Although Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general Chee Soon Juan has made it clear that he plans to recontest Bukit Batok SMC in the next general election, party chairman Paul Tambyah has made no clear declaration on whether he will remain active at Bukit Panjang SMC.
But, to some observers, Dr Tambyah’s actions are speaking louder than his words (or lack thereof). His recent action in helping Bukit Panjang residents have led some observers to believe that the opposition leader is gearing up to recontest Bukit Panjang SMC in about five years’ time.
Dr Tambyah’s connection to Bukit Panjang is new. He was widely expected to lead the SDP team at Holland-Bukit Timah GRC – the ward he contested in the 2015 general election – after Dr Chee left the ward to focus on Bukit Batok in the latest election.
In one of the biggest surprises on Nomination Day, Dr Tambyah turned up at the Nomination Centre for Bukit Panjang and was nominated to contest the single member ward.
The ruling party incumbent for Bukit Panjang SMC, Teo Ho Pin, retired ahead of the election and former Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa went head to head with Dr Tambyah for the second time, under the People’s Action Party (PAP) ticket.
In one of the closest fights of the 2020 election, Dr Tambyah lost by a whisker with 46.27 per cent of votes while Mr Liang was narrowly returned to Parliament with 53.73 per cent of votes. Dr Tambyah was one of the best performing opposition candidates who failed to clinch a ward and received his personal best score through his contest at Bukit Panjang.
After the election, Dr Chee announced that he is planning to remain in Bukit Batok SMC, where he received a similar result as Dr Tambyah. The SDP chairman made no such declaration but his actions have given hope to Bukit Panjang residents that he plans to stay at the ward.
Weeks after the election, Dr Tambyah wrote to the Land Transport Authority on behalf of Bukit Panjang residents to raise concerns about bus services in the ward. Dr Tambyah also led a contingent of SDP members across Bukit Panjang SMC on a pre-National Day walkabout last weekend.
Aside from his work on the ground, the medical doctor also provided valuable advice to residents after it was reported that there was evidence of nearly 100 COVID-19 infections among people linked to the Bukit Panjang cluster.
Dr Tambyah, an infectious diseases expert, urged Bukit Panjang residents not to panic and expressed his confidence in Singapore’s public health authorities to respond appropriately to the recent cases linked with the Bukit Panjang Transport hub.
Calling on residents to continue taking safety precautions, like practicing good hand hygiene, Dr Tambyah added: “The Singapore Democratic Party urges all Singaporeans to pay attention to all Ministry of Health guidelines and recommendations.
“The Singapore government also needs to be transparent with the public about testing results and other strategies to contain the spread of the virus. We are confident that the people of Singapore will be able to succeed in this challenge.”
Dr Tambyah has also undertaken another project to help Bukit Batok residents – he is now conducting a survey to gather feedback from residents on the amendments to bus services in the estate. Given his concern for Bukit Panjang residents, some are hoping that the good doctor will stay on and recontest the ward in about five years’ time.