SPP Annual Dinner 1999 - Secretary-General's Speech

Posted by Chiam See Tong under Features on 20 November 1999

Speech of Mr Chiam See Tong at the SPP (Singapore People's Party) 6th Annual Dinner 1999.

The first salvo of the next general election has been fired in Potong Pasir. The Prime Minister said that the fruit in Potong Pasir is ripe to be plucked. He wants back Potong Pasir for the PAP. My reply is that it is not for him to say that. It is for the residents in Potong Pasir to say that. Whether they want me back as their MP or not. It is presumptuous of Mr. Goh Chok Tong to say that he wants back Potong Pasir for the PAP. The people of Potong Pasir do not bend to the wishes of one man so easily. The people of Potong Pasir are special. They must be special because in 1984 against all odds, against the mighty machinery of the PAP, against their threats, against their tactics of fear and against their bullying tactics, they still voted for an opposition member to represent them in Parliament.

Even in 1997 when the PAP offered tempting incentives like the upgrading of flats, the residents in Potong Pasir tenaciously stuck on to the opposition side and refused to give the majority vote to the PAP candidate.

Mr. Goh says that the ground is ripe for the PAP to take back Potong Pasir. How does he know. Mr. Goh always put up a brave face and makes bold statements but he could well be wrong, as he was wrong in 1991, when he said that the ground was sweet then and went ahead to hold an early general election that year, when in fact the ground was not sweet at all for the PAP. Many people were not happy with the PAP. In the 1991 election, the PAP suffered its worst defeat. They lost 4 seats to the Opposition and many of its candidates' majority were drastically cut down.

One wonders how then can Mr. Goh be so sure that the PAP would win at Potong Pasir the next G.E. My guess is that he is flushed with the victory at Cheng San in the last general election, where Mr. Goh played a pivotal role in winning that GRC for the PAP. Now he wants to repeat that same tactic in Potong Pasir. He wants personally to be involved in the Potong Pasir constituency when the next election comes round. I can only say that Mr. Goh shall not succeed in Potong Pasir because the people at Potong Pasir are not easily intimidated. Potong Pasirians have been in the front line of Singapore opposition politics since 1984. Despite the fact that Potong Pasir has been threatened, ridiculed and tempted with material incentives its people there stood firm. Their message to the PAP and the people of Singapore is clear. They believe that Singapore must have an opposition and they intend to stand by that belief. They know that complete power should not be given to one party, however good that party is. For they know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. They know that the PAP has been turned into a monolith, massive, all-powerful and awesome and there must be some form of opposition to check on them. As for the opposition, it is only a small flickering flame which the PAP tries hard to snuff out. If that happens there shall be total darkness for democracy in Singapore. Potong Pasir is one of the two flickering flames in Singapore. The people of Potong Pasir and the people of Singapore know that the flame at Potong Pasir must be kept alive and never extinguished. At this juncture I must categorically state that I shall be standing at Potong Pasir in the next general election which purportedly is due on the first quarter of the year 2002, as the PM again wants to go to the full term.

I am happy to serve the constituents at Potong Pasir and I shall continue to serve them.

Despite the fact that our Town Council is not supported by the Government CIPC funds we shall complete all our Repair and Redecorations programes in Potong Pasir Estate then next year we shall move over to Lorong 8 Toa Payoh estate to complete the R and R works there. The works include repair and repainting of every block, doing up and upgrading all lifts and the lift landings, children playgrounds, car parks and landscaping. Residents have given us the thumbs up for the R & R works we have completed to date. They are very happy and satisfied with what the Town Council has done for them.

Our next phase of R & R works shall commence early next year as aforesaid at Lorong 8 Toa Payoh estate. We shall do up and upgrade the whole of that estate, including the wet market at Block 210. By the next election, the whole of the two housing estates at Potong Pasir and at Lorong 8 Toa Payoh shall look spick and span. Nobody can fault the Potong Pasir Town Council for the work it has done so far.


Threats are not new to residents at Potong Pasir. Residents here know that come the year 2002 the Sennett MRT Station will be opened for use. $5 Billion has been spent on the N.E. Line and every effort shall be made to recoup the money spent. The Sennett MRT Station shall be definitely opened to earn more revenue. Many have told me that despite very low ridership at Lakeview and Chinese Garden MRT Stations, those stations are opened and are functioning. The Sennett MRT Station has definitely higher ridership than those 2 stations. There shall be high ridership which comes from the people at Potong Pasir Estate itself, the 2 major schools in the estate, the industrial base at MacPherson Road and its vicinity and the people who live along the Upper Serangoon Road corridor who would stop at Potong Pasir for shopping, visits and for other reasons. There shall be enough people who shall use the Sennett MRT Station. To say that there is not enough ridership is not true. Nobody really believes that after its construction, the Sennett Station shall not be opened.


Even the naming of the MRT station at Potong Pasir has taken on a political dimension. There are 3 choices for naming the MRT Station at Potong Pasir. The most appropriate is of course, Potong Pasir, the next is not Sennett but Alkaff and only the third choice should be Sennett.

The name "Potong Pasir" has been used for that particular place where the Potong Pasir estate is now sited as early as anyone knows. It was the earliest name used for that location. Therefore the MRT station should have been named Potong Pasir MRT Station. The name Potong Pasir is not acceptable to the Government for obvious reasons. The Government do not want people of Singapore to be reminded that Potong Pasir is an opposition constituency.

Even if Potong Pasir is not acceptable, the name Alkaff should be used because Alkaff Gardens was already in existence even before Sennett Estate was built.

Mr. Sennett was a British Colonial Officer and the directors of the company that built Sennett Estate named it after him sometime in 1954 or thereabouts. The name Sennett came much later than Potong Pasir and Alkaff. It is strange that the Government should accept a colonial name in preference to a local indigenous name.

It may be mentioned that in the case of the Tanjong Pagar MRT station, it was just the opposite of what happened at Potong Pasir. At first they named it Maxwell station, then people objected to it because Maxwell was a colonial officer's name and Maxwell was taken off and in its place a local name, "Tanjong Pagar" was used.

In our case at Potong Pasir, a local appropriate name was not used and a colonial one was used instead. So we see politics take precedence over logic.

In conclusion, I should like to mention that permission was not granted by the Government to make this speech at the 6th Anniversary Dinner of the SPP and I have to print and distribute it to you, the residents, guests and friends at this dinner instead.

I hope you have enjoyed the dinner and the programme. On our part, we thank you for coming. We appreciate your presence and your company.

Thank you very much.


On 20th November, Mr Chiam See Tong (Singapore People's Party), Member of Parliament for Potong Pasir was unable to make a speech at his party's 6th Anniversary Dinner due to the stringent rules and regulation of the authority. Upon appeal, he was allowed ten minutes to thank his guests. Instances like this continue to add on to the demand for a review of the Public Entertainment Act. A transparent and equitable application of licensing laws need a cornerstone of any such review.

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