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Mr Chiam See Tong, Member of Parliament for Potong Pasir, celebrated his 25th year as MP with a dinner at his constituency on Saturday. Here are videos and transcripts of his speech.
Speech by Mr Chiam See Tong / Videos & pictures by Ravi Philemon
Residents of Potong Pasir, Honourable Member of Parliament for Hougang Mr Low Thia Khiang, Honourable non-constituency MP Ms Sylvia Lim, members of fraternal Opposition parties, members of community groups, relatives, Honourable distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I extend a warm welcome to you and thank you all for your attendance and support of this dinner tonight, being the 25th Anniversary of my tenure as an Opposition member of Parliament for Potong Pasir.
I am also very happy to see so many old familiar faces who were with me the day I started politics (applause) and I thank them all for being here with me tonight to celebrate this occasion Through all these years of trials and tribulations of political life, I thank God for the chance to be still able to address you all as member of Parliament for Potong Pasir.
They were rather lonely years because the Opposition in Parliament was very much outnumbered. There were only two of us as elected Opposition members compared to 84 members of the PAP, so only about 2 per cent of the Opposition are represented in Parliament, although about 40 per cent of the votes cast were in favour of the Opposition. Therefore, it is one of the tasks of the Opposition to alter the balance of power between the PAP representation and Opposition representation in Parliament to make the Opposition representation more meaningful. If there is insufficient Opposition representation in Parliament, its presence in Parliament is meaningless and is not a true representation that Singapore has a democratic system like that of the UK, USA or Australia.
If Singapore’s aim is to build a democratic society and to be a first world country, then Singapore has to open up the system, and let us have a fair level playing field to give the people a chance of voting in more Opposition members into Parliament.
During the 25 years I was in Parliament, I took part in six elections and won every one of them consecutively. However, the real heroes of those victories are the residents of Potong Pasir. They showed maturity, courage, bravery and have made history. They understood how the democratic system works. They know that Potong Pasir is where the heart of Opposition lies. That the one dominant party rule will lead to dictatorship without the check and balance of Opposition parties.
They therefore voted the Opposition to ensure that Singapore remains a plural party state eventually evolving into a two-party system. The residents of Potong Pasir were also courageous. They were threatened with the withdrawal of Government and HDB services and deprivation of HDB upgrading programmes. But they still voted me as their Opposition member of Parliament in the 2006 election to represent them, despite the fact that although Potong Pasir estate misses out on goodies, have limited resources and a promised grant of $80 million dollars if they voted for the PAP candidate. But they did not. Though without HDB’s help, the estate does not pale in comparison to PAP wards. Testament of this lies in upgrading projects, new covered link ways and new and improved lifts.
In my 25-years as an Opposition Member of Parliament, my residents and I have helped change the face of politics in Singapore. The Government is now more amenable to hear the public’s feedback. Most people are now not afraid to be associated with the Opposition. In 1984, when I stood and won my first election, the economy grew and did not SHRINK as predicted by the PAP. When I first won, only the taxis and men riding bicycles waved to me. Later, it was the men behind the big Mercedes, Jaguars and fancy cars who also waved to me. People perceive that there is now hope for more Opposition to come in.
Another thing I’m certain is that it is possible for an ordinary person like me to stand for election, get elected and re-elected. Provided one conscientiously looks after his constituency, do his Parliamentary work and be imbued with professionalism, honesty and integrity. By my example, I think this is my greatest contribution to promote democracy in Singapore by winning the elections again and again and also making Potong Pasir as the heart where Opposition lies.
I raked through my memory to recall what I had done in those 25 years and here are some of the following issues I have engaged in:
1) CPF –Objected vigorously the How Yoon Chong Report which refused withdrawal of balance CPF money by members when they reach the age of 55. The Government relented by allowing to only retaining a minimum sum.
2) Alleged HDB profiteering on the sale of its flats: Challenge by Teh Cheang Wan to build four blocks of HDB flats. I accepted the challenge but the Government did not accept my 19 conditions and the challenge was aborted.
3) Objected to Ministers’ high salaries.
4) Debate on the “Marxist conspiracy”.
5) Call for release of Chia Thye Poh.
6) Fought for compulsory education and smaller class size. Class size was reduced from 45 to 40 and 25 to 20 students per class.
7) Argued against Graduate mothers’ scheme
8) Support for more funding for Sports
9) Participation in Select Committees
10) Attended conferences such as Asean Interparliamentary Organization every year and Commenwealth Parliamentary Association. I have had the honour of meeting royalty and many Heads of State.
Before ending my speech, I would like to thank all the people who have helped or contributed in one way or another to the success of this occasion:
1) Ace Tours and Travel Pte Ltd for their lucky draw vouchers.
2) New Island Travel Pte Ltd for their Lucky Draw vouchers
3) Low Weng Heng Food Catering and Hup Seong for their donations
4) The work put in by SPP members and Town council staff
And let us not forget the cooks for preparing the food (Applause).
I want to give special thanks to Madam Loh Woon Lee Lina, otherwise known as Mrs Chiam for her all her great efforts in organizing this dinner. (Thank you Lina)
Last but not least, let us, the Opposition, strive for a change to win more GRCs and SMCs in the coming elections despite whatever obstacles it encounters from the PAP. Let Potong Pasir be a power base and a beacon for more Opposition victories.
Good night and God bless you all.