants to complement the other parties in fighting the electoral war with the PAP, he could have done it during PE2011 by withdrawing from it. If he didn’t do it then, I’m not sure he will do it for GE2016. I don’t think I’m the only one who has been turned off by the antics of Tan Jee Say because even Nicole Seah who had supported his PE2011 campaign said that it was a “terrible irreversible mistake” and she was “arm twisted” into it. To me, if Tan Jee Say can be so manipulative to arm twist a good-natured girl like Nicole Seah into supporting him, it really casts doubts on his character. Another point is that if he wanted to run for elections, he could have gone back to SDP instead of forming an entirely new party which will compete against the other opposition parties. What we need now is a united opposition to overcome the hegemony of the PAP, and not many fragmented individual parties fighting amongst themselves in 3 or 4 way fights against the PAP. This will only dilute the opposition votes and allow the PAP to waltz into Parliament again. The next elections will be a critical point for all Singaporeans as it is now evident that the PAP has lost touch with ordinary Singaporeans and are incapable of making our country a better place for ourselves and the future of our children. So not only must we rally together to vote out the PAP, the opposition must also unite and be strategic in their fight against the PAP instead of only focusing on themselves and spoiling the opposition cause.

Ben Lim

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