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The Presidency: Better, The Devil You Know…?

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I am of course referring to ex-PAP MP, Dr. Tan Cheng Bock, who has now openly declared his ambition to be our next president, if he can defeat the incumbent, Mr Nathan (assuming, he wants to continue) and any other qualified Singaporeans with a similar aspiration.

But, we should not kid ourselves that TCB has recently woken up one morning with this idea and ‘craving’ in his head that, ‘yes’, he wants to be the next president! More of this, later. 

Take note (if you have not already) that one other ‘Tan’ has already intimated interest or has been suggested by supporters, to consider the post. He meets the requirements, was a very experienced life insurance ‘guru’, frank, retired, very approachable, and who has been very helpful with advices in his area of expertise honed through a lifelong career in the profession. One remembers his voluntary service to assist and organize affected investors with claim issues during the toxic investment crisis in the face of a hands-off stance taken by our govt. It bears repeating that elsewhere, govts have taken much more pro-active roles to help and facilitate their own people caught in the crisis.  

And, what is crucially important to me is that like me, he had admired the PAP once, and like me, the scales have now fallen from his eyes, and he feels a lot of foreboding about the direction the PAP is taking our country. He is none other than Mr Tan Kin Lian, ex-NTUC INCOME Insurance CEO. 

As I see it, TKL’s strength is that he would bring to the table his valuable knowledge on insurance and quite extensive commercial experience acquired and accumulated through years of handling and investment of NTUC’s hundreds of millions of insurance premium funds. From speaking with him and reading his articles, replies, advices and responses to posters in his blog, one gathers the impression that his strength is in that he knows what he is talking about, and he adopts a wise and prudent approach towards monetary issues and financial management. He is frank, approachable and unpretentious. To my mind, these are personality traits and qualities among others vital for a people’s president who puts his duty to citizens first.  

Considering that the raison d’être of the elected president is to safeguard our national reserves, his wealth of knowledge and experience would be very useful, very relevant, in this respect. 

In comparison, we have in TCB an ex-PAP MP, a very experienced dyed-to-the-core member of the ruling party, outspoken (only sometimes) but nevertheless a party faithful. Basically, he had made the occasional protests which had not amounted to much in terms of dissent, and to my mind, that were well within the ‘elbow-room’ permitted by his party. For if he had made anything stronger he would have been taken to task by the party’s Whip. I don’t recall of any such instances being reported. So, really, at bottom nothing spectacular, impactful or noteworthy. But then of course, the MSM, in particular, the Straits Times, has been ever ready to exaggerate, to play them up, to make more of them than they actually had been, on his behalf and on behalf of the ruling party which sought to paint a rather deceptive picture in order to hide how emasculated and hog-tied the party’s people’s representatives (MPs) really are in parliament under the PAP. 

This kind of choreography for public consumption is not difficult at all to orchestrate when the govt practically owns the local mass media and has hamstrung the foreign media by their pocketbooks! 

His action is more PR (for the benefit of an audience of by-standing and on-looking citizens) than real substance. For example, it is hardly coincidental timing that TCB was recently in the news because he ‘objected’ to the renaming of the new Jurong Hospital to the Ng Teng Fong Hospital and has resigned in protest. That’s hardly consequential in any material way. Petty, really. But, yet curiously, he had not similarly protested earlier when another hospital, in Yishun, was named after Khoo Teck Phuat. Was there any significant difference between them? Not that I can remember. (Taking a somewhat cynical view, he would have to resign in any case if he wants to be the next president!) 

(A little digression: Such orchestrated media coverage has been around for a while. I still could remember years back when George Yeo left MINDEF to join the PAP. The Straits Times had set some store by the financial ‘sacrifice’ he had to make leaving MINDEF for the politics of the PAP. You know what? Just a relatively short while later his elevation to high political office was announced, which more than made up for whatever financial losses he had ‘incurred’ in order to leave MINDEF. In fact, he got more, much more as we all know too well. The moral of the story here is that everything you read about the PAP govt in the local media here, you must take it with a spoonful of salt.)  

Back to TCB. Nothing that I can recall of his tenure as an MP had been worthy of note.  NATO – No Action, Talk Only – would be how I would describe most of his contributions, for crucially when the time came to vote he had meekly complied with the party’s stand. So called ‘party discipline’, compliments of the Whip, is certainly a great help and reliever of responsibility and guilt from not having to make an honest stand for something one apparently believed in. Words are really quite worthless if not backed by deeds. His contribution, as in the case of his fellow PAP MPs, had been in the main for being a part and parcel of his party’s rubber stamping brigade in Parliament. 

So the basic issue remains – can a leopard change its spots, notwithstanding TCB’s occasional remonstration and grandstanding in parliament in order to look different, for PR purposes? Would his potential for being a ‘people’s’ president be any different from his performance as a dyed-to-the-core PAP man that he was and still am? 

IMO, that he has apparently decided out-of-the-blue to stand for the post, tells me that he is doing it to keep it within the PAP ‘family’. There is a greater than 50% ‘chance’ that his was not a spontaneous decision. I feel he has been prompted and handed a brief. (Just as in Gerard Ee’s case.) Could or would he be able to do an Ong Teng Cheong in a face off with an uncooperative govt? OTC had the experience and standing of being a minister and DPM, but he had failed still. 

It is hard to rub off the tainting and conditioning from a lifelong of exposure to being a member of a political party from the ‘inside’, especially the PAP. 

These are some of the reasons why I feel Mr Tan Kin Lian would be preferred over Dr Tan Cheng Bock, if the former also decides to run for the elected presidency. TKL does not have such baggages (and he has amply demonstrated this since his retirement) that would in contrast weigh heavily down on TCB, if elected. 

Voting for Dr Tan Cheng Bock would be, IMO, securing for ourselves more of what we already have had up to our eyebrows with the Nathan presidency. 

Nathan and TCB are really TWO OF A KIND.  Believe it.

N.B. The author has no affiliation with any political party. He was an admirer of the PAP until it became evident that it has changed beyond recognition and no longer bear any semblance to the party that he had originally once admired. He feels it his duty to point out that the country is going down the drain if current trends continue unarrested




  1. […] Teng Cheong left off – TOC: Vote for an independent-minded President – Thetwophilo’s Blog: The Presidency: Better, The Devil You Know…? [Thanks yl] – Sgpolitics: Dr Tan Cheng Bock supported 1987 arrest of “Marxist conspirators” – […]

  2. mr.udders says:

    You may want to consider this post as well, regarding TCB’s views on arrest without trial.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Very true. A yes man is not good for the country.
    He is out of touch. There is no hope of him unifying the country. Think too highly of himself and the position.

  4. Dear blog owner,

    Tan Kin Lian has just confirmed his intentions to run! Please help us publicize this Facebook page where people can learn more about Tan Kin Lian and what he can offer as a president!


  5. Kingman says:

    TCB is no yes man. TKL has no politics experience at all. Say he is independent of PAP but not of oppo. TCB trained SDP & PAP in GE. TCB is fairer.

    • thetwophilo says:

      The PAP group think mentality is too ingrained in people like TCB and TT for them to be effective. The handles to manipulate them are well known to the likes of LKY and the party. They would not have an unimpaired vision of issues. For instance, TT would be myopic to issues concerning the GIC and in fact because of his previous DIRECT involvement in the GIC would NEVER be objective or neutral in respect of this area that Singaporeans find greatly lacking in transparency. He has a conflict of interest and we can all expect him to be constantly ‘covering his own backside’ in respect of the GIC. Instead of shedding light, he can even connive with the govt to gloss over important issues. As for TCB, while he had ‘ventilated’ a lot relative to the rest of the PAP MPs, but in most instances what he did amounted to little more than being a toothless irritant to the frontbench. At the end of the day, it is actions and not mere words that count. I have yet to learn of one solid thing he had done that resulted in a significant review or back paddling of intention/policy by the govt. It is of course not his fault given the govt we know too well and the general timidity of his ex- parliamentary colleagues. IMO many of his ex- colleagues would counsel and influence him to give way to the govt on significant issues should he be the EP. And frankly, I don’t see TCB as having the sort of steel and hard nose quality needed to see issues through. He would compromise a lot at our expense.

      It is an advantage NOT to have been involved before in parliamentary politics! After all, the EP is above politics. The EP who is popularly elected is there as the protector of the people’s money and interest. His FIRST LOYALTY is to the people, NOT the govt. I would want MY EP to be relentless in his questioning and putting in place a procedure that is quite FOOL PROOF against any sleight of hand by the govt to transfer out funds from the reserve or use them illegally. And that includes opposing any proposed legislation that would adversely affect his role or the reserve he is guarding. It makes no sense otherwise if an EP has to take everything done by the govt without questioning the motive and design for them. We have already seen how the govt has passed legislation to authorise itself to move funds from the reserve without going through the EP.

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