Tan Cheng Bock: I will contest the PE if I am still relevant
THE 72-year-old retired backbencher caused a stir last year when he quit the People’s Action Party to contest in the presidential election.
Dr Tan, who was MP for Ayer Rajah for six terms, was known for his record high scores during general elections and for speaking his mind in Parliament.
In the four-man race last August, Dr Tan - fondly known as “Doc” - won 34.9 per cent of the vote. He lost to the government-backed candidate, President Tony Tan Keng Yam, by the slimmest of margins: 0.35 point.
One year on from the presidential election, Dr Tan gives the lowdown on how life has changed and says with determination: “I’ll be back.”
UPDATE: Now with a video of Dr Tan playing the ukulele
'I am giving up my medical practice'
Q: It’s been one year since the presidential election. What have you been busy with since then?
Dr Tan: After the presidential election, I had to go back to finish my work as president of Jurong Country Club. It was a very crucial time. The club needs to have a new life, so we embarked on a building programme for the club and the golf course in particular.
I had to finish it because I started it and I cannot leave it hanging. So I managed to finish the whole club - in fact now it's very nice. I would say it's one of the better golf courses now. My thinking is like this: if the club and golf course are good, they will get membership, then at least the value of the club will go up.
When the works were completed, I gave up my presidency in early March, because I’ve already served the maximum term of six years. Now the club is doing quite well. It was very poor when I took over, with a deficit of half a million dollars.
Q: What else has happened since the PE?
Dr Tan: I left the corporate world. I decided to leave Chuan Hup (he has been chairman of Chuan Hup for 20 years). Now I’m only chairing a Belgian company called Dredging International. I've been chairing that company for many years.
And frankly, I think I’m going to give up my medical practice soon. My Ama Keng clinic has been sold. We all have to move out by November. I'll be jobless! (laughs) So no more clinic to practise, but that doesn't meant that I will stop practising. I may help one of the clinics nearby. I might do one or two sessions a week, that's one of my options.
The other option I have in mind is to start a not-for-profit organisation where we will see patients, we will charge them accordingly, but I don’t take the salary. Everything will go to charity. I’m still mulling over the idea.
Q: How do you think the political scene has changed since the general and presidential elections last year?
Dr Tan: I think the PE and the GE have generated so much interest among the young that the situation really took a 180 degree turn. Even the young boys and girls, they all talk politics to me. My Facebook has attracted lots of young blood. My patients who are still in school come and ask me about politics. Four young boys from Hwa Chong Institution even wrote to ask me whether they can interview me. Youth from the medical school, the National University of Singapore Society also invited me. So it's a good relationship. At every level, you've got to talk to them.
Q: Do you still meet up with your campaign team?
Dr Tan: We have more than the campaign team, including the new people. So the numbers grow, and it's nice to see them grow in a very smooth fashion. Although we may not be a formal organisation, I think I just have to make a call and I can get the numbers.
The core team is about 100 strong. We meet around three times a year. There was a real interesting gathering during my birthday this year. All the political friends, all of them who made friends during the PE, all from different political parties, they were all here. I was so happy to see Workers' Party, National Solidarity Party, Singapore Democratic Party. I told them, here, no fighting, put aside all your political affiliations, have your drink, eat, and enjoy as a Singaporean.
Don't worry, just be friends. So I think that's the spirit that has been created. I can imagine next time when there is a GE, they'll all move into their own camps and maybe fight against each other. But at the end of the day, when they come to me, I said you all must be one body.
Next, Dr Tan's future political plans...