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Happy 84th birthday, Chiam See Tong, the Lion of Potong Pasir

He served Potong Pasir SMC as MP for 27 years.

Sulaiman Daud | March 12, 04:03 pm

Chiam See Tong celebrates his 84th birthday on March 12, 2019.

The Singapore People’s Party marked the occasion with a Facebook post featuring a sepia photo of Chiam from his younger days.

It also included a quote of Chiam, which reads: “I am not actually a brave man. But I love Singapore and I love Singaporeans.”

Veteran politician

Chiam was one of Singapore’s longest serving Members of Parliament (MP) not to have joined the People’s Action Party (PAP).

He served for 27 years as the MP for Potong Pasir SMC, from 1984 to 2011.

Lost seat in 2011

In the 2011 General Election, Chiam ventured out of his Potong Pasir stronghold to contest Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

But he lost to a PAP team featuring current Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

Praise from former Prime Ministers

Despite being heavily outnumbered in Parliament by PAP MPs, Chiam managed to ultimately win praise from two former Prime Ministers.

In his book Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong story, Emeritus Senior Minister and former prime minister Goh Chok Tong said that he regarded Chiam as “a friend” and a “gentleman politician”.

Goh said:

“As a friend, yes. I have seen him at dinners outside. He would come to me and I would go and talk to his wife and so on. If I see the wife, I would ask her how Chiam is. He was a gentleman politician.

He had his own purpose in politics, which is to create a two-party Parliament. There is nothing wrong with that. We did not like it, but we said you try, so he tried.”

He also gave credit to Chiam for being a tough political opponent:

“So, Chiam would be tough to get out of Potong Pasir because he fitted the thinking of the people and is decent, a middle-of-the-road kind of an MP. If you want to campaign against him, it would be very difficult to get him out. So, it was tough in that sense.”

Lee Kuan Yew’s thoughts

In his memoirs, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew also spoke well of Chiam, comparing his record in Parliament to that of JB Jeyaretnam from the Workers’ Party:

“Chiam took the shrewder line than Jeyaretnam, was more in tune with the sentiments of the population, that the PAP was doing a fair job, but could do better and should listen more to criticism.”

Following the 1984 General Election, both Chiam and Jeyaretnam were the only opposition MPs in Parliament.

Chiam’s sporting legacy

Despite being out of Parliament, Chiam’s influence is still felt today with the help of the Chiam See Tong Foundation.

Set up in 2017, it aims to help children from underprivileged families with the resources for them to participate in sports activities.

It was later renamed the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund (CSTSF).

On Feb. 24, the CSTSF Shield was held to raise money for the organisation.

Legendary names of Singapore’s football history took part, including Malek Awab, Steven Tan and Mohd Noor Ali.

Over S$3,000 from ticket sales and donations were raised.

Related stories:

Goh Chok Tong friendly with Chiam See Tong & Low Thia Khiang, but would not speak to Chee Soon Juan

Number of times PAP praised opposition few & far between, but it has happened before

10 revelations from Chiam See Tong’s biography that will interest every well-informed S’porean

Top image from Singapore People’s Party and Chiam See Tong Sports Fund’s Facebook pages.

About Sulaiman Daud

Sulaiman believes that we can be heroes, if just for one day. His favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi's Twelve, and he lives according to the teachings of Jürgen Klopp. He also writes about film and pop-culture, which you are very welcome to read here.

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