If Ivan Lim has faced harsh criticism on social media for his alleged elitist behavior, another People's Action Party (PAP) candidate in the upcoming Singapore General Election, Desmond Tan Kok Ming is an adored personality among netizens.
The online backlash was so difficult for Lim to bear that he withdrew his candidacy on June 27 but as it seems, Tan is a people's person. The former brigadier general of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is an 'empathetic', 'down to earth' person who understands someone's problem, believe netizens and his ex-colleagues.
The 49-year-old was the chief executive of the People's Association before he was announced as a PAP candidate on June 24. During his time with the PA, he led its ground operations for the government's COVID-19 response team.
Exactly opposite to Lim, who was accused of 'elitist behavior', Tan is perceived as a down-to-earth man. A former serviceman, who served under him, said Tan was a "kind and great CO." One recalled when Tan personally drove him to a hospital for medical checkup. The writer was then a new recruit who spent just two months in the camp and Tan didn't know him.
In another incident, Tan helped a user pay S$200 fine when he apparently damaged some equipment during national service. According to him, while other commanders didn't help despite pleading, Tan paid S$150 to help him with the fine.
Tan during the announcement of his candidacy said he wanted to do his part "to shape a society that we truly want." That was the reason why he joined politics after spending 28 years as a serviceman. During his time with SAF, Tan was deployed to Afghanistan and worked in disaster operations in Nepal, Malaysia, and the Philippines. He has also organized several National Day parades.
While he is expected to get a cabinet position if he wins the election, his GRC (constituency) hasn't been officially announced yet. But he has been seen in walkabouts in the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. Former Deputy Prime Minister and currently a Senior Minister, Teo Chee Hean, who is also an MP from that GRC, vouched for him in a Facebook post and also accompanied him during several meet and greet sessions with people of that area.
"As a chief executive of the PA we look at planning, we look at bringing programs and support to the residents. But being a Member of Parliament, you're actually the voice of the people, you speak up for them. I want to do my part to ensure that every child, every youth in Singapore can continue to succeed in life," Tan said.
Tan wasn't born with a silver spoon. Son of a taxi driver, he shared a three-bedroom flat with 11 other family members. He helped his mother sell satay in the neighborhood, which always treated him well. He believes that's where he learned humility and wants to work towards social mobilization.
"My father was a taxi driver, and I helped my mum in whatever ways we can to make ends meet. I recall that to do the job well, I had to learn fast. And in that context, I also had to run fast — if you know what I mean," he said. "I want to speak up for our youth, our children, especially those from the disadvantaged families, to allow them to be able to have the same opportunities I had growing up in Singapore."