Tan Kin Lian the voice of the lives he has touched

A commentary on Presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian’s rally last night.

by: Yvonne Ho/
pictures: Shawn Danker/

Men and women of various backgrounds spoke  at Tan Kin Lian’s Presidential Election rally on Wednesday evening at the Yio Chu Kang Stadium. These included a teacher, a netballer-turned-farmer, an ex-CEO of Television Corporation of Singapore, and an ex-Secretary-General of an opposition party.

His family also spoke at the rally – his brother Albert Tan, his older daughter Tan Su Ling and his wife, Vivian Tan – making her the first spouse of any of the Presidential candidates to speak at a rally.

The speakers spoke at length about Mr Tan Kin Lian’s character and his actions, linking it with his Hi-5 election symbol which represented his five values.

Two common threads woven throughout the speeches were Mr Tan’s willingness to speak out for investors who were mis-sold products and lost money during the Lehmann Brother collapse; and his independence of any political party, with emphasis that his time as a PAP member was mostly working with the grassroots.

Besides the linking of speeches with the campaign symbol, speeches made covered all four languages and a few Chinese dialects.

Tan Kin Lian himself spoke in the four official languages, tying in with the campaign motto of being the ‘Voice of the People’.

Many of the speakers at the rally have known Tan Kin Lian for over twenty years, giving credence to their knowledge and confidence of his good character.

However, not much was addressed regarding a President being more than the voice of the people.

His knowledge of finance, economics and his ability to guard the reserves was spoken of, but what his stand was regarding other purviews of the President like detainment and clemency appeals for the death penalty was not addressed.

A lot was said about caring for the poor, but not much was mentioned about other marginalized groups.

Crowd response

The rally was well organized. Campaign team members went around distributing free whistles, cards, flags and clappers to the crowd.

Though the speakers were all good – interesting, articulate and sincere – the crowd was largely unresponsive.

With a turnout of  about 2000, the field was not even a third full. However, the strategic positioning of the campaign cheer teams in various parts of the field helped to keep the mood positive.

The crowd was the most responsive only when speakers made comments about government policies gone wrong.  Otherwise, attendees were mostly watchful and quiet and clapped and cheered courteously at the end of each speaker’s turn.

The most fiery and crowd rallying speakers of the evening was Ivy Singh-Lim who spoke in the first half and Tan Kin Lian’s older daughter, Tan Su Ling, who was the last speaker of the evening. They roused the loudest cheers from the crowd for Tan Kin Lian.

So, is Tan Kin Lian your voice?

I spoke to several people – of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian ethnicity, men and women of various ages – asking them if they thought Mr Tan Kin Lian was the voice of the people. Most of them were unsure.

Nick, who was also undecided who to vote for, said that both Tan Jee Say and Tan Kin Lian brought up a lot of good points and he will weigh their points to make a decision.

Lesley, a retiree, joked “Too many choices. So, depending on my mood, see my inspiration on that day”.

However, people were still keeping an open mind to listen to all the candidates. Seto Weng Kit and Chern Hui, have narrowed their list down to two candidates – Tan Cheng Bock and Tan Jee Say – yet they were at Tan Kin Lian’s rally to do their duty to listen to all candidates.

Jeffrey, did not think Tan Kin Lian was the voice of the people, but he came to the rally with an open mind to get an idea on Tan Kin Lian’s stand.

Jordan, a member of the audience, thought Tan Kin Lian truly represented the people and she feels he is independent and had stood up for people affected by the Lehman Brothers collapse.

A young Indian man also told us after the rally, that besides Tony Tan, he didn’t know who else was contesting and that quite frankly, he did not care who else was. Tan Kin Lian had extended a helping hand to him in the past; he would vote for him.

Total team support

The supporters of Tan Kin Lian though, were truly behind him. The campaign cheering squads’ voices were spontaneous and loud.

Though unhappy with the current government policies and the number of voiceless poor, it cannot be said that these sentiments will translate to votes for Tan Kin Lian.

The President is more than someone who speaks out for the people; and even so, many are still unsure if Tan Kin Lian truly represents their voice and their aspirations.

For his supporters though, he had touched their lives and spoke up for them, he is truly their Voice.