Government's feedback unit singles out Tan Cheng Bock

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The Government’s Feedback Unit, REACH, was to have held a Public Forum on Presidential Election on 29 September 2016. The Law and Home Affairs Minister, K Shanmugam, was scheduled to address the participants at the Forum.

REACH however decided to cancel the event and said that it informed the registered participants on Wednesday (28 Sep) about the cancellation. It cited ‘poor response’ as the reason for the cancellation.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock, the candidate from the 2011 Presidential Election who lost the contest by a whisker, was one of the participants who had registered for the event.

Dr Tan took to Facebook to express his disappointment that the event was cancelled. Dr Tan said that he was looking forward to attending the Forum as he wanted to hear what Minister Shanmugam had to say on the topic.

Dr Tan  registered his attendance last week, received a confirmation from REACH, and was planning to attend the event with a few friends and family.

“This forum would have been a great platform for Singaporeans to seek clarification on the matter,” Dr Tan said.

He added: “I would like to take this opportunity to encourage Singaporeans to register for these forums and actively participate in discussions on this and other important national issues.”

Soon after Dr Tan expressed his disappointment, REACH took to its Facebook and clarified why the Forum had to be cancelled. In its clarification, it singled out Dr Tan Cheng Bock and said that it did “not have any registration under the name of Dr Tan Cheng Bock for this dialogue.”‘

Dr Tan’s daughter, Ms Tan Ming Li, responded to REACH’s post to defend her father and said:

“I am the daughter of Dr Tan Cheng Bock. For certain, the queries made to you this evening concern whether my father registered for your public forum.
I find it strange that you are implying that my father did not register at your event. Your registration portal asked for his NRIC name, NRIC No., Address, Date of Birth, Email, Mobile no., Gender and Occupation. My father duly supplied all these particulars – yes, Adrian Tan is his NRIC name. Given the wealth of information and resources at your disposal, could you not check with him whether he in fact registered before posting your implied statement on Facebook that he did not register? My father, who was the founding Chairman of your pre-cursor, the Feedback Unit, meant to attend as an ordinary public citizen together with his family. In fact, my brother, my husband and I were to accompany him, as all our registrations were confirmed by you. Given all the information you know, are you still implying that my father dd not register for this event?”

Others commenters on the post asked if the Government’s feedback unit was implying that Dr Tan hd not been honest about him registering for the event. Yet others urged REACH to apologise to Dr Tan.

Dr Tan responded to REACH singling him out and said that he registered under his alias – an alias which is also reflected in his NRIC; and that the registration also asked for his NRIC number, mobile, address, and occupation – which he supplied.

He attached the acceptance letter from REACH, as well as his NRIC which reflected his alias in the Facebook post.

Dr Tan had previously taken offence that Mr Shanmugam had singled him out at another dialogue (which took place on 15 Sep) on the same topic, especially since his name was not mentioned by the audience. Dr Tan took issue with the Law Minister’s comments that Dr Tan cannot qualify under the new rule change.

“Has he decided that the White Paper is law ahead of parliament debate? Is there some truth after all that the changes in the rules was to make sure l would not be eligible?”, Dr Tan asked.

“It would be a sad day for Singaporeans if a Constitutional change was made because of an individual,” he added.

The Government subsequently responded to such allegations and in calling them “factually false” said:

“The government has directly answered the question as to whether the proposed changes are meant to prevent Dr Tan Cheng Bock from running.The government has made it clear that the changes are not directed at anyone…the changes were recommended by a constitutional commission, headed by the chief justice. Thus, the suggestion specifically is factually false. The suggestion overlooks the above facts, and the fact that the changes were recommended by an independent constitutional commission. The government is looking at strengthening the system, and is not looking at individuals.” (link: http://bit.ly/2cEs4bo)

It is noteworthy that Dr Tan was the first chief of the Government’s feedback unit.