I’m sorry, Dr Tony Tan, but you’re too smarmy

Posted on 07 August 2011

 I would rather swallow my ballot paper than vote for you. 

By Belmont Lay

Recently, some Singaporeans became professionally angry again.

They found out that Patrick Tan, who is presidential aspirant Tony Tan‘s son, did not exactly serve a normal National Service stint.

Patrick wasn’t out digging trenches or leopard crawling in mud as much as other proud sons of this glorious Republic did or have to do under normal circumstances.

And it just so happened that his NS stint, which was deferred long enough for one cycle of zodiac signs to elapse, coincided with his Daddy’s vocation as Minister of Defence. Oh well.

In other words, Patrick became a non-flashy version of Tony Stark during that time when he should have been running around feeling vomity from the heat and pain of regular training and the awareness of youth lost and doing things generally abhorred by servicemen.

Because in the interest of serving this country — for his NS vocation — he became a scientist of sorts doing the test tubey thing, I suppose, specialising in some field that seeks to understand how soldiers can prevent dying in pain from bioterrorism.

Or something like that.

All of which is not very clear to me or a lot of other people because the parties involved — Mindef, Tony and Patrick Tan – have been kind of evasive about what gives for quite a while.

And proving the point that this is a contentious issue that has potential bearing on Tony Tan’s bid for presidency, a woman, felt compelled enough to write to The Straits Times forum to ask what is the criteria for deferment and how does one qualify to do a Patrick Tan?

Which only prompts two questions: How would Mindef reply and why the hell does it take a woman to write in to the national papers when it is (I liberally suppose) pretty much male indignation that is making the rounds?

So the standard reply from Mindef is to bury the important section under a tonne of verbiage about how they allocate deferments and why they don’t anymore for overseas studies but it really depends if you are exceptional.

And then they say: “Mindef also allows deferment of individuals with exceptional talents to pursue their own fields of interest before they enlist”.

But these are really rare and evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Now, I’m impressed on at least three counts.

Primo: There is actually flexibility shown on Mindef’s part in determining who stays in camp and crawl around in mud or fall down the Jacob’s Ladder and who gets to do something else. (In case you don’t get this point, I’m really just being sacarstic.)

Secundo: Aren’t we forgetting how pointless it is to ask Mindef for a straight answer when it is potentially incriminating for them to supply one?

Considering how little has been said by anyone else in an official capacity other than Tony Tan on this matter, for him to come out and openly plead and cajole for rationality from voters, is patronising and smarmy.

Tertia: Mindef’s reply actually refrained from even mentioning Patrick Tan completely.

But really, the main problem is this: We have so far only heard from Tony, Patrick and Mindef.

All three parties who are directly implicated in what could be a sordid, incestuous affair.

But as usual, I’ve got the happy solution.

Please pardon this slight distraction and take a look at uber old guard S. Jayakumar’s latest book, “Diplomacy”.

In it, he states that one of the hallmarks of the Singaporean way of handling international relations is its fairness in resolving disputes through external arbitration.

Basically, every time Singapore faces a dispute with another country, be it Malaysia or America, and there is no other way of getting around it, you can count on an independent third party arbiter to sort out the mess.


So, instead of locking disputatious parties in a cage and allowing them to fight to their deaths or letting them keep saying how they feel, you allow another independent group or committee, not related to either party, to decide on behalf of everyone else.

I hope you can see where I’m going with this.

Why can’t we apply locally what we are supposedly so bloody good at on the international stage?

This isn’t exactly a dispute between two parties, but wouldn’t an independent commission or body come in handy?

So here’s the point of today’s missive: People are peeved because they hate hearing about how this affair was never incestuous to begin with, unless it is coming from someone or some entity that is official enough and doesn’t owe Tony, Patrick or Mindef a living.

But given how Singapore has been run the last 46 years, that’s a really fat hope.

And considering how little has been said by anyone else in an official capacity other than Tony Tan on this matter, for him to come out and openly plead and cajole for rationality from voters, is patronising and smarmy.

Because it appears to me what he rather much prefers is a short circuitry of reasoning.

And I am disinclined to grant him this $4.2-million-a-year favour.

Oh yes. Happy National Day.

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  • Olivia Teo

    Absolutely a brilliant piece of witty commentary (I especially find the sarcastic bits entertaining!)

    Well said! Oh yes, (not so)Happy National Day!

    I’m not inclined to vote for a yes(to pappy) man either.

    May the best Tan win!

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  • silly

    talk about incestous – imagine Tony Tan finding errors in GIC investments during the last 5 years and reporting it……that would end up fingering himself. Would that happen? nobody mentioned this obvious conflict of interest in the main papers?

  • Lies

    I am well aware of what can be written in the web to believe everything that is said. I myself was subject to such lies created by ignorance, devious beings. Be mindful of what you read and do not be fooled by all these rubbish that were written. How do you like it if you someone circulate something overheard from 3rd party source that you are xxx?

    • Belmont

      I’m being mindful of what I read, that’s why I’m being mindful of you, you troll.

  • J

    I’m sorry, Belmont, but your article just reeks of vitrol. It is hardly constructive and adds nothing useful to the political discussion surrounding the GE. I suggest you stick to salsa.

    p.s. I would rather swallow my ballot paper, than vote for Nicole Seah.

  • Vv

    Belmont, you’re not even 4% the man Tony Tan is. I will rather swallow my ballot paper than vote for Nicole Seah.

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