Opposition politicians that I met are not '3rd rate': Tan Cheng Bock

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock addresses reporters at a press conference on 11 March, 2016. PHOTO: Nicholas Yong/Yahoo News Singapore

The opposition party representatives that he met with have “guts” and have “put themselves out there” because they care for the country, said former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock.

In a Facebook post on Sunday (29 July), Dr Tan dismissed political commentator Derek Da Cunha’s remarks that “these 7 parties are 3rd, 4th and 5th rate politicians, and that if I mix with them, my reputation will be tarnished”.

Stressing that opposition figures such as the Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) Paul Tambayah is “a 1st rate human being and doctor who cares for the country”,  he added, “I believe that the men and women I met yesterday, were more than willing to make way for better men and women who would stand in their place. They have guts. They have put themselves out there. That is sufficient for the moment.”

On Saturday, the former Member of Parliament for Ayer Rajah met with leaders and representatives from seven opposition parties: Singapore Democratic Party, the People’s Power Party, the Democratic Progressive Party, the Reform Party, the National Solidarity Party, the Singaporeans First Party and the  People’s Voice Party.

On the same day, SDP chief Chee Soon Juan revealed that Dr Tan, who attended the meeting as an observer, had been approached to lead a coalition of opposition parties. In response, Dr Tan told those in attendance, “If you want me to lead, then we must think of (the) country first. If we go in, we must go in as a team.”

The Workers’ Party, the largest opposition party, was not in attendance. The Singapore People’s Party, led by opposition veteran Chiam See Tong, was reportedly invited but did not attend the meeting.

In his Facebook post, Dr Tan also acknowledged, “To be fair, many from the 7 parties stood in past elections because they believed they acted in Singapore’s best interests. But I think some may also need to stand down and serve from the backroom if it is for the good of the country.”

And while he “must help” the seven opposition parties who have asked him to lead an opposition alliance, the father of two said that he has “not decided” in what capacity he will do so.

Dr Tan admitted that at 78, he only has “a short time” to mentor a team to work for the good of the nation. He ended his post by saying, “I want to pass all that I have acquired and learned in the political arena to the next generation. I would regret it if I had the chance to make a difference, but did nothing.”

Dr Tan was one of four men to contest Singapore’s presidential election in 2011, losing to eventual victor Dr Tony Tan by a mere 0.34 percentage points, or 7,382 votes.

He attempted to run for the presidency again in 2017, but was unable to do so with the advent of constitutional amendments that meant the election was reserved for a minority candidate. President Halimah Yacob eventually won in a walkover as no other candidates were deemed eligible to run.

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