Dr Tan Cheng Bock declined to rule out the possibility of being part of an opposition coalition, when he spoke to reporters at the Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) inaugural walkabout. The outreach event saw about 300 members and volunteers meeting residents in 29 constituencies across the island.
In July last year, at a closed door working luncheon among opposition party members, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) invited Dr Tan to help lead the effort in building coalition opposition parties. SDP urged Dr Tan to take the lead so as to present a unified front at the next General Election.
The event saw the participation of the SDP, the People’s Power Party, the Democratic Progressive Party, the Reform Party, the National Solidarity Party, the Singaporeans First Party and the People’s Voice Party. The SDP said that all the opposition parties present at the meeting welcomed the move.
Dr Tan, a 5-term former People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament, responded to the invitation by the opposition party leaders saying he is open to leading an alliance against his former party which has governed the country since independence.
Dr Tan responded to the call of the opposition party leaders asking him to lead them saying, “If you want me to lead, then we must think of (the) country first. If we go in, we must go in as a team.”
In January, Dr Tan announced that he is returning to politics and that he has decided to form his own opposition political party due to a sense of duty he felt towards Singapore, after hearing their 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 since he felt that this was the “right” route for him, 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 mentoring and developing future Parliamentarians who will work for the good of our nation.”
Yesterday, Dr Tan was asked whether any progress has been made since the seven parties invited him to lead an opposition coalition last year. Revealing that he accepted it at the time since he believes “getting together is a good thing,” Dr Tan said:
“I didn’t say I will accept the form (of collaboration). I was not saying that whatever they proposed is the right one.”
Declining to rule out the possibility of a coalition, Dr Tan said that the opposition parties should first maintain a relationship of understanding and that party leaders should “convince their own ground that this is a better option.”
Advising opposition politicians to “keep it open and never close all your options,” Dr Tan called on party leaders to be “flexible” in their relations with their counterparts from other opposition parties.
The PSP also sent a “friendly note” to other opposition parties, informing them about their walkabout plans ahead of the Sunday event. The other parties reportedly “wished them well.”