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Andrea Ong
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Singapore

Tan Jee Say forming new party for next GE

The Straits Times | Andrea Ong | Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Former presidential candidate Tan Jee Say sets up new political party.

Former presidential candidate Tan Jee Say is forming a new political party to contest the next general election.

It will be named Singaporeans First, and will champion a new national narrative that puts people at the heart of all policies, rather than treat them as "economic digits", he said at a press conference yesterday.

It has 11 founding members, including architects, retired army colonels and other professionals.

Eight worked in government agencies, seven were scholarship holders and three are former People's Action Party activists.

Psychiatrist and retired army colonel Ang Yong Guan, who contested the 2011 polls with Mr Tan on the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) ticket, is a familiar face.

Other party members present at the seafood restaurant in East Coast yesterday were communications professional Fahmi Rais, 46; architect Fatimah Akhtar, 43; chemist and logistics professional David Foo, 50; architect and town planner Winston Lim, 47; and project manager Jamie Lee, who declined to give her age.

The other four, who were overseas, are retired engineer Michael Chia, company director Loke Pak Hoe, educationist David Tan, and social entrepreneur and retired colonel Tan Peng Ann.

The members' experience with government and economics, as well as their focus on building strong families, sets his party apart from other opposition parties, said Mr Tan Jee Say.

The two architects - Mr Lim and Ms Fatimah - for instance, highlighted their interest in using urban design to strengthen families and improve productivity. They are both formerly from the Democratic Progressive Party.

Dr Ang, 59, said the Singaporeans First logo - a heart within a circle - reflects the party's goal to "think with our heart" in building a fair society, strong families and a people with strong self-esteem. These are the main themes in its four-page manifesto released yesterday, which proposes changes to the economy, social safety nets and urban planning.

Some policies it is advocating include scrapping the goods and services tax, providing free education from pre-school to university, and spurring more housewives and old people to join the workforce by redeveloping housing estates into "self-contained communities" to shorten travelling time.

It is also proposing affordable universal health insurance, unemployment insurance and a state- provided old age pension that will not be means-tested.

Asked how the party plans to fund all the initiatives, Mr Tan, a financial adviser and former investment banker and civil servant, said they can be funded by the surpluses Singapore has accumulated, which he estimates to stand at some $1 trillion.

Mr Tan said he decided to form his own party so he could "work with all parties and not just one party in the coming GE".

He said he would register the party after the press conference. Party positions will be decided after it is approved. He also shared plans for it to contest at least two Group Representation Constituencies and work with other opposition parties in the next GE. He was confident his party could be a "black swan", referring to a surprise event with a large impact.

Asked about the party's name, Mr Tan stressed that the party is not xenophobic, adding: "We are talking about... putting emphasis on Singaporeans as people, not as economic digits."

Opposition veteran Wong Wee Nam said the political space is "very tight" and it is unclear whether Mr Tan, despite having made a name for himself, will be able to make inroads against older, more established parties.

Last night, SDP chairman Jeffrey George congratulated the new party and said: "We look forward to working with (Singaporeans First), as we do with all opposition parties, to bring about a democratic Singapore."

andreao@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 26, 2014.
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