A commentary on Presidential candidate Tan Jee Say's rally last night.
by: Ellery A/
Hungry for rallies akin to this year’s General Elections, the crowds once again gathered in Toa Payoh Stadium to witness yet another milestone political event: Presidential hopeful, Tan Jee Say’s Rally. As the rules dictate, each candidate would be allowed only one rally to win the hearts of the nation.
Tan Jee Say would have to pull out all the stops and make best of his one chance to physically address the multitudes. And he did so in front of the thousands gathered in the field and the stands.
At first glance, Presidential hopeful Tan Jee Say’s list of speakers looked like a highlight reel of this year’s elections. Nicole Seah, Dr Wijeysingha and Jeannette Aruldoss were but a few of the prominent politicians and personalities who stood up in support of Tan Jee Say.
The crowd itself displayed a full range of characters; fervent supporters clamoured to the front of the stage, citizens well versed in Singapore politics cheered and jeered when controversial issues and politicians were brought up. A trumpet was blasted at any given intervals and a drum machine boomed in time with the cheers from the people.
An Independent Candidate
Tan Jee Say has termed himself as the most non-partisan candidate and other speakers picked up on the need for an independent president.
Managing partner of an international law firm, Basil Hwang, likened the president to a class prefect from a different class, brought in to uphold the law while remaining unbiased. He said that a president must be the one who dares to say that the emperor is not wearing any clothes.
Another speaker at the rally, Tan Jee Say’s nephew, Tan Tze Yann, stated that his uncle embodied raw honest courage and possessed an independence not just from political parties but independence in his thoughts and ideas.
Heart For the People
Senior Consultant in the National University Hospital’s Department of Medicine, Associate Professor Paul Ananth Tambyah referred to Tan Jee Say as a gracious individual, respecting all individuals regardless of race, language religion of sexual orientation.
Tan Tze Yann painted the character of Jee Say in a more personal way; he called Jee Say a family man. Tze Yann said that Jee Say grew up from a poor background, but throughout his tough childhood, strong values of integrity, humility and compassion were instilled in him.
Indeed when Tan Jee Say took to the stage he told the crowd that he understood and emphasized with the poor because he himself was from the poor. His mother was a washer woman and when he was still schooling, money was scarce. It was through hard work and sheer determination that he managed to achieve all that he has today. He wanted more to be done for the financially stricken in Singapore.
Throughout the rally, speakers noted that Singapore’s political revival had created a rift in the people. A President thus had to be a unifying figure, not on the side of any political party, but rather, on the side of Singaporeans.
Lawyer and National Solidarity Party’s (NSP) Vice Chairman, Jeannette Chong Aruldoss, laid out the argument that would see Tan Jee Say as the candidate most likely to unify the nation. She noted the ties that the other three candidates had with the ruling party, strengthened by years of high appointments with the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the government.
Tan Jee Say, on the other hand, served 11 years in the civil service but not in the PAP. He also possessed strong financial knowledge grounded by years in the private sector. Furthermore, he was the first ever high ranking former civil servant to stand up for the General Elections on an opposition ticket.
Jeannette argued that Jee Say had been on both sides of the fence and was respected all around. He was thus the strongest candidate to unify the nation.
Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) Dr Vincent Wijeysingha and NSP’s Nicole Seah extolled the qualities of Jee Say that would make him a national unifier.
Dr Wijeysingha hoped that Jee Say would lead Singapore to a future where divisions could be healed rather than deepened.
Nicole Seah urged those at the rally to remember that a president could only be a unifying figure for the people if he first understood the diversity of opinions and needs in society.
Face to Face
In an unprecedented move, Tan Jee Say and the rally’s emcee took to the stage in an interview-style session that would allow Jee Say to clear any queries about his qualifications and motivations live in front of the thousands gathered.
He clarified the issue on his jobs in the private sector, saying instead that he had achieved all the goals that he set out for himself. On motivation, he assured the people that it was not about the presidential salary, but the privilege to be a position that would greatly help his people.
In describing in detail his younger days in a poor family, as well as his years taking care of an aged mother, Jee Say revealed a softer, more personal side that would be an important facet in the character of Singapore’s future president.
Tan Jee Say left no stone unturned as he did his best to show his true self to the people.
The prominent speakers spoke highly and convincingly about his qualities, abilities and personal nature.
Tan Jee Say has done his part. Come 27 August 2011, the people will decide.