SINGAPORE - Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is the "the most brilliant of our current ministers", said Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate Paul Tambyah at a lunchtime rally on Monday.
"Many of us think he will make a fine PM," said Dr Tambyah, 50, before he let in on what he said was a secret. "Many of us in the alternative parties hope that one day DPM Tharman will have a falling out with PM (Lee Hsien Loong) and will come out to lead a grand coalition of opposition parties - Pakatan Rakyat Singapura! - to present a real alternative to the current PAP (People's Action Party) government."
Eight of the 11 candidates whom the SDP is fielding this election addressed the Central Business District crowd at the first lunchtime rally for this general election. Both the SDP and PAP had applied for the spot, with the SDP winning a ballot.
Dr Tambyah is part of a four-member team contesting Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, led by SDP chief Chee Soon Juan, 53.
He did not elaborate on how DPM Tharman was brilliant, but the effusive praise came before he delivered his response to what the deputy prime minister had said at a rally last Saturday about SDP's "tax-and-spend" policies.
DPM Tharman had warned voters not to fall for "false promises", pointing out that a tax on the top 1 per cent alone cannot pay for the levels of social spending promised by the opposition.
And so, taxes for the middle class would have to rise as well, he said, adding that the rich know "how to move their money around".
On Monday, Dr Tambyah disputed the argument that the SDP's policies will be circumvented by the rich and end up squeezing the middle class.
Instead, he said the rich would pay their taxes and make significant contributions to Singapore, pointing to great philanthropists of Singapore's past such as Lee Kong Chian and Tan Kah Kee.
"They did not hold the Government of the day hostage by saying if the Government raised taxes they would run away. On the contrary, they stayed, they paid their taxes," he said.
"That is the kind of top 1 per cent we want. We don't want the Robert Mugabes (in reference to the President of Zimbabwe who has served for 28 years and who has visited Singapore for healthcare treatments), millionaire playboys, the tax-evading Europeans and Australians, the Burmese druglords," he added.
And if the latter group was upset by higher taxes, "let them go", he said.