[UPDATE on Friday, 7 February, 4:50pm: Adding response from Lim Swee Say]
People's Association (PA) deputy chairman Lim Swee Say says he is "surprised" that former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock went public with the fact that he was uninvited from the PA Chinese New Year garden party at the Istana this weekend.
In a Facebook post on both his personal and public Facebook pages, Lim, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said the PA conducted a review of its guest list a few months ago. Back then, they "decided to limit the list to only ex-advisers who stood down in the immediate past general election", in order to "enable a wider base of invitees to attend the reception".
"It is most unfortunate that PA made the mistake of using the old list instead of the updated list," he wrote. "We are sorry for the error and this is why I phoned (Dr.) Tan and the other affected invitees personally to explain the mistake and followed up with personal emails to apologise again."
While he said he was "heartened" that Dr Tan was very gracious about it, he said he was "surprised that he now brings this up publicly as an issue".
Dr Tan, a former longtime People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament, said in a Facebook post on Friday morning that he was “un-invited” after being told there was a change in “policy” for who should be at the garden party, which he noted he has attended every year with his wife since 1980.
“I shall miss meeting all these friends there again this Sunday,” Dr Tan wrote. He shared that he was initially invited to it by minister in the Prime Minister’s office Lim Swee Say on 27 December last year, adding that he had responded in the affirmative.
But on 8 January, Lim, who is also deputy chairman of the PA, contacted him by phone and email to inform him that it was “an error” that he was invited.
“There was a change in ‘policy’ to invite only those ex-advisors to grassroots organisations, from the immediate past (general election, held in 2011). I did not fit into this category as I stood down in 2006,” Dr Tan wrote.
He shared that he never missed the PA’s annual Chinese New Year party, because he got the opportunity to meet grassroots leaders and old colleagues to exchange New Year greetings.
“The warm reception usually given to me by those grassroots leaders at the function were overwhelming, more so after the Presidential election,” he wrote, adding that at last year’s party he had to be helped back into his car because the crowd present prevented him from moving toward it.
See pictures from the event in our slideshow here:
Dr Tan served as an MP to the then-Ayer Rajah Single Member Constituency from 1980 to 2006, getting re-elected five times and scoring the PAP’s highest vote-share in 31 years in the 2001 election. He was also the first non-Cabinet minister to be elected to the party’s Central Executive Committee, serving there from 1987 to 1996.
When he stood in the presidential election in 2011, he lost to eventual winner Dr Tony Tan by a razor-thin 0.35 per cent margin of the valid vote.