Tan Jee Say: Shane or Tom Horn?

In Political governance on 14/08/2011 at 7:52 am

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.

  1. “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?”

    Your comment is a bit unfair.. why would the press cover any Tom, Dick and Harry who spoke in opposition to the casinos?

    • TJS appeared quite often in the press in the 80s as the GCT’s press secretary. He is not a total unknown.

  2. […] Election And Its Benefits: A Young Singaporean’s Perspective – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: Tan Jee Say: Shane or Tom Horn? – Loh and Behold: Should Organizations Endorse Presidential Candidates? – Singapore Life and Times: […]

    • TJS at that time was a civil servant, and all Civil Servants cannot speak up on political matters! Need to get permission. So this report and comment is suspect – done to support Tony Tan?

  3. If you have access to lexis nexis you can view more articles on him.

    He was quiet about the Casinos then.

  4. TCB is PAP’s Plan B….what centrist ?

    • TCB is the decoy to split the opposition votes.
      Also, it is very high handed of any Presidential Candidate to go to the Unions to arm-twist them to support Tony Tan. Where is the civil and civic rights of Unionists and members?

  5. “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.”

    Hi, who or what does the ‘it’ above refer to? it is an interesting view but can you identify the source, if it is not your goodself who holds this opinion?

  6. To me, standing for the election on the other side of the fence is clear enough of an indication of where he stands. And being accepted as comrades by those who were imprisoned wrongly gives him the credibility.

  7. I don’t see TCB as Centralist. I see TKL as Centralist.
    He was a PAP cadre and an NTUC chief that is closely linked to PAP.
    However, during the Lehman incident and lately the GE campaign he came out and supported the Opposition in their trails..(well ok some might argue is courtesy of GMS)
    but point is, he’s been playing both sides well. And his views are pretty clear and well-articulated.
    TCB has been harping on his old track records as PAP MP. I have not heard him take a decisive stand or view on Marxist/ISA or other important issue such as Constitution, EP Salary far mainly motherhood statement. So he’s been playing it very safe and vague. I’m a little disappointed quite frankly.
    As for TT, he’s the vaguest of all. The electorate these days are a lot more passionate and engaged, and have pov. TT is nothing more than just an old onion..he’s not even peeling the first layer yet!!! Total turn off.

  8. Pretty fair comments.

    I find TJS to be fiercely independent. Other than standing as an opposition candidate and more so under the SDP banner, he was never ever a PAP member!

    He had all opportunity to be one. Could have been a high-flyer no doubt, instead he chose to remain a rank outsider. Unblemished and uncorrupted. He is my man for the future.

    Singapore needs him. He could turn out to be what we Singaporeans are looking for.,, an independent mind, patriotic heart, and caring soul.

  9. Good thoughts though too opinionated, but then its your paper who is to citicise, would be good if we knew how well he performed in his investment portfolio. for the 45% vote swingers its really not a difficult choice to make. Those who are waiting to find the perfect opposition will not find one and will return to thier PAP bias, most have decided that TCB and TKL is out and are left only with TJS. So the chances of TT and TJS winning is probably around 50 50 at the moment. Unless TJS say something stupid in the days to come.

  10. The IPS survey that you quoted shows 35% pro-opp (or anti pap) and 20+% pro-pap (or anti-opp). Remaining 45% swing votes. It depends on where and how the swing voters classify TCB.

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