Opposition leaders Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Dr Paul Tambyah were spotted at the Singapore Medical Association’s 60th anniversary dinner held over the weekend.
Sharing photos from the event — including a photo of himself with Dr Tan, Dr Tambyah wrote on social media that he had an “enjoyable evening with friends” at the dinner.
When a netizen asked Dr Tambyah whether Dr Tan had revealed “anything more about his inner circle members of his new political party,” Dr Tambyah replied: “No. He is too shrewd a strategist to do that.”
Dr Tambyah is a respected doctor and medical academic who entered opposition politics due to dissatisfactions with healthcare funding, Singapore’s education system and the quality of human rights protection for the underprivileged, and for workers in Singapore.
After a stint in civil society during which he helped found human rights NGO Maruah, Dr Tambyah felt he would be better able to effect change through politics and joined the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). In 2017, he was elected as SDP chairman.
On his appointment as chairman, Dr Tambyah had said: “The SDP has never shied away from holding the government accountable to the people and I am happy to be a part of the SDP’s efforts for the good of Singaporeans.”
He also urged Singaporeans to be more active on political matters: “I hope that more academics, professionals, and young people in particular will step up to be involved in civil society and politics in Singapore.”
Dr Tan, on the other hand, is a former ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) and served as parliamentarian for 26 years between 1980 to 2006. During his time in parliament, Dr Tan became the first non-cabinet minister elected into the PAP Central Executive Committee (1987–96).
In 2011, Dr Tan contested that year’s Presidential Election (PE) and lost by less than 0.35 per cent to establishment favourite and fellow ex-PAP MP Tony Tan. He was barred from contesting the next PE when the government reserved the 2015 PE for Malay-Muslim candidates, months after Dr Tan had announced his intention to contest the election.
Last year, Dr Tan had been invited to lead an opposition coalition. Revealing that he had given this serious thought, Dr Tan shared in March 2019 that he ultimately decided to form his own opposition party with other ex-PAP cadres because doing so felt “right” to him.
Dr Tan revealed that he decided to form his own political party due to a sense of duty he felt towards Singapore, after hearing people’s concerns and fears during his interactions with ordinary Singaporeans on the ground.
Explaining that he chose to form his own party instead of joining an established opposition banner, leading an opposition coalition, or running as an independent, Dr Tan said that he looks forward to “working with others in the opposition who are passionate about putting country first – before either party or self.”
He added: “At 78 years, I have a short window that I intend to use (sic) mentoring and developing future Parliamentarians who will work for the good of our nation.”
In a more recent speech that was shared on social media, Dr Tan asserted that he wants to re-enter parliament because he seeks accountability and transparency over the reserves and the Central Provident Fund (CPF). He said:
“I go in because I want accountability. I want transparency. What’s happening to our reserves? Are our reserves all gone? Don’t know. What happened to our CPF?
“Now these things, we all can shout until the cows come home [but its] no use, if you’re not in the House.”