Happy 85th birthday, Chiam See Tong, the Lion of Potong Pasir

Happy birthday!

Sulaiman Daud | March 12, 2020, 11:47 PM

Chiam See Tong celebrated his 85th birthday on March 12, 2020.

The Singapore People's Party marked the occasion with a Facebook post of Chiam from his younger days.

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).

CSTSF also wished the the Lion of Potong Pasir a happy 85th birthday.

Image from CSTSF