Tan Cheng Bock
Tan Cheng Bock
Tan at his residence on 17 August 2011
|Member of the Singapore Parliament
for Ayer Rajah
23 December 1980 - 6 May 2006
|Succeeded by||S. Iswaran (West Coast GRC)|
26 April 1940 |
(formerly People's Action Party until May 2011)
|Spouse(s)||Cecilia Lee Choon Lian|
|Children||1 son and 1 daughter|
|Alma mater||University of Singapore|
Dr. Tan Cheng Bock (simplified Chinese: 陈清木; traditional Chinese: 陳清木; pinyin: Chén chīngmù; 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 Medical career
- 3 Political career
- 4 Electoral record
- 5 Business career
- 6 Awards and decorations
- 7 Charity work
- 8 Personal life
- 9 2011 Presidential Election
- 10 References
- 11 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 a backbencher 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.
Representing the People's Action Party (PAP), Tan was elected a Member of Parliament (MP) for Ayer Rajah Single Member Constituency (Ayer Rajah SMC) in the 1980 general election (83% majority). He was re-elected five times in 1984 (75%), 1988 (70%), 1991 (75%), 1997 (73%) and 2001 (88%), winning by an average majority of 77%. His 88% share of the vote in the 2001 parliamentary elections was the PAP’s best score in 31 years.
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.
Elections in 2000s
|General Election 2001: Ayer Rajah|
|PAP||Tan Cheng Bock||15,024||88.0||+14.8|
|DPP||Tan Lead Shake||2,057||12.0||+12.0|
- As DPP candidate Tan Lead Shake received less than 12.5% of valid votes, he lost his election deposit of S$13,000
Elections in 1990s
|General Election 1997: Ayer Rajah|
|PAP||Tan Cheng Bock||15,081||73.2||-2.0|
|SPP||Sin Kek Tong||5,531||26.8||+26.8|
|General Election 1991: Ayer Rajah|
|PAP||Tan Cheng Bock||15,038||75.2||+5.6|
|PKMS||Mohammed Aziz bin Ibrahim||4,971||24.8||+24.8|
Elections in 1980s
|General Election 1988: Ayer Rajah|
|PAP||Tan Cheng Bock||14,824||69.6||-5.8|
|WP||Tan Song Gek||6,489||30.4||+30.4|
|General Election 1984: Ayer Rajah|
|PAP||Tan Cheng Bock||14,050||75.4||-8.0|
|SJP||Suib bin Abdul Rahman||4,575||24.6||+8.0|
|General Election 1980: Ayer Rajah|
|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|
|Tony Tan Keng Yam||745,693||35.20|
|Tan Cheng Bock||738,311||34.85|
|Tan Jee Say||530,441||25.04|
|(Loses deposit) Tan Kin Lian||104,095||4.91|
|Valid votes||2,118,540||98.24% of total votes cast|
|Invalid (e.g. blank or spoilt) votes||37,849||1.76% of total votes cast|
|Total votes cast||2,156,389||Voter turnout: 94.8% of electorate|
|Did not vote||118,384|
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 fellow multi-millionaire 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 (a first in the history of Singapore politics) 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).
2011 Presidential Election
In June 2011, Tan announced that he was running for the position of President of Singapore in the 2011 presidential election. He resigned from the PAP in early May 2011 so that he can stand for the presidential election (as members of political parties are barred from running for the office of President). On 22 July 2011, Tan submitted the presidency forms. On 11 August 2011, Tan was declared eligible to run.
Tan expressed he wishes to promote multi-racialism, 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 government’s and the Internal Security Department’s reasons 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 addressed that "The President must be above politics." and that "he must not be a proxy to be any political party" where "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 this 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 in order for Singaporeans to better understand the president's activities and ideas in unifying Singapore. The statement will also touch on Singapore's reserves, and the rationale behind the appointment or vetoing of civil servants.
Tan's campaign slogan is "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 symbol is a palm tree. He explained "The leaves of the palm represents our multiracial society, the trunk represents them coming together, and the roots represents us taking root in Singapore." 
- "Profile". Dr Tan Cheng Bock. 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
- Tan Cheng Bock keen to run for President, The Straits Times, 27 May 2011
- Singapore Election Candidates (T), singapore-elections.com
- Tan Cheng Bock's Profile, Tan Cheng Bock's Official Blog
- Singapore Presidential Election 2011
- Presidential Elections Results. Singapore Elections Department. 28 August 2011.
- Polling Day Voter Turnout. Singapore Elections Department. 28 August 2011.
- Koh, Hui Theng. "He was outflanked". AsiaOne. Singapore Press. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- The Straits Times 30 March 1988
- CPF Education Scheme
- "Sentosa sheds light on entry levy saga, Jessica Tan". The Straits Times Pg A10. 24 August 2011.
- Business Times – 28 July 1992
- "'Let's think of our own first' call". The Straits Times (Singapore). 9 March 1999. p. 27. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
- "No more blank cheque for Government, says Cheng Bock". The Straits Times. 2 March 1985. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
- "No more blank cheque for Government". Cheng Bock's Official Blog.
- Straits Times, 10 December 1994.
- Letter from Goh Chok Tong to Tan Cheng Bock dated 31 January 1991, quoted in Straits Times, 6 December 1997.
- "ANNOUNCEMENT OF CESSATION AS NON-EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN". Chuan Hup Holdings Ltd. 21 October 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
- Former MP Tan Cheng Bock may run for President, channelnewsasia.com, 27 May 2011
- Lim, Leonard (22 July 2011). "Dr Tan Cheng Bock files presidency forms". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2 3 July 2011. Check date values in:
- "CERTIFICATES OF ELIGIBILITY ISSUED FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2011" (PDF). Elections Department. 11 August 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- Hetty Musfirah, Riz Sunawan (7 August 2011). "PE: Dr Tan Cheng Bock says he'll promote multiracialism very strongly if elected". Channel News Asia. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- "Most think Govt acted rightly, says Cheng Bock". The Straits Times. 30 July 1987. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
- "Marxist issue could be potentially defamatory". Marxist issue could be potentially defamatory. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
- "To champion multi-racialism: Tan Cheng Bock". Today. 18 August 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- See, Sharon (18 August 2011). "PE: Candidates unveil election symbols". Channel News Asia. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
- "PE: Dr Tony Tan elected Singapore president". Channel NewsAsia. 28 August 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2011.