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Tan Jee Say: The next steps – 3 options

By Tan Jee Say

In this second part of the interview with the Straits Times on the first anniversary of the 2011 Presidential election, I focus on my plans going forward. Here's the question and answer –


3.  What are your plans moving forward? What are you doing to remain politically engaged and relevant? 

Answer : I am considering 3 options. First is to continue doing political work and engaging policy group discussions in a non-partisan context, and in the process gather around me a group of Singaporeans with common beliefs and convictions to contest the next GE. The second option is to form a new party with my supporters. Finally, I could join an existing political party and work towards forming a broad-based platform with other political parties to contest against the PAP.

In the last few months, I have discussed these 3 options with my supporters and some political parties to listen to what they have to say. I will continue these discussions in the coming months and should be able to come to a decision early next year.

A combined Chinese New Year walkabout by members and supporters of different opposition parties in Ang Mo Kio on 21 January 2012



Reproduced below are the relevant extracts from the interview article by Tessa Wong 

Q: Do you want to play a role in galvanising opposition?

Mr Tan: Well, we still have four more years to go, so we'll work towards that.  That's where I come to your next question, plans moving forward. I'm actually considering three options. The first option is to continue doing political work and engaging in policy group discussions in a non-partisan context. And in the process gather around me a group of Singaporeans with common beliefs and convictions to contest the next GE.

The second option is to form a new party with my supporters.

Finally, I could also join an existing political party and work towards forming a broad-based platform with other political parties to contest against the PAP.

In the last few months I have discussed these three options with my supporters and some political parties to listen to what they have to say. I will continue these discussions in the coming months and should be able to come to a decision early next year, on which option to go for.


Next, Mr Tan on whether he plans to join a political party.

‘No point just debating in Parliament. You must want to form next government.’

Q: Which of your three options are you most inclined towards?

Mr Tan: It’s still early days. I have at least three to four months to go before the end of the year. I think ultimately I have to join a political party to contest in an election.

The question is what is the correct timing to do so and it takes time to talk to people, to political parties, to sound out what they feel about this whole thing.

Because it's not just one party, I want to talk to various parties. And the intention is to form a broad based platform.  And if I choose to join one party, it is not against the other parties. It’s just a suitable platform to achieve a broad based objective.


Q: What if the party you join is not amenable to having a cross-party platform?

Mr Tan: I think everyone in the opposition parties wants to have some kind of electoral understanding. So that is what we are trying to work at.


Q: The Workers’ Party (WP) does not seem very keen on having a cross-party platform. So does this mean you will not join the WP?

Mr Tan: The WP, since you brought it up, has its own policy stand on these matters. I think even if they choose to be alone, we can always work towards some understanding.


Q: So would you join the WP?

Mr Tan: I would not like to make any comment at this stage. I think my decision will become clearer towards the end of the year, or early next year.


Q: Is it because the WP has said that they are not ready to form the alternative government?

Mr Tan: I don't think that's the way. I think everybody, whoever is in politics must want to form the government.

Or else how do you say that you want to implement policies to benefit the people? I mean that's fundamental. You must have that desire to form the government.

Otherwise what's the point? You are just shouting in Parliament, or just arguing, debating in Parliament, does it lead to anything, any benefits for people? (Forming the government) is a real thing. That is the real objective for anyone wanting to go into politics.


Q: The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has said it is ready to form the goverment. Are you considering going back to the party?

Mr Tan: Well, I think all cards are on the table. In one form or the other, I think we want all parties to work together.  They are not the only ones to say they want to form an alternative government. There are other parties who are also keen to do that. So it's still an open question. There are other considerations, in terms of tactics, in terms of strategies. It's not just a stated desire to form the alternative government, but the tactics too, how you go about doing it.


Q: Why are you even open to the idea of going to another party? People know you as the SDP candidate from GE.

Mr Tan: I think basically, as I mentioned earlier, joining one party doesn't mean I'm against other parties. It's a matter of tactics. Matter of where I can best complement existing strengths. I think this will become clearer towards end of the year. But I'll take it a step at a time.


Q: What about the National Solidarity Party (NSP) then? You are friends with prominent members of that party.

Mr Tan: It's also another party. All parties are open. I wouldn't rule out anyone. The choice will depend on how I can best complement their strengths.

Next, Mr Tan on how he has spent the last year.


‘Cannot let just one view prevail’

Q: What else have you been doing in the past year?

Mr Tan: I have spent more time on political work, spent quite a bit of time on political work. I have spoken to student groups in universities, societies, the Rotary Club, spoken to people overseas as well, invited overseas. I’ve engaged banks, for example JP Morgan invited me so I spoke to them. And various friends and people, and participated in forums, healthcare forum (by) SDP, ministerial salaries by NSP. So I have participated and given my ideas, and I have also blogged, put up my views on Facebook as well. So this one is engaging politically with people on the ground. In addition to talking to people about what my options are.


Q: Why are you being so active?

Mr Tan: Why am I doing this? I'm doing this to air certain views, alternative views. Not just let one view prevail. So that there are alternative views, the government is not always right, even on the issue of foreign workers.

When (the government) tries to say that without increase in population you cannot have growth, it's wrong, I have facts of countries that have been able to grow economically even when the population declines. So that's the kind of mistakes we must point out, because you cannot let the government get away with these mistaken ideas.

And also saying that you cannot have the Nordic example, because then you will affect our economic competitiveness negatively. This is not true, the Nordics have great welfare states but they're high up there in economic competitiveness. So that's another thing we have to point out, we cannot let the government get away with mistaken ideas which will influence or result in mistaken policies.


Q: Is this all in part to remain visible to voters?

Mr Tan: Yes to engage, they expect to hear from me. Occasionally, not every day, but when issues crop up. They want to hear from me, and I think I’ve something to contribute and say.

TOC thanks Tan Jee Say for his contribution. The article first appeared on his Facebook here.

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