Tan Cheng Bock says new party will be 'unifying alternative' for Singapore

Tan Cheng Bock says new party will be 'unifying alternative' for Singapore

There has been an “erosion” of transparency, independence and accountability within the Government, said Dr Tan Cheng Bock on Friday (Jul 26), explaining the reasons behind his decision to set up a new political party. Gwyneth Teo reports.

SINGAPORE: There has been an “erosion” of transparency, independence and accountability within the Government, said Dr Tan Cheng Bock on Friday (Jul 26), explaining the reasons behind his decision to set up a new political party.

“I believe the processes of good governance have gone astray,” said Dr Tan, the secretary-general of the new Progress Singapore Party (PSP), at a press conference held at Swissotel Merchant Court on Friday.

“I worry because I see the foundations of good governance eroding. Specifically, there is an erosion of transparency, independence and accountability. 

READ: PSP would welcome Lee Hsien Yang as long as he sticks to party's terms: Tan Cheng Bock

“Yet these are the three foundations for creating trust between the Government and the people ... This means a robust system of checks and balances. This is what the people of Singapore want and this is what they should have - so that we can continue to hold our heads high and be proud of our system of government.”

For example, appointments of “important positions” within the Government must be transparent and the public needs to know how these appointments are made, explained Dr Tan. 

Dr Tan Cheng Bock walks out after the press conference on Jul 26, 2019
Dr Tan Cheng Bock walks out after the press conference at Swissotel Merchant Court in Singapore on Jul 26, 2019. (Photo: Jeremy Long)
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READ: Tan Cheng Bock files application to form new political party

Dr Tan had announced his return to politics earlier this year, filing an application with the Registry of Societies to form a new political party on Jan 16. His party was officially registered at the end of March.

A People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament for 26 years, Dr Tan ran for President in 2011 and narrowly lost to Dr Tony Tan.

In March 2016, Dr Tan announced his intention to run again. But he was unable to do so as the next election was reserved for Malay candidates, following changes to the Constitution that stated that if there is no President from a particular racial community for five consecutive terms, the next term will be reserved for a President from that community.

Dr Tan had also mounted a legal challenge to the reserved election. The Court of Appeal dismissed his application.

READ: People feel 'muzzled and angry' because they could not vote this Presidential Election: Tan Cheng Bock

Also present at the press conference alongside Dr Tan were other members of the party’s central executive committee, namely chairman Wang Swee Chuang, assistant secretary-general Anthony Lee, treasurer S Nallakaruppan, assistant treasurer Hazel Poa, as well as members Abdul Rahman Mohamad and member Michelle Lee.

Members of the Progress Singapore Party at a media conference on Jul 26, 2019
Members of the Progress Singapore Party at a media conference on Jul 26, 2019. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

QUESTIONS ON POLICY

During the press conference’s question and answer segment, Dr Tan declined to go into further details on specific policy proposals which will be put forth by the PSP. But he said that a “broad picture” would be given by the party during their official public launch on Aug 3 at the same venue.

“We will not reveal all, that is the strategy,” he said in response to a question from CNA. “If I told the whole world what I want to do, the PAP will know everything so I have to keep some issues close to my heart and we’ll reveal it as close when the GE comes. 

“But at the launch, we'll give you a broad picture of what we intend to do.”

A ‘LOOSE’ ALLIANCE 

Dr Tan added that he would also be open to working with other opposition parties to form a “loose alliance”.

Said Dr Tan: “We are new but that does not mean that I cannot work with them. I would like to work with SDP (Singapore Democratic Party), with Workers' Party and with all the other smaller parties. In fact, that’s my intention. 

“I’ve been approached by many of them ... whether I can take the lead to form a very loose alliance so that we can, when we come to the general election ... be a much bigger force to challenge the PAP. 

“And that’s our intention. It’s difficult, there’s a lot of personalities involved, but it’s not impossible. I hope that I can convince all of them to come together.”

In doing so, the PSP will hope to avoid three-cornered fights in the next General Election, which is due by early 2021.

“We definitely want to avoid three-cornered fights, that is quite obvious. So we have to do a lot of discussions, a lot of deliberations between all the political parties.”

Ultimately, the PSP hopes to serve as a “unifying catalyst”, said Dr Tan, adding that he wants "to bring people together, from all corners of society, working towards a better system for Singapore, united by a common cause - the love of our country and our fellow countrymen and women.”

Additional reporting by Cindy Co.

Source: CNA/cy

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