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GE2020: Opp leaders Tan Cheng Bock, Paul Tambyah ask PAP counterparts to hold TV debate on Covid-19 recovery plan

SINGAPORE — Opposition figures Tan Cheng Bock and Paul Tambyah on Sunday (July 5) challenged People’s Action Party (PAP) leaders Chan Chun Sing and Gan Kim Yong to a televised debate on managing Covid-19.

Opposition figures Tan Cheng Bock (left) and Paul Tambyah are challenging their People's Action Party counterparts to a televised debate on Covid-19 recovery plans.

Opposition figures Tan Cheng Bock (left) and Paul Tambyah are challenging their People's Action Party counterparts to a televised debate on Covid-19 recovery plans.

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  • Dr Tambyah, an infectious disease expert, and Dr Tan say they have medical expertise to tackle Covid-19 issues
  • Mr Chan said on Saturday that the opposition parties lack a Covid response
  • Smaller opposition parties cite lack of resources as reason they lack Covid-19 policies


SINGAPORE — Opposition figures Tan Cheng Bock and Paul Tambyah on Sunday (July 5) challenged People’s Action Party (PAP) leaders Chan Chun Sing and Gan Kim Yong to a televised debate on managing Covid-19.

The proposal was made a day after Mr Chan said that the opposition parties lack a recovery plan on the pandemic.

In a response on Facebook later on Sunday, Mr Chan neither accepted nor declined the television debate invitation, but pressed the opposition on presenting their Covid-19 recovery plans to the voting public ahead of the July 10 General Election.

“Why not present their plans to the voters now on how they intend to help Singapore and Singaporeans get through this most serious health and economic crisis in decades?” Mr Chan wrote on Facebook.

Dr Tambyah, an infectious disease expert who is chairman of Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), told reporters on Sunday that he had spoken to Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock over the phone on Sunday morning to discuss the proposal.

“(Dr Tan) said (Mr Chan) can bring along the health minister (Mr Gan Kim Yong) and he will bring me along and it will be a debate on how to deal with Covid after the elections,” said Dr Tambyah, who is contesting Bukit Panjang Single Member Constituency (SMC).

“I’ve actually published a scientific approach to how to deal with Covid medically, and together, (Dr Tan) and myself, I think we will be able to give a comprehensive answer and the best format is a live TV debate,” he said.

Dr Tambyah is a professor of medicine at the National University of Singapore, and a senior consultant in the division of infectious disease at the National University Hospital.

Separately, Dr Tan, 80, confirmed the proposal for a televised debate with the media during a walkabout near Chong Pang City Wet Market and Food Centre on Sunday.

“I will go along with Paul (Tambyah) on national TV and we (will) debate this thing out and see whether the opposition is as good or if not better in the way they will manage Covid-19,” said the former general practitioner.

“Paul and I are good friends… He’s an infectious disease expert and I’m an old doctor with a lot of knowledge on infection,” he added. “We can impart all this knowledge to them.”

“Remember, all solutions don’t only come from one source.”

Mr Chan had told the media on Saturday that there is a “glaring” lack of discussion of plans to tackle Covid-19 among the opposition, even at the halfway point of the election campaign.

“I went through in detail the manifestos of the various parties and many things have been said... There is one part glaringly missing: How are we going to get through this crisis,” said Mr Chan, who is contesting Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC).

When asked if he could reveal the issues that he would raise with Mr Chan and Mr Gan, Dr Tan, who is contesting West Coast GRC, said that he would reveal this at the debate, should it happen.

“(If the debate) doesn’t take place, then we will give you our answers. (The PAP) must give the response, because we didn’t initiate it, they initiated it (and) we answered, that’s all.”


Other opposition party members said that they have focused on some issues to tackle the pandemic, such as ensuring that affected citizens receive payouts, but said that the lack of resources and transparency made it difficult for them to formulate a response to the pandemic.

SDP chief Chee Soon Juan told the media on Sunday that the post-Covid plan is something that the party has been “very concerned about”.

“There are going to be retrenchments, and retrenchments will come if businesses fail (and) businesses fail because people are not buying things, are not spending,” said Dr Chee, who is contesting Bukit Batok SMC.

“What we want to do is put money into the pockets of Singaporeans… When you’re retrenched, we want to make sure that you continue getting some payouts.

“I don’t know what Mr Chan is talking about, but this is what our plan is going forward, we’ve got to help Singaporeans,” he said.

Agreeing, Mr Melvyn Chiu, Singapore People’s Party (SPP) candidate for Bishan-Toa Payoh, said that one of the party’s policies is to introduce unemployment insurance so that those affected can manage financially for at least six months.

However, other opposition party members said that the uneven playing field makes it difficult for them to formulate salient policies.

PSP’s candidate for Kebun Baru SMC, Mr Kumaran Pillai added that Mr Chan was “putting the cart before the horse”.

“(By calling elections now), they are actually creating a scenario where you possibly will have a resurgence,” he said. “Then you’re saying, we don’t have a response.”

PSP’s Yio Chu Kang SMC candidate, Ms Kayla Low, said that the party could not formulate a detailed covid-19 response as “we have very limited resources because we are not in Parliament”.

“There are a lot of things that are not transparent enough and we are not able to access it,” she said. “That’s why we cannot give a very detailed manifesto.”

National Solidarity Party (NSP) president Reno Fong said that given that NSP is a small party, a Covid-19 response is “not our area of focus at the moment”.

NSP’s vice-president Mohd Ridzwan Mohammad, who is contesting Tampines GRC alongside Mr Fong, added: “If we are being voted into Parliament, we will definitely have the plan working together with the Members of Parliament in the House to improve on the Covid-19 plan.”

In a statement on Monday, Reform Party (RP) secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam refuted Mr Chan’s statement that opposition parties lacked plans to tackle the crisis, saying that it was “false as far as the Reform Party is concerned”. 

He pointed to RP’s manifesto, released on June 26, which called for the suspension of the Goods and Services Tax for the next 1.5 years as well as benefits for unemployed workers and seniors during the coronavirus pandemic.

Related topics

SGVotes2020 Singapore General Election Chan Chun Sing Tan Cheng Bock Paul Tambyah Covid-19

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