SINGAPORE - Two opposition leaders who earlier challenged two People’s Action Party (PAP) ministers to a national debate over the COVID-19 pandemic met on Tuesday (7 July) and reiterated their expert understanding on how to deal with the virus.
Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Dr Tan Cheng Bock joined Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) Dr Paul Tambyah on the latter’s market visit in Bukit Panjang SMC. The duo revealed that their friendship goes as far back as 20 years.
This is the second reported sighting of Dr Tan meeting a fellow opposition leader outside of his contested constituency. The PSP secretary-general joined the Singapore Democratic Alliance's Desmond Lim on Monday at the Pasir Ris area for some 15 minutes. Dr Tan is contesting as part of PSP's West Coast GRC slate.
On Tuesday, Dr Tan joined his fellow doctor for the same brief length of time at Block 257 Bangkit Road. He introduced Dr Tambyah to residents in different languages, including Hokkien, at a coffeeshop and took questions from the media before departing.
At the jovial meeting witnessed by reporters, Dr Tan greeted Dr Tambyah by saying "We will take them on", with the latter echoing his sentiment.
Dr Tan had earlier called on Chan to debate him and Dr Tambyah, after Chan said on Saturday that the opposition was not prepared to handle the pandemic. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also commented in a lunchtime rally, streamed online on Monday afternoon, that the opposition spoke as if the pandemic did not exist.
Asked what brought him to Bukit Panjang SMC, where Dr Tambyah was running against PAP’s Liang Eng Hwa, Dr Tan said he and Dr Tambyah were “good friends”. He added that Dr Tambyah’s father was his colleague at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
“I come from a time when his father and I were working in all these infectious diseases environment”, said Dr Tan. Chipping in, Dr Tambyah said, “My father had a lot of respect for Dr Tan. He passed away several years ago but he told me Tan Cheng Bock is a man you can trust.”
In reply to PM Lee’s comments, Dr Tambyah said, “If he was not so disconnected, he would have known that for the last few months, we’ve been giving comments, suggestions. We’ve also said explicitly that holding an election during a pandemic is very reckless and dangerous.”
Dr Tan said, “The important thing is that they think that we are incapable of managing COVID-19, we are going to tell them look, let Singaporeans decide whether we have the capability and also the experience.”
Dr Tambyah added that he and Dr Tan presented the perspectives of a general practitioner at the frontline and an infectious diseases specialist.
“So we have a broader picture and a fuller understanding of how to deal with the epidemic as a whole,” he said.
Dr Tan retired from medicine in 2018 after 50 years in the industry. He first opened his clinic – Ama Keng Clinic – in 1971. Dr Tambyah is an infectious diseases expert who was recently elected to be the president of the US-based International Society of Infectious Diseases.
Opposition wipeout: SDP’s Dr Tambyah
Commenting on his chances of getting into Parliament at another doorstop later during the walkabout, Dr Tambyah said, “If we get one-third, we can prevent a supermajority in Parliament, although to be honest, it’s wishful thinking because right now it looks like a wipeout.”
Asked why he felt that way, Dr Tambyah pointed out that historically, crisis elections resulted in a majority vote share for the incumbent.
“In 2001, they called for election soon after the 9-11 attacks and the opposition was nearly wiped out. There was a 75 per cent PAP majority. So the fact that they called the election at this time when they don’t have to – they could have called an election anytime up to April 2021 – shows that they’re hoping to get a wipeout. And the fact that they’re pushing this NCMP (Non-Constituency Member of Parliament) second-class thing is that they are really planning on a wipeout.”
He described NCMPs as “counterfeit goods” as NCMPs, he said, did not get a full (MP’s) salary, legislative assistant or town council to manage.
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