An eventful end to nine days of campaigning

BY:  Leong Wee Keat

SINGAPORE – Campaigning for the first Presidential Election in 18 years – and the most keenly-fought contest ever – drew to a close yesterday.

And the four candidates, who sought to drive home distinct messages over the nine-day hustings, ended their campaigns in vastly different styles.

One capped it with a “special” indoor rally; one took the chance to address online allegations; one threw a party for supporters and friends as another lobbed jibes in his direction.

With today designated as Cooling-off Day, candidates stepped up their campaign activities yesterday. Former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan was the first to hit the campaign trail when he visited the Chong Pang market in the morning.

Giving his take on the campaign, Dr Tony Tan described it as being generally “dignified”. But he was outraged by the allegations and smear campaign against his family. He added: “(The attacks) are designed to distract Singaporeans from the true debate on the role of the President and the future of Singapore.”

“Our reputations and the institution of National Service have been maligned, simply to attack our father, Dr Tony Tan,” their statement said.

The trio – Peter, Patrick and Philip – said they had fulfilled all obligations in accordance with the rules, regulations and deployment policies of the Ministry of Defence.

At a press conference, former NTUC Income CEO Tan Kin Lian – who, unlike his opponents, has not contested in any General Election – also recounted his maiden electoral experience, where he named fellow candidate Tan Jee Say as the person behind his “low points”.

Said Mr Tan Kin Lian: “I invited him (to join) my team … to help formulate my strategy … he attended one of the meetings and later decided to stand. It caused some disruption to my team.”

He said that as a result, part of his support base shifted towards Mr Tan Jee Say, with some defecting to help the latter. Mr Tan Kin Lian also said he was surprised that Mr Tan Jee Say was granted the Certificate of Eligibility by the Presidential Elections Committee. “According to my common sense, Mr Tan Jee Say does not qualify,” said Mr Tan Kin Lian.

When told of Mr Tan Kin Lian’s remarks, Mr Tan Jee Say – who was in celebratory mood as he held a party at his Frankel Avenue home to mark the end of the hectic campaign period – reiterated that he had “nothing against anybody”. He felt that Mr Tan Kin Lian might have made those remarks in “the heat of the campaign”.

Earlier in the day, Mr Tan Jee Say again distanced himself from his public image. He told reporters after a walkabout: “I am not confrontational. I ask questions, that’s my role. That’s the objective of having an Elected President.”

Over at the Expo, Dr Tan Cheng Bock held his rally – the only one to be held indoors – where Singaporeans from different walks of life, from a taxi driver to a scientist, shared stories about their encounters with the former Ayer Rajah Member of Parliament.

With doubts cast on his financial knowledge, Dr Tan Cheng Bock had the last say – hours before Cooling-off Day kicked in at midnight – as he dismissed suggestions that he is a mere “country doctor”.

He detailed the diverse roles he has held over the years involving heavy financial decisions. This included serving on the boards of the Land Transport Authority and SMRT, where he was involved in building the MRT lines – including the first MRT contract worth S$4.5 billion.

“You have to make decisions to make sure this money is utilised properly. If anyone thinks I’m not good in (finance), they better go and ask LTA … and SMRT,” said Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who also highlighted his stint as an independent director at ING Asia Private Bank, and his post as the non-executive chairman of Chuan Hup Holdings for over 20 years.

The four candidates will make a final pitch tonight when the second Presidential Candidate Broadcast is aired over radio and TV in four languages before the 2.27 million voters head to the polls tomorrow.

– Today Online