GE2020: PSP prizes character, not just 'academics', when selecting candidates – Tan Cheng Bock

SINGAPORE — Candidates from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) will go through an interview with its secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock, who will assess their character and not just their academic background, Dr Tan said on Sunday (28 June).

The party chief was fielding questions from the media at Boon Lay Place Market and Food Village where the PSP held one of several walkabouts over the weekend.

At the bustling hawker centre at about 8.20am on Sunday, Dr Tan made an appearance with Lee Hsien Yang, who was announced as a PSP member on Wednesday. The pair, along with assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai and organising secretary Michael Chua, had breakfast before addressing the media.

Boon Lay Place Market and Food Village is a part of West Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC), which Dr Tan has indicated he will be running in, along with teammates Leong, Jeffrey Khoo, Hazel Poa and Loganathan Nadarajah.

It remains uncertain whether Lee, 62, will be contesting. The younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did not answer a question on whether he applied for a political donation certificate – he redirected media to the Elections Department.

Lee has also not be named in the PSP line-up of prospective candidates for the upcoming polls, announced earlier by Dr Tan.

Asked for a comment on former People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate Ivan Lim, who withdrew from the election on Saturday, Dr Tan said he preferred not to respond in order to avoid “gutter politics”.

Lim has been the subject of intense allegations about his past behaviour with social media posts allegedly from people who knew him accusing him of being arrogant, elitist and lacking compassion.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Lee Hsien Yang from the Progress Singapore Party on their walkabout at Boon Lay Place Market and Food Village on Sunday (28 June) morning. (PHOTO: Nick Tan for Yahoo News Singapore)

Instead, Dr Tan elaborated on PSP’s selection process for candidates. He said that while the process was “never foolproof”, he personally interviewed all candidates first.

Similarly, Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh had said on Saturday that there is no “failsafe mechanism” when it comes to candidate identification and selection.

Dr Tan said, “He may be very qualified, in terms of academic performance, but I look at his character to see if he has that character to serve the people first, because my philosophy (is) people come first. Country comes first.

“If I see the way he talks to me and I’m not too comfortable, I will send him to another group of people to assess him. Because to be fair, I might have missed out on some of his attributes... After that... a small group of people, with different backgrounds, assess him again.”

He added that the party had rejected many people who were qualified in terms of academic and career performance but had accepted candidates whom some may consider to have “failed” in life.

“Because I know... he can share, give comfort to those people who have failed, so these are things I look for (and) not just academic performance. I’m very proud that the people I’ve selected, they belong to that category.”

On the same topic, Lee said, “I think many people were disturbed that a weak candidate who might have serious deficiencies could ride on the coat tails of maybe a popular minister in a GRC and that there’s no way then for people to exercise their judgement on the quality of each candidate individually and it’s a flaw in the GRC system, it disturbed a lot of people actually that that possibility exists so easily within the system today.”

Leong added that political candidates who come into the public limelight should be subject to a “thorough check” on their backgrounds. However, once a person has withdrawn from public, like Lim, his privacy should be respected.

As for himself, Lee said he was “born into politics whether I liked it or not and I’m in the limelight whether I like it or not”.

“I value my own privacy and I’m here because I think we need to speak (the) truth... we need to be prepared to speak up about things that we think need to be done correctly.”