After the Presidential Election of 2011, at least two of the three candidates who lost to Dr Tony Tan stayed active in the public limelight. This time around, after the Sept 1 PE2023, two of the losing or ineligible participants have become incognito. Tan Kin Lian may still be in the public eye, but unless you have access, you cannot reach him on Facebook, though I would not bet on his disappearing for long. He is likely to have a word or two to offer on practically everything. Singaporeans look forward to his observations, which make for better breakfast conversations than establishment propaganda.
Let’s talk about a surprising belated Opposition aftermath of PE2011 first. Tan Jee Say garnered a creditable 25.04% of the PE vote. He then dropped out of the public eye until his reappearance as an active Tan Kin Lian supporter in PE2023. That was a feather in the cap for TKL. And to add to the sense that there would be a massive swing of votes to help put TKL in the Istana, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who lost by a thin margin in PE1011 – 34.85% to Tony Tan’s 35.20% of the votes – popped up to show his solidarity with fellow ex-PE2011 participants. Unfortunately, his surprise appearance, which was expected to swing the moderate crowd towards TKL, had little impact but may now have a bigger negative effect on TCB’s legacy and influence as a leading Opposition voice of moderation. It will be a challenge for the party he founded, the Progress Singapore Party, to completely “disassociate” itself from its founder in the hustings in GE2025. We can expect the People’s Action Party to exploit the awkward dissociation.
But this is not really the subject of this column.
My peeve is that people who present themselves as candidates for something as important as the Singapore Presidency should not simply disappear out of sight and out of mind after they have not made it.
As I said, Tan Kin Lian would be around. He has been a social media personality for some time. And he has a certain Facebook following long before his PE2023 foray. He will not go away. Why should he?
What about the other two? Suddenly no sound from George Goh Ching Wah and Ng Kok Song.
I do not see Ng Kok Song as any kind of public conscience voice on Singapore issues. He is too much pro-establishment, having been a former GIC chief investment officer and obviously close enough to the late Lee Kuan Yew to be asked to initiate him to meditation.
Yet he should not vanish.
There is a certain elan about him and his partner, Sybil Lau. Nice couple. The media should tap the two for their views on social and other issues. On our resources and investments. With the experience of having taken part in the election and been in touch with the public pulse, they would have something to say, particularly when both seem quite articulate.
I detect a certain amount of public respect during the PE for Ng Kok Song’s rather measured comments, showing him to be a person of substance and fairness. He is an asset which should not be wasted.
Interestingly, I also found George Goh a refreshing personality. He is more the businessman equivalent of NKS, someone who has lived a full life and has achieved. But he is also more of a straight-shooter in tune with the SME world. And if, indeed, Singapore is keen to Move Forward with our SMEs, he would be a wealth of resources to tap.
PE2023 has been a benchmark election. Everything about it is a credit to our system, voters and the participants.
Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.SG is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a magazine publishing company