Although the surprise breakfast meeting between Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Tan Cheng Bock occurred over a week ago, both prominent figures still appear to be on the minds of Singaporeans who are hoping that the duo will join hands to lead the opposition during the next General Election.
No one seriously expected that Lee – the son of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and younger brother of current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – would meet Dr Tan (a former presidential candidate who has been asked to lead an opposition coalition) – that too at such a public venue.
Lee told the press, “We were just here to have breakfast,” while Dr Tan revealed on his Facebook page that they spoke about the “current state of politics in Singapore.”
The unanticipated meeting quickly became the talk of the town when photos from the breakfast made their way online.
While the meeting seemed to be an informal, casual meetup, one local publication claims that “there was every intention” to make the meeting publicly known. Covering the meeting on its website, Mothership.sg shared “three observations on how we can make sense of this breakfast meeting”.
The article, which throws shade at Dr Tan and his intentions in meeting Lee, is written by Martino Tan. Presently serving as managing editor and deputy managing director at Mothership, Tan has been leading the editorial team since the website’s inception in 2013.
Before his work with Mothership, Tan served as a Senior Manager (Online Communications) in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for nearly a year and a half, between 2012-2013. Tan has been credited by mainstream media for helping to start Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook page. PM Lee joined Facebook a few months after Tan started working at the PMO.
Before his stint at the PMO, Tan worked for over two years at the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.
Tan’s coverage of the Lee Hsien Yang-Tan Cheng Bock meeting starts with a jibe that Dr Tan is “shopping around for a new party to start or join.” This remark is conspicuously crossed out in what appears to be Tan’s attempt at sarcasm.
Asserting that Dr Tan is “looking for new friends…As long as those new peers are not from the PAP,” Tan goes on to characterise Lee Hsien Yang as “a person who is quite unlikely to join the PAP.”
Noting that news of the meeting made “a few opposition supporters” like activists and former Reform Party candidates Roy Ngerng and Gilbert Goh excited, Tan made the “three observations on how we can make sense of this breakfast meeting.”
First, Tan said that “There was every intention to make the casual breakfast meeting publicly known,” and asserted that the intent of the meeting “was to create a photo opportunity for Singaporeans to speculate what the meeting was about.”
Noting that the meeting was photographed by reporters from the national broadsheet and the Chinese daily, Tan wrote: “This means that there is a high likelihood of Tan or Lee’s camp leaking the news to the media in advance. Unless you believe that the mainstream media actually stalk Tan and Lee daily.”
Tan’s second observation was on the pair’s choice of location for the meeting, as he noted that the West Coast Food Centre falls within Dr Tan’s old Ayer Rajah constituency, back when he was a ruling party parliamentarian. Noting that it was Dr Tan who chose the location, Martino Tan calls the choice of venue “a nice segue” to Dr Tan’s association to the constituency.
The former civil servant’s final observation delivers the most digs, directed at Dr Tan. Suggesting that the “hope and change” message Dr Tan is hoping to spread “may work better with a fresh face leader with no political baggage,” Tan indicates that a Pakatan Harapan like victory that the opposition here may be hoping for might not work with Dr Tan at the helm.
In May, calls for Dr Tan to “do a Mahathir” resounded when Dr Mahathir united the opposition against his former party and led them to victory in what became Malaysia’s first transition of power since independence.
Noting that Dr Mahathir “was perceived as someone with nothing to prove,” the Mothership editor asserts that Dr Tan, “on the other hand, seems to be on permanent campaign mode since PE 2011.”
In his conclusion, Martino Tan seemed to imply that Singaporeans do not take “Tan’s national electoral ambitions” seriously and that Dr Tan may be taken seriously if he can attract current MPs to his cause, instead of “some disgruntled ex-PAP MPs. Or the prime minister’s brother.”
Describing that Mothership.sg “is styled in the mould of popular American site Buzzfeed,” the national broadsheet previously reported that the website is “backed by a social enterprise chaired by civil service veteran Philip Yeo.” Former PAP politician and ex-foreign affairs minister George Yeo, has been listed as a contributor to the site.