In actual fact, bestowing the nation’s highest honour, the Order of Temasek (First Class) to former President Tony Tan should not be seen as “news.”
It is more an entitlement and the most expected thing ever, sure to come sooner or later, like others before him who have held high office.
In time to come, President Halimah Yacob will also receive the Order of Temasek. These are the chosen ones, put up as candidates for the presidency by the establishment cum party cum government, and eventually given their due recognition.
So it’s keeping to the tradition of ownself award ownself.
National Day awards should signify an inclusive Singapore, recognising diverse forms of merit and service to country.
Instead, political affiliation and establishment friendliness seem to be the abiding factors.
Otherwise, wouldn’t there are many others more deserving of the highest honour?
Let’s just name one: Chiam See Tong. He has become part and parcel of the Singapore story, still inspiring with his commitment, perseverance and dignity.
Although not in the best of health in recent years, Chiam is still a fighter and a proven patriot and true son of Singapore. He even helms the Chiam See Tong Sports Foundation.
A few years ago, four students from the Nanyang Technological University did a final-year project on Chiam and Potong Pasir. They paid a glowing tribute to the man.
In their words: “While other politicians have had their contributions and stories recorded in the history books through multiple journals and documentaries, veteran opposition politician Chiam See Tong has yet to have an in-depth book written about his career. We felt he is an important part of Singapore political history and his stories deserve to be remembered.”
An inclusive Singapore would have recognised Chiam long ago for his contribution to nation-building.
It is not too late to do so. But sadly, it is doubtful that that day will ever come.