Following his recent comments on a proposed alliance of four opposition parties, Progress Singapore Party (PSP) Central Executive Committee (CEC) member Alex Tan has clarified that the comments were made in his personal capacity, and were not representative of his party’s stance.
Mr Alex Tan told The Straits Times on Tue (14 Jan) that the remarks were “made when I posted my reaction in my various chat groups, when chat members posted the ST story on the four-party coalition”.
“It’s my personal view only. I said so because I love analogies and symbolism and poetry,” said Mr Alex Tan.
Mr Alex Tan earlier told TOC on 9 Jan that the leaders of the four parties — Singaporeans First (SingFirst), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), People’s Power Party (PPP) and Reform Party — intending to form the alliance are “like four captains from their respective sinking boats — not even a ship! — clasping one another’s hands to save themselves from drowning”.
When queried by ST if PSP will collaborate with other opposition parties to prevent three-cornered fights in the next general election — which must be held by Apr next year — Mr Alex Tan said: “We simply don’t want to talk about it.”
PSP on Wed (15 Jan) released a public statement regarding the fiasco, stating that Mr Alex Tan’s remarks “were made in jest in the context of a casual group chat with friends”, some of whom are “members from the proposed alliance”.
“Please take note that PSP would like to clarify that these comments are not shared by Dr Tan and the rest of the CEC,” said PSP, adding that the party “deeply respect the years of commitment and sacrifice that other opposition parties and their leaders have put into working for the betterment of the nation”.
PPP chief “disillusioned” by “myth” of a unifying opposition figure; SingFirst chief calls upon PSP to issue public statement on Mr Tan’s remarks
Both Mr Alex Tan’s earlier remarks and subsequent clarification drew flak from leaders of the constituent parties of the proposed alliance.
PPP chief Goh Meng Seng in a Facebook post yesterday said that he was “shocked to learn that PSP has all along not committed to Opposition Unity and preparing itself for 3 corner fights”.
“We can always discuss about avoiding 3 corner fights but they simply don’t want to talk about it,” he quipped.
Mr Goh added that he is “disappointed and simply disillusioned by the myth” of a “Unifying Figure of Opposition”, a description often attributed to PSP’s founding chief Dr Tan Cheng Bock.
“I was still hopeful to invite TCB to lead the alliance until Alex and member of PSP had confirmed they are not interested at all and was preparing to fight 3 corner fights with all “sinking boat fringe” parties.
“It is thus to assume that it is just a delusional myth to see Dr Tan as some “Unifying Figure” of opposition. The shocking awakening is rather unbelievable but accurate to the dot,” he said.
SingFirst chief Tan Jee Say in a Facebook post yesterday said that Dr Tan had told him that Mr Tan’s remarks do not reflect the party’s stance, but are instead his own personal observation.
Mr Tan Jee Say responded that Mr Alex Tan “did not qualify that the remarks are his personal observation”.
“Instead, TOC quoted his title as PSP’s CEC member,” he told Dr Tan.
Mr Tan Jee Say added that Mr Alex Tan presented himself as Dr Tan’s personal assistant, as stated in his name card.
“In view of his close connection to your party and to you personally, I hope you will issue a public statement (on Facebook etc) as PSP’s Secretary General to clarify that Alex’s remarks are his personal observation and are not PSP’s view. This will set the record straight,” said Mr Tan Jee Say.
Dr Tan — a former People’s Action Party (PAP) cadre and Member of Parliament — himself has previously rejected the idea of an opposition party alliance, stating that “it is not nice” to “push your way in and take over control of all these parties” at a party press conference in Jul last year.
Dr Tan publicly indicated that he and PSP are not ready to commit to the proposed alliance at this point.
Proposed alliance “only an idea at this stage”: SingFirst chief
Earlier on 8 Jan, Mr Tan Jee Say told TOC that the proposed alliance comprising four of Singapore’s opposition parties is “only an idea at this stage”.
Mr Tan Jee Say’s comments surfaced in light of a report published by The Straits Times earlier this month, in which it was stated that four opposition parties — SingFirst, alongside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), People’s Power Party (PPP) and Reform Party — were seeking to contest under a new alliance, and that they were looking into registering the alliance at the end of this month.
“I don’t know how ST got this story. ST did not speak to me. But the idea has been known to several parties after it was proposed to TCB at the 2 Nov 2019 meeting called by TCB. So anybody could have told ST about it,” said Mr Tan Jee Say.
According to the ST report on 3 Jan, Mr Tan Jee Say — SingFirst, alongside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) previously led by current SDP member Benjamin Pwee, People’s Power Party (PPP) and Reform Party (RP) — is poised to lead the new alliance, with plans to field approximately 30 candidates in the upcoming election.
In response to queries from Lianhe Zaobao regarding the decision-making process behind the proposed formation of the alliance and reportedly selecting him as the leader of the alliance, Mr Tan Jee Say said: “The proposed alliance is only an idea at this stage and there is no formal leader. I represented it in approaching other parties to join us.”
He also cited a meeting — convened by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) in Jul 2018 — with several other parties that was attended by Dr Tan.
“You will recall that in July 2018, SDP called for a meeting with several other parties and attended by TCB when the idea of a coalition of opposition parties was discussed and TCB was invited to lead it.
“We waited more than a year for TCB’s response and when he did not call for a meeting, a few of us discussed forming an alliance.
“When TCB finally called for the meeting on 2 Nov 2019, we asked him to form a formal alliance and lead it. Whilst waiting for his response, we put our alliance idea on hold.
“We are now discussing the issue again after TCB has still not given us an answer after more than 2 months,” said Mr Tan Jee Say, adding that the four parties’ decision to proceed with registering the proposed alliance was made due to the proximity of the upcoming general election.
He also noted that the parties in the alliance will invite Dr Tan “to lead this formal alliance” after it has been registered.
When asked about the number of candidates the proposed alliance plans to field in the next general election, Mr Tan Jee Say said that while the parties “have not yet decided on the number of candidates to field”, he pointed out that the four founding component parties in the proposed alliance had “contested in 6 GRCs and 1 SMC in the last GE”.
In the 2015 general election, SingFirst contested in Jurong GRC and Tanjong Pagar GRC, PPP in Choa Chu Kang GRC, and RP in West Coast GRC and Ang Mo Kio GRC as well as Radin Mas SMC. DPP had temporarily merged with PPP to contest in the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.
Proposed alliance agreed line to take, says PPP chief
A PPP insider reportedly told ST last week that the party, along with SingFirst and RP, had discussed the prospect of forming an alliance following the last GE in 2015.
“Coming together, we will have more shared resources and more importantly, we can bring all our talents together, and form a stronger team,” a senior member of the PPP told ST, adding: “We (opposition parties) have indicated time and again that we will form a true alliance, now we are fulfilling that.”
He added that the next step for the alliance is to “deliberate our differences in policies, views and approach, and create a common policy platform”.
Goh Meng Seng, the party’s chief, similarly told TOC that the proposed alliance is their “agreed line to take”, and that it is their “desire to regroup and consolidate our resources and talents”.
“We were hopeful when SDP and TCB organized meeting in 2018. But after waiting for more than 1.5 year[s], nothing happens so we decided to kick start [the formal process of forming an alliance,” according to Mr Goh.
When queried by TOC as to why the parties have not opted to join the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), seeing that there will be two political alliances in Singapore should the new one materialises, Mr Goh said that his party had already written in to “ask for a meeting with SDA as we are exploring the possibility of joining SDA”.
However, he said that SDA had “dragged for 4 months but didn’t get back” to PPP.
“We have exhausted all options,” Mr Goh lamented.