Testimonial to Cheng Bock’s commitment to serve

When the husband of one of his constituents in Ayer Rajah died in the SilkAir crash in Indonesia in 1997, then Member of Parliament (MP) Tan Cheng Bock (picture) had one of his grassroots leaders accompany the woman there to help recover the late man’s share of his business from his business partners – and quietly took care of all their expenses.

For more than an hour, Singaporeans of all stripes – from a taxi driver to a scientist – took to the stage at the presidential candidate’s rally last night to share similar stories, testifying to Dr Tan’s commitment to the people he served, whether as their doctor or MP.

The rally at the Singapore Expo boasted special touches like a sign language interpreter on stage for the hearing-impaired and palm trees flanking the stage.

Former trade unionist Sarasaury – who worked with Dr Tan when he served as an adviser to her trade union – related how when his father died, Dr Tan, then 16, fought to get a payout from the trade union to which his father belonged.

In the end, Dr Tan managed to recover half of the S$28,000 due, which he used to support his six siblings while staying in school.

“He fought for the rights of his father … this is the man who will stand up as the President and fight for the people of Singapore,” said Ms Sarasaury, to cheers.

Dr Tan’s daughter, Tan Ming Li, recalled how as a child, her home was full of eggs and other produce Dr Tan would accept from patients in lieu of money for treatment.

In 2005, when he was recovering from meningitis, his biggest concern was returning to his Meet-the-People Sessions, even though he could only move with the help of a cane.

“He has a heart for the people,” said Ms Tan, a lawyer-turned-homemaker.

Campaign adviser Philip Law attested to Dr Tan’s willingness to speak his mind over controversial issues, such as when he expressed concerns over Dr Tan’s suggestion that the Prime Minister’s Office should move out of the Istana.

“He said to me firmly, ‘If this is something good for Singaporeans, we should not be afraid to say it.’ And he did,” said Mr Law.

Dr Tan’s son Joshua also took to the stage, defending his father’s financial experience – which had come under attack from fellow candidate Tan Kin Lian. Dr Tan, 71, is non-executive chairman of Chuan Hup Holdings.

“The role of a non-executive chairman is to ask tough questions when the CEO wants to do something major … and might dip into the company’s cash reserves. Similarly, the Elected President’s role is to ask the tough questions of the PM and his colleagues if they want to do something that might dip into reserves,” said Mr Tan, an investment analyst. LIN YANQIN