Punggol East MP Charles Chong courageous to stand in GE despite liver condition: Ng Eng Hen

A supporter hugs Charles Chong at the assembly centre at Bedok Stadium during the General Election 2015.
A supporter hugs Charles Chong at the assembly centre at Bedok Stadium during the General Election 2015. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - A day after Punggol East MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Charles Chong disclosed that he was recovering from a liver transplant, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen revealed that Mr Chong had stood in the 2015 General Elections despite knowing he could need a new liver.

He also shared that Mr Chong had said he was ready to stand in Aljunied GRC if asked.

Dr Ng lauded the 63-year-old for his "story of courage" in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Dec 21), saying he had "great respect" for Mr Chong.

The veteran politician received a liver transplant from his younger son on Dec 1 at the National University Hospital, and the pair was discharged two weeks later.

 

Dr Ng shared that Mr Chong had "known for some years now that he might need a new liver in the future, based on his doctors' advice".

According to Dr Ng, this meant that Mr Chong "could still be active" but would need close monitoring and reviews.

"But when Charles was asked to stand in Punggol East by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong before the last GE in 2015, Charles' response was almost instantaneous - Yes, I'm ready to fight," said Dr Ng.

He added that he shared the story "even though Charles himself would not have wanted this story told".

"But it bears telling, not because we are of the same political party, but because in essence the story is about courage and acting on what one believes in, despite uncertainties," wrote Dr Ng.

Mr Chong, a seven-term MP who entered politics in 1988, won the Punggol East seat back from the Workers' Party at last year's GE, defeating incumbent Lee Li Lian.

In an e-mail interview with The Straits Times on Tuesday, Mr Chong said he was diagnosed with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis three years ago after a routine medical check-up.

The condition, liver inflammation caused by fat build-up, did not have "any impact" on his work or personal life, he said.

But it could lead to liver cirrhosis, where the liver is permanently damaged and no longer able to work properly.

Doctors gave Mr Chong the go-ahead to continue with his political and grassroots duties as he was still in good physical condition.

However, in October this year (2016), they advised him to have a liver transplant, which would be best in the long term.

Mr Chong is waiting for doctors to give him the all-clear to resume his Punggol East duties.

For now,  activists, grassroots leaders and MPs from Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC have been helping to look after his single-member constituency.

He thanked well-wishers for their concern on Tuesday (Dec 20) in a Facebook post, saying he and his family were "very touched by the concern and words of encouragement" he received after his surgery.