After four decades, seasoned opposition leader Chiam See Tong bows out of political life and quits as secretary-general of the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) following the election of its new Central Executive Committee (CEC) on Wednesday (Oct 16).
“I think he has given all what he can for Singaporeans, what he can do to his ability,” Mrs Lina Chiam, SPP’s chairman prior to Wednesday’s election, told the media.
“It’s time for him to have a rest,” she added. Mrs Chiam was re-elected to the CEC, although her official position is still undetermined.
Accolades and gratitude
In a Facebook post, the party paid tribute to its outgoing leader: “The Party would like to send its best wishes to our founding Secretary General Mr Chiam See Tong for his decades of service to the party and to Singapore.”
“We are confident that the renewed party leadership will uphold the Party motto of service before self and always have the best interests of Singapore and Singaporeans at heart,” the post said.
Mr Chiam’s departure from the party’s top decision-making body was announced during the biennial SPP Ordinary Party Conference on Wednesday, during which 12 members were elected to form a new CEC.
Although Mr Chiam will no longer lead the party, he will still remain a member, Mrs Chiam said.
Chiam See Tong
Mr Chiam, 84, is the longest-serving opposition MP. He began his colorful political career as an independent candidate in 1976 and was elected to the Potong Pasir constituency in 1984.
He has been with the SPP since 1996, after an acrimonious split led to his departure from the Singapore Democratic Party, which he had founded in 1980.
Mr Chiam last contested in the general elections in 2011, where he left his Potong Pasir stronghold to lead an opposition team in the five-member Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency (GRC).
As Potong Pasir MP for 27 years, Mr Chiam leaves an unforgettable legacy.
Florist Woon Siew Ling, 72, who has been operating her shop at block 146, Potong Pasir Avenue 1 since 1985, said that Mr Chiam regularly walked around the estate and was very caring.
“Some of my customers have shared that he helped them out of his own pocket, such as when they could not pay their water bills or town council utilities bills. And he never expected anything in return,” she said.
Even among his political rivals, Mr Chiam’s actions and attitude has brought him much respect.
During the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund gala dinner in August, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said Mr Chiam was a “well-meaning, decent and honest politician and Member of Parliament.”
Current SDA chairman Desmond Lim, who worked with Mr Chiam for 14 years in the Potong Pasir Town Council, said his former mentor believed the country always came first, and when representing Singapore abroad in a delegation, he always advocate that one must “toe the national line.” /TISG