- Why the mainstream newspapers do not report this incident except one evening tabloid (Wan Bao)?
- I am very puzzled by the following PM Lee’s statement, if this man is honourable,why dropped him at the last hour?
- Did steve pull out based on “personal reasons” as publicly stated or PAP do not want to take the chance in case the allegation turns out to be true? Then why not say so?
He said that the party and Mr Tan could have ‘pretended there was no problem and just carried on’.
“But Steve Tan is honorable, we are (as well), and we decided that awkward as it is, we just had to go through with this and made the last-minute change and explain to people: I’m sorry, something has come up…we have had to make a change.”
By Wayne Sim
The internet has been abuzz with rumours ever since PAP candidate Steve Tan announced at the eleventh hour that he would be dropping out of the general election.
Having been formally introduced by the PAP as a candidate, Mr Tan withdrew his candidacy just one day before Nomination Day, forcing the PAP to reshuffle its pack.
Dr Chia Shi Lu, a complete unknown who had not previously taken part in the party’s campaign activities, was plucked out of the wilderness and installed as an MP just 24 hours later, as the ruling party’s Tanjong Pagar GRC team received a walkover.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong evaded questions on Mr Tan at yesterday’s PAP press conference, saying only that the sudden withdrawal had taken the party by surprise. He assured reporters that Dr Chia was not a greenhorn, having previously served as a grassroots volunteer.
It later emerged, however, that there was more than meets the eye as far as Mr Tan’s pull-out was concerned. Rumours surfaced regarding allegations made by some of his former female colleagues at the NTUC, where Mr Tan is an Executive Secretary of the Youth Wing. It was reported that Mr Tan had been accused of sexual harrassment, and that complaints sent to the Prime Minister’s Office had eventually led to his downfall.
Mr Tan, however, spoke to the Straits Times in an attempt to clear the air. He insisted that the allegations were false, but acknowledged that they could have played a role in his decision to withdraw from the election.
“I did not have an ideal love story or love life, and I dated people. But my conscience is clear. I took a long time to decide who to spend the rest of my life with, but I’m very happy that I’m now married to her,” said the unionist, who married his wife, Sarah, in late 2009.
Mr Tan said he had stated his position to the party very clearly, that the allegations are inaccurate. But he offered to step down as “this GE is not about me, it’s about Singapore’s future”.
“There are so many pressing issues, so many debates to resolve. I don’t want this campaign to be about me,” he said.
“I’ve taken a personal decision, after discussing this with my wife, who is fully behind me. And I hope everyone can respect that,” he said. “Sarah’s been a rock through all these allegations,” he added.
It remains to be seen whether Mr Lee will shed more light on the circumstances surrounding Mr Tan’s withdrawal, as well as whether he was indeed engaged in sexual misconduct at his workplace. If no further clarifications are provided, Mr Lee runs the risk of being labelled a hypocrite, because the PAP has always emphasised that all candidates should have their characters scrutinised.
The scandal also casts doubt on the PAP’s selection process, which has already been criticised as being too insular, seeing as its candidates have mostly been drawn from a small inner circle of civil servants, SAF generals and NTUC unionists. The possibility that no due diligence was done before Mr Lee made the decision to field Mr Tan as a candidate reflects poorly on the PAP leadership, and the PM stands to lose votes if he does not give a full account to the public.
With the PAP increasingly being thought of as a party that is aloof, arrogant and out of touch, the last thing Mr Lee needs is to be accused of trying to cover up the truth.
The author is a Staff Writer at The Satay Club. He is a final-year law undergraduate at a reputable university in Australia and returns to Singapore at least twice a year.