Written by Ng E-Jay
14 May 2011
On Friday morning, the Worker’s Party (WP) officially announced that Yee Jenn Jong and Gerald Giam would be taking up the NCMP seats offered to the party.
However, East Coast team leader Eric Tan resigned from the party, saying that he felt “betrayed” by the decision. His abrupt departure was criticized widely in cyberspace on Friday, with many netizens saying that he had acted selfishly and had failed to put the interests of the party first.
Yee Jenn Jong had stood in Joo Chiat SMC and won 48.99% of the valid votes against PAP’s Charles Chong (the MP who made the famous “lesser mortals” remark in relation to the uproar over Tan Yong Soon’s $50,000 cooking course in France).
The WP East Coast team had also performed very impressively, scoring 45.17% of the valid vote against the PAP team helmed by Transport Minister Raymond Lim.
In a statement to the press released late Thursday night after the WP CEC had voted in favour of Gerald Giam taking up the NCMP post, Mr Eric Tan said that many supporters in East Coast had expressed the wish that he represent their views in Parliament.
Mr Tan said that he was disappointed that Low and the CEC had gone against the wishes of East Coast supporters, citing party renewal as their objective.
Mr Tan mentioned that he had helped build the East Coast team since its early days, and that “I too also believe in the renewal of the party but in an orderly manner, with succession plans, (but) not like this, dropped like a bomb on my lap“.
In an exclusive interview with Today late Thursday night, Mr Eric Tan added that he felt “betrayed”, and that:
“I have helped build the East Coast team since 2005 and was the only one remaining after the 2006 election. I fought on and rebuilt the team, helping to gain a solid result for the party … … I wanted the NCMP post so that I would be able to be the voice of the people.”
An ungracious exit
I can understand what Mr Eric Tan is going through. He has been a loyal WP member for many years and indeed, has put in tremendous effort in building WP’s East Coast Team. It is perfectly human to expect something in return for one’s efforts.
Mr Tan previously told the mainstream press that he would be taking up the NCMP post if the East Coast team did well enough to qualify. The decision to give Gerald Giam the post instead must have been a hard blow. Gerald Giam is a very promising candidate and is extremely articulate and mature in his views. Still, Gerald is a relative newcomer compared to Eric Tan who can count himself as a veteran by contrast.
That being said, Mr Tan’s abrupt departure from WP is ungracious. There are better ways he could have handled it. He could have graciously congratulated Gerald Giam for his accomplishment, and then quietly resigned from the party a few months later, citing “personal reasons”. This would minimize the bad publicity to himself and to WP.
Now, people are going to remember Mr Tan as someone who left WP in a huff, angry that he was not given the NCMP post he wanted. That is not a good legacy to leave behind. It is a rash and needless move. Mr Tan has painted himself as someone who puts self before party.
Mr Eric Tan could also have focussed on the bigger picture. He could have opted to remain behind to build the East Coast team even further and lead it into victory in 2016. Then he can possibly become a full-fledged MP and not just an NCMP. Mr Tan’s resignation betrays himself as an impatient man who has lost sight of the bigger picture. He is the perfect example of someone who has fallen for the NCMP trap.
Mr Low Thia Khiang will always choose people he can control well. That is something that is not likely to change. This is something Mr Tan should have learnt to live with. It demands humility, no doubt, but then again, as an opposition politician, Mr Tan should know that humility is a great virtue that voters will respect.
By leaving in a huff, Mr Tan has soured his own legacy and has poured cold water on WP, and in Gerald Giam in particular. Perhaps WP’s East Coast team really does need a new leader to take it to victory in 2016.