Dr Tan Cheng Bock turns 80 on Sunday, 26 April. Instead of sailing off into the sunset, he has chosen to brave the storm.
There’s no doubting the courage of the first former People’s Action Party (PAP) parliamentarian to form an opposition party.
The coming general election is the last chance saloon for Dr Tan to turn the tables on the PAP.
Singaporeans have to dig deep and ask themselves: What have I got to lose? If not now, then when?
To begin with, Dr Tan is not a fly-by-night politician. He served for 26 years as a PAP Member of Parliament for Ayer Rajah Single Member Constituency from 23 December 1980 to 6 May 2006.
Dr Tan was beloved by his constituents. In his last election as a PAP candidate in 2001, he notched the highest margin of victory among all MPs, garnering 88 per cent of the votes.
Dr Tan’s popular touch comes from his innate ability to relate to people from all walks of life. For decades, he was known as the Ama Keng doctor, his clinic located off Lim Chu Kang. More than just a doctor, he became the go-to-guy for mediation in family feuds and land disputes.
We have to look back at Dr Tan’s record as a PAP MP. He repeatedly urged the government to put Singaporeans’ interests first, instead of turning the spotlight on attracting foreign talents. In the process, he even earned a rebuke from Lee Kuan Yew.
Dr Tan also protested vehemently against the Nominated Member of Parliament scheme on the grounds that MPs have to be elected by the people. He was the only PAP MP to vote against it – twice.
So if Dr Tan wasn’t a nodding dog as a PAP MP, what can we expect from him as an opposition MP?
He would be a combative but constructive critic. He would vociferously press for greater accountability and transparency. He would be an assertive check and balance against the undermining of good governance.
As Dr Tan put it: “I believe the processes of good governance have gone astray. I worry because I see the foundations of good governance eroding.”
He said he would also probe into the reserves, Temasek and CPF: “Now these things, we all can shout till the cows come home (but it’s) no use, if you’re not in the House.”
Doesn’t it appear that Singaporeans have nothing to lose by sending Dr Tan to Parliament as a Progress Singapore Party MP?
Still, we have to accept that there are plenty among us who would say they don’t need more questions asked in Parliament, they don’t want greater transparency and accountability and better governance, they don’t wish to know more about Temasek, our CPF and our reserves.
For whom ignorance is bliss, there is nothing more to be said.