Walking in Chiam See Tong's big shoes

PHOTO: The New Paper

Tan Lam SiongProfession: LawyerAge: 54Ward contesting: Potong Pasir SMC

2015 GENo. of voters: 17,389

2011 GENo. of voters: 17,327No. of valid votes: 15,832PAP: Sitoh Yih Pin, 50.4 per cent

He was clearly enjoying himself, chatting and smiling with his team of supporters at the coffee shop in Potong Pasir Drive 1 before they went on a walkabout yesterday.

Mr Tan Lam Siong even joked about his attire - white long-sleeved shirt and black trousers.

"My get-up got some people asking if I was a mole for the ruling party," he told The New Paper.

Barely two months after stepping down as secretary-general of the National Solidarity Party (NSP) citing "incompatibility issues", the lawyer has declared he will be running in Potong Pasir SMC as an independent candidate in the coming General Election.

This was on Aug 1 at the sidelines of a Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) walkabout in Sengkang, where he was showing support.

His announcement means Potong Pasir may see a three-cornered fight, as Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Lina Chiam had previously said she would return to challenge People's Action Party (PAP) incumbent Sitoh Yih Pin in the ward under Singapore People's Party's (SPP) banner.

Mr Tan, 54, said: "I believe in democracy and that is offering the people a choice. It doesn't matter if it is a three-cornered fight or a multiparty fight but at least the people get to choose the best person to represent their interests."

The father of three said his passion lies in social and community work.

"I believe that everyone has a role to play in shaping the future of Singapore. So politics should be treated as something about people, not about parties or power play," he said.

Mr Tan joined NSP and was made secretary-general of the party in January after beating Ms Jeannette Chong-Aruldos to the job.

But he stepped down in June, merely five months after he was voted in.

He left the party the very next month due to "differences (in ideology) between the party and myself".

Mr Tan said he made the decision to contest in Potong Pasir after having regularly visited it in the past five weeks - speaking with residents and handing out 6,000 name cards.

Yesterday, smiles and waves greeted him. Someone passed a baby to him. One man even jokingly helped wipe sweat off his brow.

"I come here and Lorong 8 Toa Payoh every other day, I've lost count how many times I've walked these pavements," said Mr Tan.

"The area is a throwback to the 1960s and 1970s.

"The residents here are more direct and tell you what they think or feel and not beat around the bush."


But he does not presume to fill the shoes left behind by Mr Chiam See Tong, who was Potong Pasir's Member of Parliament from 1984 to 2011.

"Mr Chiam left big shoes to fill. In 27 years as the MP, he had been true to his residents. He didn't make promises he didn't keep," said Mr Tan.

"Everyone had been touched by his personal attention. I intend to follow in his footsteps, at least come close to what he had done."

If he files the papers on Nomination Day, it will be the first time Mr Tan is running in a general election.

What Tan Lam Siong says

Why Potong Pasir?

"I especially love the kampung spirit built by Mr Chiam See Tong when he was MP for 27 years.

"But I think the kampung spirit is beginning to slip away as people get caught up with the stress of living in Singapore.

"The people seem ready to opt for a different voice, a different person to lead them in this ward. They encourage me to come here and give them that option."

Why run as an independent?

"I have been approached by other parties after I left the one I was with.

"Having studied how things work in political parties here and knowing many people from different parties, I concluded that the problems that existed in the party that I was with are also present in the others.

"So I decided that as an independent candidate, I can better exercise my potential, I can better serve the people without being restricted by internal politics or by other members with their own ideas. I can speak as I feel and in accordance with my own ideology."

Why stage a three-way fight?

"It is not as if I wanted to stage a three-cornered fight.

"There are so many players in the political field today. It has become inevitable for us to see multi-cornered fights.

"In Potong Pasir, it so happens that it is an area where you have two other opposition candidates keen on serving the people."

This article was first published on August 14, 2015. Get The New Paper for more stories.