Tan Chuan-Jin gunning for sustained public engagement

Posted on 03 October 2011

This is a 60-second reduction of the original article published in The Straits Times on Sept. 28.

Brigadier-General Tan Chuan-Jin has been Minister of State for National Development and Manpower since May after his electoral victory contesting in Marine Parade GRC.

Known for being personable and approachable, the 43-year-old has been engaging civil society members, interest groups and the public-at-large through face-to-face meetings and social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

Tan has maintained that his commitment to public engagement was not born of the election results in which the PAP got hammered by garnering barely 60.1 percent of votes, its lowest share since independence.

He is motivated by the belief that public engagement can aspire and achieve something greater.

He said, “When you’re engaged, you also have a greater sense of motivation, a greater sense of purpose, a greater sense of ownership as opposed to just listening for direction and then you just execute it.”

He also believes the process of getting citizens interested and involved is “almost an end in itself”, and something he would like to see more of.

Moreover, the public’s expectations on engagement have also risen, Tan said.

Tan also came to the defence of the government’s taciturnity saying that there are times the government cannot give immediate answers because it is talking to people earlier in the policymaking process and there is no outcome to speak of as yet.

But the goal eventually is to create beneficial policies, as Tan said, “The end objective which we must not lose track of is, how do we create good policies that would benefit Singaporeans now and in the steady state?”

This is crucial as there is a need to be aware of the need for the government to be “politically sensible” about making decisions in a society with more and stronger political parties and a vocal public”.

He is, nonetheless, part of the PAP’s 12-member election post-mortem committee, charged with addressing issues such as party reinvention and engagement.

More importantly, Tan’s sentiment during the run-up to the General Election that “a strong opposition with diverse voices is important”  still stands today.

He said that it is not just to keep the PAP on its toes but ought to result in better clarity by making people in government “think deeper, harder, about the things that you’re grappling with”.

And social media is where some of these concerns have been heard the loudest as “every individual has a loudspeaker”.

“You need to pay attention to that – why are people feeling that way? Is it correct? Is it fair? Sometimes there are also issues with our policies that we need to look at. Is it the way they are communicated, or substantively some of these policies really ought to be adjusted?”, Tan asked, somewhat rhetorically.

Most importantly, he denies people in the PAP are “all from the same mould”.

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  • Moon

    He is a reformer. But whether he can succeed against a culture of I-know-it-best mentality in the government remains to be seen.

  • ALL

    So far this Tan has been showing inconsistent behaviour – sometimes acting like a reformer, but sometimes so hard core PAP.  Cannot make out if he is truly someone who is out to serve the people or his party.

    • Guest

      Both are not mutually exclusive. You’re too stupid to realise that. 

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