Chuan-Jin's fairness and compassion will serve him well: MPs

Former Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin out for a farewell run at the MacRitchie Reservoir on Sept 7, 2017. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Former army general with gravitas and a heart of gold. Jogging partner. Champion of fair play.

As Mr Tan Chuan-Jin took the Speaker's chair yesterday, six MPs recounted their experiences working alongside the newly elected head of Parliament.

They lauded the fairness and compassion he displayed in his constituency and at the ministries of National Development, Manpower, and Social and Family Development - values they felt would continue to serve him well.

Leader of the House Grace Fu said that members would miss Mr Tan's contributions in Government. She added that they had full confidence in his ability to conduct parliamentary debate and proceedings with fairness.

"Everyone who has interacted with you can attest to your patience and willingness to listen to both sides of a debate," she said.

"In the years ahead, the many complex and multifaceted challenges facing Singapore will need fair, frank and honest debate."

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Over the years, Ms Fu added, Mr Tan's sincerity and affable demeanour have helped him connect with people, from foreign worker advocates to those in social service organisations. His ability to earn the trust of people with different views and to encourage civil dialogue will be "central in ensuring we continue to have productive and healthy debates in this House".

His exposure to a range of issues will also stand him in good stead as he oversees debates on a wide array of legislation and policies, she said.

And, quipped Ms Fu, she had a personal request to make of Mr Tan, her jogging partner.

"Now that you are leading this institution, and have an office here, I hope we will have more opportunities to run together, and look forward to a refreshed gym in Parliament," she said to laughter.

Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) hoped Mr Tan would give room for "independent thought and innovative suggestions" to flourish during debates.

MPs also mined their experiences working with Mr Tan.

His former colleague at the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Senior Parliamentary Secretary Faishal Ibrahim, called him a "champion of fair play" who would bring impartiality and boundless energy to the role.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson) spoke fondly of Mr Tan's "heart of gold" in ensuring that no one is left behind, his ability to manage issues in a balanced manner, and his gravitas. These qualities make him best-placed to be Speaker, she said.

Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong addressed talk that in moving to his new post, he had been "demoted".

She questioned whether a person's value should be limited to the position he holds and the salary he earns.

She said of public servants: "We all serve... No office can limit the passion to serve. No office can limit the talent to make an impact. And any office can be one for exemplary service."

Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2017, with the headline Chuan-Jin's fairness and compassion will serve him well: MPs. Subscribe