When I think of Tan Jee Say’s presidential bid, I can’t help thinking of two Westerns.
In Shane and Tom Horn, a stranger rides into town.
Tan Jee Say metaphorically rode into town early this year with his very detailed and interesting analysis (summary) on Singapore’s economy. We were reminded that he was once a upon a time a scholar from a very humble background, then a high flying, high ranking civil sevant specialising in economic policy issues. In particular, he was GCT’s Principal Private Secretary (PPS) when the former was DPM, though we subsequently learnt that GCT didn’t have a good opinion of him. We also learnt that since leaving the civil service in 1991, he has worked in Morgan Grenfell, John Govett and Standard Chartered before becaming an investment adviser, whatever that is.
He has only given details of his stint at John Govett.
In April 2011, he joined the SDP and contested the GE under its colours. There were allegations that he tried very hard to get onto the WP’s slate. Apparently the WP didn’t want him. In July, he resigned from the SDP so he could contest the presidential election.
He has talked of “moral courage and conviction” but these in his case only became evident a few months before the GE
No matter how one looks at it, his public track record on socio-political issues and activism is pretty thin. The public records only stretch from the beginning of this year. Despite his very strong stand against the casinos, I don’t recall any report mentioning his name when there was a debate about whether casinos should be allowed several years ago. Surely, I would have remembered a report that GCT’s ex-PPS had publicly spoken out against the casinos?
And spending a few months with the SDP is not a positive. This can either be spun as opportunism (to get onto their MP slate) or that he is an SDP mole out to subvert parliamentary democracy (remember SDP won no seats) by capturing the presidency. Those who believe the latter will cite the support the is getting from sites that are believed by many to be aligned with the SDP.
Coming back to the Westerns. In Shane, Shane turned out to be the people’s hero. He killed the gunfighter brought in by a rich cattle rancher to intimidate the farmers. In Tom Horn, Horn turned out to be a hired killer of the wealthy cattle ranchers, killing those suspected of rustling their cattle. He was the bad guy.
Some websites that are alleged to have links with the SDP are actively promoting him as the man that will defeat Tony Tan. A Shane.
But is he more like Tom Horn? I am not suggesting that Jee Say will go round killing the other two non-Tony Tans. But could he, albeit inadvertently or accidentally, turn out to be the guy that kills off any chance of Dr Tan Cheng Bock or Tan Kin Lian of defeating Tony Tan? These two Tans, by any criteria, have distinguished records on socio-political issues and activities, and in the case of Dr Tan for decades.
Remember that based on the last GE and a study by the Institute of Policy Studies, about 35% of the voters will blindly support any donkey if it a PAP donkey, and 20% will support any ass so long as it was an anti-PAP ass. The remaining 45% were the “thinking” swingers.
Before Jee Say got his COE, Tony Tan was widely perceived as the candidate that the PAP would like to win, Dr Tan Cheng Bock was the centralist, and Tan Kin Lian was the perceived anti-PAP candidate. It was thought that in a three-Tan race, Tony Tan might lose while in a one-to-one with Cheng Bock, Tony Tan would lose.
Now there are two perceived anti-PAP candidates fighting for the 20% core vote. And four candidates fighting for the 45% swingers. And Tony Tan still has his core 35% vote.
I am glad that Tan Jee Say got his COE because it shows that the Presidential Election Committee is taking a very liberal and enlightened view of who can qualify for the COE. But those S’poreans who want to use this election to vote in someone less identified with the PAP will be disappointed. One or two too many to choose from.