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Photo from Minister Tan's Facebook page.

Minister Tan: Unfortunate for Mr Png and colleagues to politicise the special clearance for him and his grassroots

Minister Tan Chuan-Jin hits back at reports about him and his grassroots leaders being given special clearance at Tuas Immigration Checkpoint on Jul 17, and said that it is unfortunate that MP for Hougang, Mr Png Eng Huat and his colleagues chose to politicise the issue.

The Minister for Social and Family Development said in a Facebook posting on July 19 that he joined his residents on a one-day durian trip to JB on Sunday as well as to make an official visit to the Deputy Home Affairs Minister's Hari Raya Open House. He added that he travelled by bus so that he could be with his residents and volunteers during the trip.

Just yesterday, Mr Png noted in his Facebook post that a counter was opened specially for Minister Tan who was also in Malaysia to join his residents for a tour. He added that while most people in the queue probably did not mind the counter being specially opened for Minister Tan as being a Minister does come with privileges, it is somewhat unacceptable that an entourage of grassroots leaders and members with shopping bags in tow also enjoyed the privilege of fast clearance at the custom without needing to join the crowd.

Mr Png noted that no one else from the other queues could use that specially opened counter.

Just this morning, Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) confirmed Mr Png's recollection of events and clarified matters from its perspective via a post on its Facebook fanpage.

In his explanation of why the grassroots leaders were allowed to use the special clearance counter, Minsiter Tan wrote, "Mr Png seems to accept that it's reasonable that our office holders get facilitated, if so, then surely the others in that bus need to be cleared as well so that the bus can leave and not add to the vehicular queues there."

Minister Tan slammed Mr Png in his posting by saying, "But the purpose of his post, and that of his compatriots, was clear. It was not about the old folks. It was aimed at stirring hate and anger, not only to be directed at me, which I can understand politically, but also at my residents and volunteers (who organised as well as helped guide each bus), as well as our officers who secure our borders. It's unfortunate that he and his colleagues chose to politicise the issue."

Mr Tan had kept silent about Mr Png's posting till ICA released their version of what had happened.

Below is Minister Tan's clarification and comments in full

I joined my residents on a one-day durian trip to JB on Sunday as well as to make an official visit to the Deputy Home Affairs Minister's Hari Raya Open House. It was a good visit as we discussed a range of issues including security concerns we all faced.

I travelled by bus so that I could be with my residents and volunteers during the trip. It is not easy to plan for and organize these trips, especially when there are so many people and when our residents visited various locations. But our grassroots leaders did a great job and it was a meaningful experience for most, if not all our residents.

At day's end, I bid farewell to every resident and sent them off after dinner. One by one we dispatched the 20 buses as they proceeded independently back to the different alighting points, so that residents didn't have to commute too far to get home. We tracked the progress with the respective bus ICs.

On the return journey, ICA facilitated the clearance for me and my security officers who were carrying their firearms, as well as the residents and volunteers who were with me on my bus.

Our ICA officers do not have an easy responsibility. Cross border traffic at the causeway is one of the highest in the world. They have to maintain security while also trying to ensure a smooth flow of people entering and departing daily. I know because I too have been in the queues when on personal trips.

I had the impression Mr Png waited a very long time. He also lamented about old folks having difficulties in the queues. ICA checked their cameras to ascertain the waiting time. He carefully omits to mention that he waited for all of 30 mins. I actually bumped into Louis Ng too. He and his delegation were also in the queue for about half an hour or so.

Mr Png seems to accept that it's reasonable that our office holders get facilitated, if so, then surely the others in that bus need to be cleared as well so that the bus can leave and not add to the vehicular queues there.

But the purpose of his post, and that of his compatriots, was clear. It was not about the old folks. It was aimed at stirring hate and anger, not only to be directed at me, which I can understand politically, but also at my residents and volunteers (who organised as well as helped guide each bus), as well as our officers who secure our borders. It's unfortunate that he and his colleagues chose to politicise the issue.

Mr Png knows that it is standard procedure, all around the world, that Ministers, both from the home country and from visiting countries, get facilitated through immigration. When our Ministers visit overseas officially, they get facilitated, and likewise when Ministers from overseas visit us, they also get facilitated.

And oh, by the way, any traveler who requires special assistance can approach our ICA officers on duty. I believe it is more effective and real to assist our fellow Singaporeans in this way.