Singapore—In an interview with the straitstimes.com (ST), newly-retired People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament Charles Chong reminisced about his long political career, and included a quote from former Cabinet minister Lim Boon Heng, who once said, “I think Charles would be more troublesome outside the PAP than within.”
Mr Chong, who had served as Deputy Speaker of Parliament from 2011 to this year, announced his retirement from politics on June 27 of this year, just before the General Election.
All in all, he has been in the political arena for 32 years, since he first contested to become MP for Sembawang GRC (Nee Soon East) in 1988 at age 35.
In the interview, he expressed surprise that he had lasted so long in politics, since it had not been the plan at the beginning for the former aircraft engineer with Singapore Airlines (SIA), who looked forward to postings overseas.
The ST quotes him as saying, “I really wasn’t really interested in being in politics for that long because I had my own career. But by the time I finished doing all this, my career had sort of passed me by.”
Perhaps his most interesting story is how he tried to take back Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) for PAP from the Workers’ Party (WP) in 2015, suggesting that he would put together a team of tried and true MPs including fellow former MP Inderjit Singh.
He said, “I thought we should go out and make a concerted effort to try and win it back. We have to get a few of the non-conformist sort. These fellows voted opposition, so obviously they don’t want pro-establishment people.”
But instead of having him go head to head with former WP leader Low Thia Khiang at Aljunied, he was sent to contest at Punggol East SMC against WP’s Lee Li Lian, which he won by a narrow margin, with less than 52 percent of the vote.
He told ST that he did not know why the PAP sent him to Punggol East SMC rather than Aljunied GRC, but he added, “My personal view is that there must be a healthy opposition. But it is not within the purview of the ruling party to nurture the opposition, for goodness sake.”
Mr Chong’s political history is full of such instances of being pulled from one constituency to another, especially where the ruling party needed a boost. After having served in Sembawang from 1988 to 1991, he was moved to Eunos GRC to help bolster the team there, as the PAP team had only won by obtaining 50.89 percent of vote in the previous GE.
Up until the final results were announced, it was uncertain whether the WP would win. He told ST, “I recall writing my victory speech when we were leading, then throwing it away and writing a defeat speech. We later caught up and I had to scramble to look for the speech I had thrown away.”
He served as MP at Pasir Ris through 2011, when he was sent to contest at Joo Chiat SMC, eventually winning over the WP’s Yee Jean Jong with 51.02 percent of the vote.
Noting this, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a tribute to Mr Chong last June, “When there is a tough fight, and we need a strong candidate who will fight hard and fight smart, we send in Charles Chong. And every time, Charles has delivered”. —/TISG