PSP can help people take up issues only if voted into Parliament, says Tan Cheng Bock at party launch

Progress Singapore Party founder Tan Cheng Bock speaking during his party's official launch at the Swissotel Merchant Court on Aug 3, 2019. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Progress Singapore Party founder Tan Cheng Bock listed issues he said were close to Singaporeans' hearts, adding that he wanted to look into the issues extensively but with available data. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) was officially launched on Saturday (Aug 3), with party chief Tan Cheng Bock promising to work to lower the voting age to 18 years old if his party is voted into Parliament.

Speaking at his party's official launch, he said: "At 18, Singaporeans are old enough to drive; girls enter university, and boys enter into national service.

"Since they have the duty to defend our country, 18-year-olds should also have a right to elect their leaders. They are matured enough to take on responsibility of their citizenry, to understand policies and vote for the government that they want."

This was among pledges he made as he called on Singaporeans to vote the party into Parliament and to deprive the People's Action Party (PAP) of its two-thirds majority.

The PSP's other priorities include: reviewing the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement between Singapore and India, particularly on access for Indian professionals into Singapore; bringing up Singapore's low fertility rate; moving towards a preventive primary healthcare model; ensuring job security for Singaporeans; and encouraging companies to work together when venturing abroad.

Dr Tan and the six other speakers from the central executive committee did not elaborate on how they would do so, and did not want to be drawn into discussing PSP policies.

Pressed to elaborate on several issues during a question and answer session, he said details will be announced in the election manifesto.

"People ask 'Why don't you tell me this or that'. (If I do) I'm a poor strategist. I must keep my cards close to my chest," Dr Tan added.

Asked where he would contest in the next election, due by April 2021, he would only say that as a strategist, he plans his battles carefully.

He said that while many assume he will return to the West Coast - where he was the PAP's MP in the former Ayer Rajah single-seat constituency for 26 years - that would not necessarily be the case.

Speaking at separate sessions to about 1,000 people in all, including those who who applied for the launch tickets and supporters, he promised to take up issues such as healthcare costs, income inequality and cost of living.

"But we must have the data, and the data means you have to get us into Parliament," he said to applause.

Other members introduced at the formal launch on Saturday included chairman Wang Swee Chuang, 68; assistant secretary-general Lee Yung Hwee, 40; treasurer S. Nallakaruppan, 55; assistant-treasurer and former National Solidarity Party member Hazel Poa, 48; and committee members Abdul Rahman, 67, and Michelle Lee, 42, who was previously with the Singapore Democratic Party.

Booths were set up in the ballroom of the Swissotel Merchant Court where the launch was held for people to sign up as members, donate money, and collect souvenirs such as tissue packets and bottled water printed with the PSP's palm tree logo, and to print photos taken at the event.

LED screens in the middle of the hall displayed photos of the event that participants had posted on Instagram, adding to the launch's carnival-like atmosphere.

Financial analyst Jason Tan, 29, who attended the afternoon session said "Singapore needs more political competition inside and outside of Parliament for a proper contest of ideas".

Housewife Chan Lay See, 50, was "not happy with the PAP" and wanted to see how another opposition party could help with reducing high living costs, for instance.

Both have not joined the party, which has about 200 members and volunteers.

Members of the public streaming in for the Progress Singapore Party's official launch event at the Swissotel Merchant Court on Aug 3, 2019. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Dr Tan, who said last week that the PAP had lost its way, choked up on Saturday when he said he decided to re-enter politics "for country, for people". He was emotional again when he said one of his greatest fears was the PSP would collapse when he was "no longer around".

He recounted how Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had asked him to join the PAP before, adding it was now his turn to ask Singaporeans to join him.

"Talk to your friends, the country needs you, you all must come forward," he said.

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