Tan Cheng Bock
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Tan Cheng Bock
Tan at his residence on 17 August 2011
|Member of the Singapore Parliament|
for Ayer Rajah SMC
23 December 1980 - 6 May 2006
|Succeeded by||S. Iswaran (West Coast GRC)|
|Born||26 April 1940|
Singapore, Straits Settlements
|Spouse(s)||Cecilia Lee Choon Lian|
|Children||1 son and 1 daughter|
|Alma mater||University of Singapore|
Tan Cheng Bock (simplified Chinese: 陈清木; traditional Chinese: 陳清木; pinyin: Chén Qīng Mù; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Tân Chheng-bo̍k; born 26 April 1940) is a Singaporean politician and medical practitioner. He was formerly a member of Singapore's governing People's Action Party (PAP) and a Member of Parliament from 1980 to 2006. He was the first non-Cabinet minister elected into the PAP Central Executive Committee (1987–96). He stood for the 2011 presidential election and won the second highest number of votes at 34.85% among all four candidates, losing marginally to the winner Tony Tan.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Personal life
- 3 Medical career
- 4 Political career
- 5 Business career
- 6 Awards and decorations
- 7 Charity work
- 8 2011 presidential election
- 9 Post-2011: Post-election
- 10 Electoral record
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Born to a Hokkien-speaking family, Tan was educated at Radin Mas Primary School and Raffles Institution, before going on to study at the University of Singapore where he graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 1968. He was an MP in the Singapore Parliament from 1980 to 2006 as a member of the People's Action Party (PAP). In early May 2011 he resigned from the PAP to stand as a candidate in the 2011 presidential election. 
Tan has been the Medical Director of Ama Keng Medical Clinic in Jurong since 1971. He has served as the Chairman of the Society of Private Practice, as a Council Member of the College of General Practitioners, as Committee Member on the Council of the Singapore Medical Association (SMA), as Chairman of the SMA Trust Fund, as Board Member of SMA's Ethics Committee, as SMA's Representative on the Ministry of Health's Committee on the Regulation of Medical Clinics, and as a part-time clinical teacher in general practice at the National University of Singapore.
Tan entered the political arena in the 1980 general election under the People's Action Party's banner, and became the Member of Parliament-elect for the Ayer Rajah Single Member Constituency with an 83% majority. Tan's subsequent election results with an average of 77% was perceived as one of the best-performing candidates in Singapore, with his best-ever score being his last election in 2001, with 88%.
While in Parliament, he served as the Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committees (GPCs) for Education (1987–90), National Development (1991–95) and the Environment (1995–97), and was the Co-ordinating Chairman for all GPCs from 1987-88. He was also a member of the GPCs for Communications (1997–2000) and Defence and Foreign Affairs (2001–06). Tan was the Leader of the Singapore-European Parliamentary Group between 1991–1996 and Singapore-SEA Parliamentary Group between 1997 - 2006. From 1987 - 1996, he was an elected member of the PAP Central Executive Committee, the highest ruling committee within the PAP. Tan stepped down as a Member of Parliament at the 2006 general election. He also served as Chairman of the Jurong East Town Council from 1989–91, Chairman of the West Coast-Ayer Rajah Town Council from 2001–04, Chairman of the Bukit Timah Community Development Council from 1997–2000, and Chairman of the Feedback Unit at the Ministry of Community Development from 1985-89.
He left politics ahead of the 2006 general election, while his constituency was redrawn to the nearby West Coast Group Representation Constituency (Ayer Rajah division has since held by S Iswaran (which was absorbed alongside Iswaran's West Coast), and later Foo Mee Har since the 2011 general election).
CPF for Tertiary Education
In 1988, Tan, as GPC Chairman for Education, led a team of MPs to argue for the use of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) for education, as an appreciable number of able students were not able to enter local universities due to limited places. Tan felt that education was a form of investment, and that all his GPC was asking for was an extra option for CPF members, to let them decide whether to put their investible savings in stocks and shares or in education. Chief argument against the idea was that the use of such retirement savings may leave the account holder with an insufficient amount at the end of his working life. Minister for Labour Lee Yock Suan said that there were alternatives available such as soft loan schemes which were interest free. In answer to Tan's claim that Lee had not clearly stated his position on the issue despite the idea being first mentioned years ago, Lee insisted that his position had always been plain, that he "was against it, but you have pressed me to study it and I shall". The set of guidelines on the use of CPF for Education proposed by the GPC was eventually implemented, paving the way for the beginnings of a wave of Singaporean students studying at local tertiary institutions.
Tan also convinced the Ministry of National Development (MND) to allow Singaporeans to park their cars for free in Housing Development Board (HDB) estates on Sundays and public holidays, to promote family togetherness.
In early 2010, Tan volunteered himself to help residents in Sentosa Cove to meet with Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) to seek waiver of the gantry entry charge (S$2 to S$7 depending on the entry time) for visitors to their residences to the Sentosa island. His efforts however did not bear immediate fruits. Later in October 2010, the SDC offered to cap the entry charge at a concession rate of S$3.
Nominated Member of Parliament Scheme
Tan actually voted against his own party despite the Whip not lifted regarding the NMP scheme, on grounds that MPs had to be elected by the people and be accountable to an electorate for their views. He received a warning for his action.
Think Singaporeans First
In 1999, when Singapore was recovering from the 1997 Asian financial crisis, and experiencing yet labour talent shortages in several key sectors, the PAP pushed for a stronger intake of foreign talent to fill the ranks. Although not against this rationale, Tan argued that the Singapore government should tone down its calls for the recruitment of foreign talent and reassure Singaporeans that they came first, which earned him strong rebuttals, including one from Minister of Trade and Industry George Yeo and a stern rebuke from Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
No Blank Cheque
Working with the opposition
After the 2011 general elections, Tan said in a speech at the 52nd Singapore Medical Association Annual Dinner that he had given advice to opposition candidates, including Tan Jee Say, on how to campaign in the elections when they approached him. Tan Jee Say had stood for election as a Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate in Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency and lost. Tan Jee Say later resigned from his party to stand in the 2011 presidential election.
Appointment to Chuan Hup
Tan's appointment as non-executive Chairman of Chuan Hup Holdings (CHH) Ltd in 1991 was unusual at the time, as Members of Parliament did not normally hold such positions. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who had been a classmate of Tan's in Raffles Institution, later said that he had initially been inclined to say no to Tan's request because Tan was a medical practitioner with no experience in shipping:
“When I first saw the letter, the old attitude was, why is the company interested in him? Is it to use him to open doors in Singapore? People know that he was my classmate. He is close to me. And would they use him to take advantage of his relationship with me? I would regard that as natural initial reservations.”
Goh ultimately agreed to the appointment, but in the letter he sent to Tan made clear his reservations:
“When you become CHH's non-executive chairman, you should distinguish clearly between your private position as CHH's chairman and your public position as MP. You should not lobby any public officer in the course of your business. You have often spoken publicly on the state of the property market, and the need for the Government to intervene. It has not always been clear whether you were speaking as an MP, or in your private or professional capacity. This has confused the public.”
Goh later confirmed that neither Tan nor his company had ever tried to take advantage of his position.
Tan has also held the position of Chairman of Dredging International Asia Pacific Pte Ltd since 1997.
Past corporate appointments
His past corporate appointments include
- ING Asia Private Bank (2008–09)
- M&C REIT Management Ltd (2006–10)
- M&C Business Trust Management Ltd (2006–10)
- Jurong Health Services (up to 2011)
- Jurong Medical Centre (up to 2011)
- Provisional MRT Transit Authority (1983)
- Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (1983–85)
- SMRT (1987–95)
- Land Transport Authority (1995–2005).
- Chuan Hup Holdings (1991–2011)
Awards and decorations
Tan has been awarded numerous accolades from various organisations.
- Sreenivasan Orator, Singapore Medical Association(SMA)
- Orator, Obstetrics & Gynaecology Society
- Fellow, College of Family Practitioners
- Honorary Member, Singapore Medical Association
- Honorary Member, Republic of Singapore Yacht Club
- Governor, Tower Club
- Honoured – 100 Rafflesians (1823–2003)
Tan has been involved in the following Charity Organisations such as the Tsao Organisation (2000–2009), Centre for Third Age Ltd (2007–2011), Disabled People's Association (1985–2006), Handicap Welfare Association (1986–2006) and the Credit Counselling Singapore (2002–2007).. In Jan 2012, he sang in the Meet The Entrepreneur Charity Concert together with 40 other Singapore entrepreneurs like Andrew Chow to say that "If you ever change your mind, come back to me in 2016, I will be back to fight again, please understand".
2011 presidential election
On 27 May 2011, 20 days after the recent general election, Tan was the first candidate to seek candidacy for the forthcoming Presidential Election; he resigned from PAP earlier that month prior to the announcement (per the constitution, candidates running for the presidential election must be a nonpartisan, independent candidate, and should not affiliate or to represent to any political party) On 22 July 2011, Tan submitted the presidency forms.
Ahead of the nomination day (due to be held on 17 August), despite anticipation for a strong contest against the other potential rivals who also announced their candidacy (former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan, and NTUC Income Chief Executive Officer Tan Kin Lian), he filed his applications on 22 July, and on 11 August, was one of the four candidates (the aforementioned three, plus former Singapore Democratic Party candidate Tan Jee Say) to be granted the Certificate of Eligibility, an item required to complete their nominations during Nomination Day. The four-cornered fight marked only the second presidential election in history (the first was in 1993) with a contest, as the two preceding presidential elections (1999 and 2005) were both uncontested walkovers.
Tan expressed he wishes to promote multiracialism, if elected.
Internal Security Act detentions
Controversy erupted shortly after Tan declared his interest in the presidency. It was revealed that in a Straits Times article dated back in 1987, Tan had spoken regarding the Singaporean government's controversial Operation Spectrum while he was in Parliament, which saw 22 young Roman Catholic church and social activists and professionals detained without trial. He addressed, in his capacity as Feedback Unit chief, that most Singaporeans had accepted the reasons of the government and the Internal Security Department for the detention. He also reported that certain "solid citizens" were skeptical of the detention. On 4 June 2011, Tan's Facebook administrator cited that as posts on his page about the incident were running contrary to what law courts have ruled, the risk of being sued for defamation was open to both hosts of the site and people behind the posts alike, as such, "(they) are obliged to remove posts that run contrary to what the law courts have ruled."
In the presidential candidate broadcast, Tan said, "The President must be above politics" and that "he must not be a proxy to be any political party", as "his interest must be national, not with a political agenda in mind".
He also proposed for the government and the Prime Minister's Office to be separated as "this familiarity attracts unwanted suspicion of undue influence". He emphasised that the separation is a symbolic move required to reassure the people that they are independent of each other.
Tan also proposed an Annual Statement for greater transparency for Singaporeans to better understand the president's activities and ideas in unifying Singapore. The statement also touches on Singapore's reserves and the rationale behind the appointment or vetoing of civil servants.
Tan's campaign slogan was "Think Singaporeans First", a reference to his 1999 debate on the need to prioritise Singaporeans first when faced with prevailing foreign talent policy.
Tan's selected the palm tree as his symbol, explaining that "The leaves of the palm represents our multiracial society, the trunk represents them coming together, and the roots represents us taking root in Singapore." 
On 27 August, Singapore went to choose their seventh and newly-elected candidate. About five hours after polls closed, at 1.23am, Tan called Election Department for an Election recount; due to a narrow margin with less than 2% against the top two highest candidate (the other was Tony Tan), ELD approved Tan's request, and vote counting went on for around three hours before the results were finalized.
At 4.10am, the final results saw Tan Cheng Bock losing the election marginally to Tony Tan by a 0.35% margin (7,269 votes); Cheng Bock garnered 737,128 (34.85% out of the 2,115,118 valid) votes, while Tony garnered 744,397 votes (35.20%).
2017 Presidential Election
In September 2016, the eligibility criteria for the elected Presidency was revised to include the "reserved election" (an election made exclusive for one particular race; in the case, Malay candidates), and were passed by the Constitution in November 2016, eventually prevented Tan from running the election.
In May 2017, three months before the elections, Tan filed a constitutional challenge to the High Court, to determine whether it is correct to set the election as a reserved election under the newly introduced amendments to the Elected Presidency, and whether Wee Kim Wee (the fourth Singapore's President) is counted as one six-year term since the constitution for the elected presidency was instated in 1991, but the High Court's Justice Quentin Loh dismissed his challenge, providing an explanation that "Article 164(1)(a) provides for Parliament to specify the first term of office of the President to be counted under Art 19B(1) ("First Term"). Tan later appealed to the Court on 31 July, but the court of the five judges unanimously dismissed his appeal on 23 August, ruling that the Parliament has their full discretion to set the First Term, which President Wee was counted as one term of Presidency.
The election ended with a walkover after former Parliamentary Speaker Halimah Yacob became the sole candidate to be granted the Certificate of Eligibility, and was inaugurated on 14 September. After the nomination day, he, along with potential candidates such as Farid Khan and Salleh Marican, also congratulated on Yacob's presidency.
2018-: Preparation for next General Election
In 2018, Tan led a gathering along with seven opposition parties (Singapore Democratic Party, Reform Party, Singaporeans First, People's Power Party, Democratic Progressive Party, National Solidarity Party, and a new party formed by former NSP chief Lim Tean, People's Voice Party), to plan a possible collation for the upcoming election.
Elections in 2000s
|PAP||Tan Cheng Bock||15,024||88.0||+14.8|
|DPP||Tan Lead Shake (Loses deposit)||2,057||12.0||+12.0|
Elections in 1990s
|PAP||Tan Cheng Bock||15,081||73.2||-2.0|
|SPP||Sin Kek Tong||5,531||26.8||+26.8|
|PAP||Tan Cheng Bock||15,038||75.2||+5.6|
|PKMS||Mohammed Aziz bin Ibrahim||4,971||24.8||+24.8|
Elections in 1980s
|PAP||Tan Cheng Bock||14,824||69.6||-5.8|
|WP||Tan Song Gek||6,489||30.4||+30.4|
|PAP||Tan Cheng Bock||14,050||75.4||-8.0|
|SJP||Suib bin Abdul Rahman||4,575||24.6||+8.0|
|PAP||Tan Cheng Bock||12,400||83.4||N/A|
|SJP||Suib bin Abdul Rahman||6,362||16.6||N/A|
|PAP win (new seat)|
|Votes||% of valid votes|
|Tan Cheng Bock||738,311||34.85|
|Tan Jee Say||530,441||25.04|
|Tan Kin Lian (Loses deposit)||104,095||4.91|
|Valid votes||2,118,540||98.24% of total votes cast|
|Rejected votes||37,849||1.76% of total votes cast|
|Total votes cast||2,156,389||Voter turnout: 94.8% of electorate|
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