When Tan Chuan-Jin was appointed Speaker of Parliament in September 2017, it baffled many people, especially those who had regarded him as one of the key member of the 4G leadership.
Four months later, in a wide-ranging interview with Channel News Asia (CNA), the newly-minted speaker spoke about his own political career and ambitions and what he intends to achieve in his new role.
Here's what we learnt from a candid and reflective Tan.
1. Tan does not seem to know exactly why he was appointed
Tan's candidly admitted to wondering about the reasons for his new appointment.
“I did think about why this happened. I thought about it in my own mind, but I don’t linger on these issues.
“There will be those who feel that you didn’t do well and that’s why. And there will be those that felt it might have been health issues. There were those who suggested I stepped on some other peoples’ toes”
He said he did not ask anyone in Cabinet why he was being nominated for the post.
“No, I just pretty much embraced it. That’s pretty much how I’ve approached every single transition to every job.”
For anyone who needs a refresher on this topic, they can read PM Lee Hsien Loong's Facebook post below.
2. Tan's life approach: "I go where the openings are"
Tan remains a core member of the 4G leadership, which we now know has 16 members, including him, from the public statement they issued on Jan. 4, 2018.
As the only member among the 16 who is not in government, Tan will not be driving government policy-making, but it was clear from the interview that he has come to terms with the change in his job scope.
He talked about how "in life, things don't always pan out exactly as you wish". What's more interesting was the way he talked about how he realised passion is a state of mind.
“Perhaps you wish you could have been promoted. You wish you could have this job or that job and sometimes you don’t always have full control over it and I’ve come to realise that another perspective to look at is really to be just passionate about whatever you are doing.”
He said the thought of becoming Prime Minister did not cross his mind, even though it was a public talking point.
“I take this approach to life and my career, not just in politics but even in the Singapore Armed Forces. I go where the openings are. If I’m told that there’s this job and I’m going to be posted there, basically I take it up and then move forward. I know that certain jobs can be seen as prestigious, but I think I have a duty and responsibility to just take up where the organisation or the team feels that I’m best suited to go and I’ve embraced every opportunity."
3. Tan is still leading Marine Parade GRC
Tan was the anchor minister for Marine Parade GRC, and his departure from the government had led to questions about who will be leading the PAP team at the constituency level.
He revealed in the CNA interview that he "continues to lead Marine Parade GRC".
When asked if he has considered that his political career is ending, he said:
“I don’t call the shots. If the party feels it’s time for a renewal, thanks you for your services and says it’s time to move on, then it’s time to move on and then you serve the public in a different capacity ”
"We shouldn't be self-entitled to think that just because we enter politics, it remains in perpetuity. You serve only as long you have value-add and are needed."
4. Tan is "agnostic" about "live" streaming of parliament, intends to use social media to educate the public
As someone who is "agnostic" about "live" streaming of parliamentary proceedings, Tan said he is willing to consider raising the possibility of “live” broadcasts again with the government, despite data which shows low viewership.
“I would have to discuss this with government, whether this is something that we would seriously want to consider and perhaps do another trial.”
But he thinks the understanding of the parliamentary process is "more important".
“More important is actually understanding. I can watch, but I may not understand how that process is supposed to unfold or why this person speaks, why that.”
He is "determined" to start a public education process through the use of social media, such as YouTube videos to explain the various parliamentary procedures and processes.
And he believes the basics need to be explained, which included misconceptions that some parliamentary questions are not answered.
“People get very agitated when they don’t understand the process and feel that it is unfair. I think it’s important for them first to have confidence in the process.”
“The truth is, every parliamentary question is answered, whether orally or in written form. Sometimes in terms of sequencing, they may not get answered. But it’s rolled over, sometimes several times.”
Cover photo from Tan Chuan-Jin Facebook