19 August 2015

Tan Lam Siong: Hoping To Reap Where He Has Not Sown?

National Solidarity Party's former Secretary-General Tan Lam Siong has expressed his interest in contesting GE 2015 in Potong Pasir SMC as an independent.

Potong Pasir SMC is currently held by People's Action Party's Sitoh Yih Pin, who narrowly wrested it with 7,992 votes from Singapore Progressive Party's Lina Chiam (Loh Woon Lee Lina) who had 7,878 votes in GE 2011. His winning margin of 114 votes was less than the 242 rejected votes (as announced on polling day).

Why Potong Pasir
Why did Mr Tan choose to stand in Potong Pasir?

He had initially intended to contest in Whampoa SMC, but after it was merged into Jalan Besar GRC, he turned his focus to Potong Pasir SMC, which he found to be quite close to Whampoa SMC and quite similar culture-wise.

Among all the SMCs, Mr Tan found the people of Potong Pasir SMC were more ready to accept him as an independent. After all, Mr Chiam See Tong served in Potong Pasir SMC for 27 years, of which three terms were as an independent (Mr Tan got his facts wrong: Mr Chiam served in Potong Pasir SMC while he was with Singapore Democratic Party and later with SPP, not as an independent; he had earlier contested unsuccessfully as an independent in 1976 and 1979 and as SDP's candidate in 1980).

Having walked Potong Pasir, Mr Tan found that its people had their own way of thinking, were more forthcoming in expressing their political views, were very open to him about how they felt about current political choices, and would like to see him offering himself as an alternative candidate.

Why Not Potong Pasir
In GE 2011, PAP won by an extremely fine margin, so fine that it was even smaller than the number of rejected votes.

Like Hougang SMC voters, Potong Pasir SMC voters have repeatedly chosen an opposition candidate for many years.

Is Mr Tan contesting in Potong Pasir SMC because of its historically high percentage of opposition votes?

If he is, he will be sorely disappointed because many Potong Pasir SMC voters were loyal to Mr Chiam See Tong, who was their MP from 1984 to 2011. They voted for him again and again despite the consequential inconvenience of doing so.

What makes Mr Tan think that he will convince enough voters to switch from PAP's Sitoh Yih Pin and SPP's Lina Chiam to enable him to win the contest? The chances are good that he will lose his election deposit and in the process suffer irreparable harm to his political reputation. Perhaps, it doesn't matter to him.

If Mr Tan thinks that he has strong credentials and a strong message, he should cut his teeth and really prove himself in an SMC where the opposition fared poorly in GE 2011, not in an SMC where the opposition was the best losing constituency and had previously had a multi-term MP. He should not try to reap where he has not sown.

Finally, if Mr Tan causes Mrs Chiam to lose Potong Pasir SMC this time, it may cease to exist as an SMC in the next general election.

Why Contest
Mr Tan should contemplate whether, as an independent, he can manage a town council in the event that no company that provides managing agent services is prepared to offer such services to Potong Pasir Town Council, as Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council found out the hard way.

Contrary to what some people say, an electoral contest involving more than one opposition candidate undoubtedly benefits the PAP, at least until the time comes when there is an equally strong alternative. Mr Tan is not that alternative.

This article was last updated on 19 August 2015 7:00 pm.. Mr Tan's name was misspelled earlier as "Tan Lam Song".

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