Tan Cheng Bock visits Ghim Moh, Tiong Bahru during first Progress Singapore Party walkabout
SINGAPORE: About 300 members and volunteers of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) fanned out across the island on Sunday morning (Sep 29) for its first walkabout, with party secretary-general Dr Tan Cheng Bock visiting Ghim Moh and Tiong Bahru.
The walkabout for Singapore's latest political party covered all 29 constituencies, with Dr Tan first joining a team at Ghim Moh Market & Food Centre, before heading to Tiong Bahru market.
Speaking to reporters at his home after the walkabout, Dr Tan said that he and the party got a positive reception.
"From my angle, the two places I visited, the response was very good, I’m quite surprised that many of them actually know my name," he said. "But I also found out that they are not so sure about the PSP, because the PSP is so new."
The purpose of the walkabout - which the PSP called "29 on 29" - was so that Singaporeans could get to know the party better, assistant secretary-general Anthony Lee said.
There was no particular significance to Dr Tan's visit to Ghim Moh and Tiong Bahru, said PSP member Michelle Lee.
"Of course many people would want to see Doc (Tan) - we just had to consider what was easily accessible for him, we didn’t want it to be too tiring for Doc. It just happened, no meaning assigned to (it)," she said.
"Currently, our objective is to promote awareness about PSP ... So they become familiar with us, familiar with Dr Tan, familiar with the party as a whole, what we stand for."
Ghim Moh is located within the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, which was won by the People's Action Party (PAP) with 66.6 per cent of the vote against the Singapore Democratic Party in the 2015 General Election.
Tanjong Pagar GRC, where Tiong Bahru is located, was helmed by former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew for years. It was contested for the first time in the 2015 election, with the PAP winning 77.7 per cent of the vote.
Dr Tan, who has been tightlipped about PSP's policies and election strategy, also emphasised that the choice of locations was "random".
"It is random," said the retired doctor, who was a PAP Member of Parliament for Ayer Rajah from 1980 to 2006. "I could have gone to Ang Mo Kio, I could have gone to Nee Soon."
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.
He 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 was no president from a particular racial community for five consecutive terms, the next term will be reserved for that community.
Dr Tan mounted a legal challenge to the reserved election but the Court of Appeal dismissed his application.
A "FRIENDLY POLITICAL PARTY"
Despite being a new party, the PSP has seen "growing" membership, said Ms Lee. The party declined to disclose membership figures, but said that their youngest member was 17 years old.
"We are very encouraged by the people who have come forward to support us and our growing membership is also an indication of that," said Ms Lee.
Dr Tan added: "It is not the numbers that we are looking for, we are also looking for the quality of people and the commitment."
One of those who supports the principles and values of the Progress Singapore Party is the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Lee Hsien Yang.
"Whether he joins me or he doesn’t join me actually is not important at all but the fact that he sympathises with my cause, he identifies the processes that I want to take for the future of Singapore," Dr Tan said, when asked if Mr Lee Hsien Yang has joined PSP.
"Because he is also worried about the processes, he is also worried about the governance."
Calling the PSP a "friendly political party", Dr Tan stressed the need for his team to maintain good relationships with other opposition parties and well as the PAP.
"I think we should forget about this ‘If you’re not with me, you’re against me’ (mindset), no, we must change that, we should throw this statement out," he said.
"You’re not with me doesn’t mean that I’m against you. It’s just that we have a different opinion, we have a different way of doing things."
For the walkabout for instance, the PSP had sent out a "friendly courtesy note" to the other opposition parties, added Mr Lee.
During his visit to Tiong Bahru market, Dr Tan ran into MP Indranee Rajah, and they shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.
He said: "Her PAP supporters were all very friendly and I also know most of them ... So I’m quite happy that the relationship is not confrontational."
"Its to nice to see people pop by occasionally," said Ms Indranee, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, to reporters. "My priority is the residents in the constituency and I work on the basis that you have to work hard, you have to serve residents."
When asked by reporters for his response to Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong's comments last month that said he was saddened by how his long-time friend had "lost his way", Dr Tan declined to respond.
“I will never talk about my friend in public. That’s my answer. I won’t go into that as respect for my friend," he said.
ESM Goh later posted on Facebook: "PSP eyeing Marine Parade. 'Et tu, Brute?'"