Why did PSP Tan Cheng Bock jio SDP Paul Tambyah to challenge PAP Chan Chun Sing to debate on national TV?

By July 6, 2020Current

TL;DR – “No point telling you. Let’s have a national debate. We go on television… So I think that will settle everything.”

I was happily sipping coffee as I sat back and tried to catch up on GE2020 news tonight. OMG there’s just so much GE stuff to read, funny videos and memes to chuckle over every day! #informationoverload

Nearly missed this whole “debate jio” topic cos Raeesah Khan, Workers’ Party candidate for Sengkang GRC, was trending the whole night. It’s all over the internet, on Facebook, on Twitter and in chats.

Then I saw this. Cute!

In case you don’t understand Chinese, the visual is an invitation to a challenge or fight.

On one side are Dr Paul Tambyah from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and Dr Tan Cheng Bock from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), and on the other side are Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong and Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.

But what happened?

Why is there even an invitation to a fight??

OK, I saw on Min Chan’s Facebook the debate battle was initiated by the two opposition party figures.

More googling brought me to this:

Here’s what Dr Tan said to the media regarding Min Chan’s comment that the opposition parties’ manifestos did not include proposals on management of the COVID-19 crisis,

“No point telling you. Let’s have a national debate. We go on television… So I think that will settle everything. You all will see whether we have the competency, whether we have the knowledge of this Covid-19…”

“If they (the debate) don’t take place, then we give you our answer. They (the PAP) must give the response, because we didn’t initiate it, they initiated it, we responded that’s all.”

AHHH…! Found the catalyst of the #Debatejio!

So the trigger was when Min Chan Chun Sing spoke to the media on Saturday (Jul 4) on the sidelines of a walkabout at ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre,

Then, Min Chan had stressed that every party – including the PAP – must have plans to share with voters how they intend to get through the situation. He made a few important points when sharing his thoughts on the General Election so far:

  • Many things have been said about many issues.
  • But the most important topic – how do we get through the Covid crisis, save lives and save jobs – is seldom discussed.
  • Whoever stands for elections must share with voters their plans to help us get through this crisis.
  • No party should assume someone else will be the government and that they have no chance or responsibility to form the next government.
  • We owe it to our people and country to have the plans ready to get through the crisis.
  • Every voter will have to decide at the local level who they want to take care of them, their families and their livelihoods.
  • This GE is about the survival of our country and our collective long-term interests.
  • It is not about the interests of individuals and parties.

What’s at stake as we face the crisis of a generation?

Min Chan’s sharing is timely, as it re-focuses our mind and attention to the issues that really matter.

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He’s right. This election is a very different one, as we’re facing a crisis of a generation. Not even out of the woods yet in terms of the coronavirus, and we have not even gone through the brunt of the huuuuge economic impact the pandemic will bring.

Most estimates peg that we will see a vaccine in another year’s time. As for economic recovery, the worst is not even over yet as many countries, including Singapore, are still seeing infection every day. Many borders are still closed, and millions of people are still working from home. My point is the economic recovery process has not even started. So we’re looking at sluggish economic performance, job losses, business transformation as digitalisation quickens.

Come Polling Day, it’s important to exercise our votes responsibly so that we put in place a government that we collectively want and trust to work with and for us to tide us all through the stormy years ahead.

There are two things I do not wish to see.

One, an ineffective and inexperienced government. This is the worst possible time to put an “intern” or “trainee” government.

Two, a coalition government made up of different political parties with different values and ideologies. Worse, they’ll be probably be vying for power first as they need to sort out who leads and who does what.

What would happen to Singapore if the PAP loses the 2020 General Election (GE2020)?

Please do not say that the second possibility is not possible. Even if not highly probably, the possibility is there.

May I remind you that all 93 seats are contested, and if we just look at the PSP (24), WP (21) and SDP (11) winning all the seats they’ve fielded candidates, they add up to 56 seats.

If they join forces, they can form a coalition government and yes, the PAP will then become the opposition party.

So I can understand now why Min Chan said what he said,

“… I went through in detail the various manifestos of the various parties, and I also read through all the things that have been said. So while many things have been said, there is one part that is glaringly missing.

And that one part has to do with how are we going to get through this COVID crisis, how are we going to save jobs.

Now this election is probably conducted in the most challenging time in our history. So I think every party, including the PAP, must have the plans to share with the voters how we’re going to get through this situation.”

Since it’s possible that we could end up with opposition parties in government after Polling Day, it’s only fair and right that they show hand and let the electorate know what their plans are to help Singaporeans secure their livelihoods and how they intend to secure the country’s lifeline.

Once we know their plans, we can compare and decide who we want to be government.

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Currently, their manifestos just look like laundry list of the good-to-have things on top of everything the PAP has already built.

And their plans are all “spend, spend, spend”. But who’s gonna foot the bill? And where’s the money gonna come from?

I don’t think a debate on TV is what voters need.

Exciting fireworks might be interesting to watch as the different parties cross swords. But I do not think it’s the right platform. What voters need to see are plans from each party, but a debate session where opposition parties cross-examine the PAP’s plan.

The PAP’s plan has already been laid out for all to see over the past months, what with the four budgets so far. What we need to see right now, before Friday, are the opposition parties’ plans. If your plans are to just add bells and whistles to the PAP’s plan, then maybe we don’t really need you.

So come on, show us and we will make a more informed voting decision.

Anyway, here’s the most critical part of this media sharing on Saturday,

Here’s the transcript in case you prefer to read,

“Over the last few days and perhaps even the last few weeks leading up to the GE, I think we have heard many things from various parties. Many issues were talked about.

In the last few days, there was talk about whether the opposition will be wiped out, whether the NCMP scheme is good or no good for the opposition, then we’ve heard various ideas about GST, earlier withdrawal of CPF and things like that. So many things have been said.

But I have one particular observation that I wanted to share with you all.

And that is in my preparations for my Zaobao forum two days ago, I went through in detail the various manifestos of the various parties, and I also read through all the things that have been said. So while many things have been said, there is one part that is glaringly missing.

And that one part has to do with how are we going to get through this COVID crisis, how are we going to save jobs.

Now this election is probably conducted in the most challenging time in our history. So I think every party, including the PAP, must have the plans to share with the voters how we’re going to get through this situation.

So while many things can be said and many things are discussed, I think the most important thing still goes back to this central issue:


And I hope that the various parties and candidates will have more to share with voters how they intend to take the country forward through this crisis.

Now this election is not about the survival of any particular political party, or how many seats the PAP is going to get.

This election is really about how we get through this. If you noticed, even through this election, the work of securing our livelihoods, saving lives, securing our lifelines still continue.

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You saw the work of the MTF over the last few days to ensure that we continue to contain the infection. You heard about the National Jobs Council’s work yesterday, about how we intend to work with various companies and agencies to create new jobs and training opportunities for those who are displaced by the COVID situation.

You’ve heard from MTI how we continue to try and secure our lifelines amidst the disruption of the global supply chains.

All these are the critical issues which we have to tackle in this election and beyond this election. So I hope that all parties, all candidates, and everyone can really focus on how we can help our country get through this difficult moment in history.

We have never taken it for granted that Singapore will naturally be able to sail through this crisis effortlessly and to come out unscathed. That’s not our assumption. That’s why we want to have concrete plans, we want to have teams that can deliver this to take care of Singapore and Singaporeans well.

Then there’s also a lot of discussion as to checks and balances. Let me just say this.

Ultimately, when every voter goes to the polling station, every voter will have to decide who they want to be their Member of Parliament, who they want to take care of them and their families, and who can best help them secure their jobs.

It is as simple as that. Who they want their MP to be, who they think can best take care of them and their families, who can help them with their livelihoods and jobs.

Now these are the fundamental questions. It is about the survival of the families and the country. It is not about the survival of any particular party.

And I think Singaporeans are fair-minded.

Has the government done well? If the government has done well, should we affirm the government? Or should we punish the government by having the government with even fewer seats?

If the opposition has not done well, should we reward the opposition with more seats? Just on the slogan that they will provide more checks on the government. And I think voters will have to decide if they want the oppositions or if they believe the opposition is really to check the government? Or is the opposition trying to checkmate the government in providing more decisive governance for us to get through this crisis?

So I believe Singaporeans are fair-minded and that will determine the outcome of the results.”


Singaporean woman Evelyn Sng opened her heart, went on Facebook and poured it all out


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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • Scared Lose says:

    I previously worked for a company that has been established in Singapore over 100 years. When I joined in 2006, many managers were locals. In 2017, the managers were mostly CECA entrants. I see many CECA managers prefer the wider selection of talents in India, compared to the small pool of locals. When I stepped into the office then, I can see half of the entire office floor occupied by by non-locals. I have since been retrenched by a CECA manager. Locals seeking promotions or new job opportunities, faced competition from wider talent pools offered in India. Lim Swee Say previously encouraged companies to develop a Singapore core. Why? Because some MNCs or banks already built a core of CECA managers and staff, and they are trying to contain their errors. When 1 local born manager gets retrenched or removed, they grabbed another local to replace her/him, even the successor lack the relevant experience. Your article is outdated and not in tune with reality.

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