The man whose passion is Singapore
Aug 23, 2011
by Teo Xuanwei
Former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan gave an almost embarrassed chuckle when this reporter asked whether his old Casio watch - which he has kept for over 30 years - or his battered wallet - from which he fished out S$5 for a street busker - were signs of him being sentimental or frugal.
"It works well, so I don't see any point changing it. I don't believe in changing things so long as they work. I use it until it sort of falls apart," explained Dr Tan, in his trademark matter-of-fact manner.
Dressed casually in slacks and New Balance track shoes, Dr Tan has been meeting Singaporeans from all walks of life and all races, shaking hundreds of hands a day.
Despite being stopped every few steps by Singaporeans wanting to snap a picture with him, the 71-year-old kept up a pace that this 20-something reporter found challenging to keep up with.
Dr Tan's schedule thus far has comprised four to five events each day, starting as early as 8am and ending only at 11pm after a nightly review at his campaign headquarters.
How has he managed to stay in tip-top shape amid a gruelling campaign?
His secret, he says, is his wife.
"My wife looks after me very well. She makes me a lot of chicken soup," he said.
Also his exercise regime of daily 3km jogs, swims and gym workouts is "no longer a matter of enhancement but a matter of maintenance". He added: "I don't think one can (contest the Presidential Elections) half-heartedly. Once you decide to do it, you must be prepared to cover the ground."
When asked about his passion in life, Dr Tan replied without hesitation: "Singapore."
A topic he spoke readily about at length and with passion, sharing his views on a variety of topics such as the complex challenges facing the nation, or the painstaking efforts that went into building the unique socio-political situation that the Singapore society finds itself in.
But when it came to more personal questions - including those about his family - Dr Tan was more circumspect.
"I try to keep the privacy of my family as much as possible," said Dr Tan, who has been a public figure for several decades, after he was elected as a Member of Parliament for Sembawang in 1979 in a by-election. While he retired from politics in 2006, Dr Tan remained in the public eye in his positions at Government organisations such as the National Research Foundation.
Nevertheless, Dr Tan shared with this reporter the three guiding principles of his life: Honesty, having the right motivation to do things and determination.
He said: "One has to be frank and open about what he wants to do and why he wants to do it ... When you set your mind to do something, you must have the determination to see it through."
During his Presidential candidate broadcast speech last week, Dr Tan shared that he met his wife, Mary, at university. But they could not hold their wedding dinner because of curfews imposed after the deadly riots in 1964. He added in his speech that the couple celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary this month "with our four children, their spouses and five grandchildren".
Towards the end of the interview, this reporter asked his wife what attracted her to him. At this point, Dr Tan turned to his wife and asked, with a hint of child-like nervousness: "Do you want to answer that?" They laughed a little, and then apologised, saying they had to continue their walkabout in Jurong Point shopping mall.
But as Dr Tan turned and started walking away, Mrs Tan whispered: "He's always been a gentleman."
Oh please spare me for trying to portray Tony as Frugal just because of his wallet and watch. Please ask him how many Mercedes he owned and where is he staying now.
Oh and also asked him how much of our money in GIC did he lose. Frugal my….
In fact Tony has reviewed that he doesn’t believe in changes as along as it works. Mmm… so guess he will be Nathan No.2 if he is elected.
No change no even for the better, lazy if you ask me.
Vote wisely fellow Singaporean.
No change = More Foreigners, Same PAP jokers in Cabinets, Same CPF limits, Same housing problem, Same Transport problem oh but different President’s and Cabinet salaries.