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Thursday January 31st 2019

Dr Tan Cheng Bock, opposition politics and a new dawn for Singapore

Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s announcement of his intention to start a new party has brought forth alot of cheers and hope to the opposition camp. Its the first time that any ex-PAP MP has switched camp so deliberately and many have hope that it will provide the impetus for a split within the weakened PAP camp.

There are the occasional whimper from aggrieved former PAP MPs who could not agree with the policies of the incumbent but none has the guts and more importantly the stature to raise a team and form a political party.

Understandably, Dr Tan has gained much from the experience of standing for the Presidential Election two terms ago and lost by a narrow margin to the elected President Tony Tan but it has raised his profile considerably – from being a PAP white man to someone who could rally the country and speak for the common people.

His failure to stand for the recent PE – notably against the appointed woman President Halimah Yacob – has irked the doctor to no end and he has vowed to take his dissatisfaction to the highest level. So his decision to start a political party to challenge the incumbent does not surprised many.

At the ripe age of 78 years old, Dr Tan not only commands respect but held a considerable amount of clout by frequently championing for causes close to the heart of the common people. Even during his several terms as a PAP MP previously, he has gone against the grain and raised issues that are not in line with party politics – often behaving like one from the opposition camp.

During his rally speeches at the PE which he contested, he spoke alot about minimum wages, transparency of sovereign funds and the monopoly of power within a single party – issues that troubled many Singaporeans but have no where to channel their frustration to. Dr Tan frequently reminded many Singaporeans that he is outspoken and will vehemently speak out against any policies unhesitatingly even though he is a ex-PAP MP.

However, despite the many benefits he could bring to a system that is crying out for a strong alternative voice, some critics have questioned whether he is able to swing the hearts and minds of hard-core opposition supporters who have always view any man in white with suspicion. Will Dr Tan behave and think like a PAP man if he is being elected to be an MP in the opposite camp?

Will a leopard change it’s spot and sometimes even relent in the face of immense pressure from going too hard against his former master?

Already, several PAP MPs have spoken against the doctor for forming a new party and will Dr Tan then take a few steps back when the political pressure pile up especially during the soon-coming election campaign?

Will the frequently-used dirty word “traitor” push him back from giving his best as an alternative MP if he is being elected? The incumbent will not hold back and likely unleash hell on this prodigal son who may even usher the start of a direct break from PAP’s total domination if things will to go to the good doctor’s way.

His deliberate total switch from the white side has given hope to many pro-PAP supporters who are aghast with what the authorities have being doing for the past decade but could not immediately quell their loyalty and vote for any opposition party yet. Dr Tan has given them that added incentive to vote for an alternative voice – no less thrusted by a trust-worthy former white man.

Dr Tan to his credit will likely give his best despite the anticipated fierce backlash and hold his ground in his honourable wish to provide a alternative voice to the masses. His performance in the contested PE has convinced many that he will not yield to his former master however difficult the journey may be.

The forthcoming GE will probably be fiercely contested with this fresh alternative input and it is for the country’s benefit that other smaller splinter opposition parties join ranks and contest together as one flagship.

There are also currently too many opposition parties in our political scene now and if a few are to join hands with the doctor, it will not only raise the profile of opposition politics but they may even miraculously win some seats for doing something that is unseen before. Moreover, voters are mostly emotional and the feel-good vibes of a large powerful coalition will likely bring forth much synergy in the opposition camp.

Malaysia could only topple the incumbent UMNO – another post-war traditional party in the mould of PAP – by coming together to contest their recent election as one huge political umbrella and though Dr Tan is no Dr Mahathir – he could hopefully pave the way in the near future for more ex-PAP loyalists to swing their political allegiance.

PAP will probably now have some sleepless nights ahead especially with the next election looming so near the corner.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

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