I met Mr Tan Jee Say many moons ago when he was still serving in the Prime Minister’s Office. Like any good reporter hoping to establish a “contact”, I invited him out to lunch. He picked a really, really expensive place, way beyond my means and I wondered if my boss would approve of me putting up the lunch tab as an expense. I am really sorry but that was my most vivid initial recollection of the man who panicked a poor rookie reporter.
Now, he’s making waves again, much to the chagrin I believe of his ex-bosses in the G. First as an opposition party candidate, then a presidential candidate – and now as head of a new political party. I wonder why anyone would be surprised by his move. He’s already a written a book and is somewhat a fixture at Hong Lim Park events. In fact, his speeches are more electioneering than discursive, calling for an overthrow of the PAP G – through the ballot box of course.
What I’ve always remembered: How he kept maintaining that it was not true that the Opposition could not put up a credible Cabinet. Seems he’s done a scan of opposition members and their credentials to assert that the Opposition was more than ready to take over. I wonder what Workers’ Party’s Low Thia Kiang has to say to this. He’s been pretty circumspect, even modest, about the abilities of his party, which has the biggest opposition presence in Parliament. The WP strategy appears to be to act as a check and veer towards the centre, hence the grumbles that WP looks like PAP-lite.
So now we have Singapore First with a logo that some people say look like an ad for Walls’ ice cream. Never mind the jibes…What does it stand for? Looking at reports of its manifesto, I think Mr Tan and his merry band have simply tapped into a wave of sentiment that is currently prevailing in the “intellectual realm”. That is, to move away from treating citizens as economic digits. Add to this complaints that we look at relationships as “market transactions” and pay ministers like CEOs, you can see where the group is coming from.
It’s a good move to put the party on some kind of “ideological” footing even though some of its “initiatives” on universal healthcare et al aren’t original and have been espoused by other political parties. You can’t, however, define the ideologies of say the SDP or Reform Party (at least I can’t) As for the WP’s First World Parliament, it might have caught on in the last election but I’m not so sure it will next time. The people might no longer just want a check, but some sort of change too.
The PAP itself knows that the “economic” narrative, out and out capitalism and raw meritocracy isn’t what people are looking for. That’s why it has been okay about going for moderate economic growth instead of growth at all cost; why it now uses the term “compassionate” meritocracy with the President making it clear that Singapore is a home, not just a “global marketplace”. (Note: he didn’t use the term “hotel” which was a fave word of the past when EMI-gration, not IMMI-gration was a troubling subject.)
It’s also why it promised a more “social” agenda, pumping more money in the second half of the Parliamentary term into preserving a good retirement for the seniors and eliminating heart attacks via medical bills.
What can Mr Tan and his team offer? Looking at their credentials, they are offering PAP-grown clones with anti-PAP brains. Just tick off the scholars etc he has… Then again, he’s got a couple of cross-overs from other parties. People ask why he doesn’t just join a political party instead so that opposition votes won’t be diluted or split. I thought the answer would be obvious: He wants to head his own party with his own platform rather than subsume himself (and his ambitions) under others. In fact, he’s pitching for a coalition, with himself (?) at the head. This is a man with big, big plans. Not as a check, but for a change.
What happens from here? Seems after the party is registered (question: why didn’t he register it first and then publicise? In case, he can’t get it registered?) various policy papers are going to be put forth. I look forward to reading them, and seeing how they compare with other papers put up by the other parties and what the G is offering.
It’s good to be offered choices. But we’ve got to do plenty of thinking before doing the picking…