I am my own person: Lina Chiam
By Alicia Wong | SingaporeScene – Thu, Mar 31, 2011 1:02 PM SGT
Singapore People's Party candidate Lina Chiam, who will contest in Potong Pasir
SMC, speaks on her style of …
Her husband may be an icon for opposition politics, having helmed the Potong Pasir
single-seat ward since 1984, and she may have worked alongside him all these
years, but to some residents, she is still a 'new face' who will have to prove herself to
win their vote in the coming General Election (GE).
Lina Chiam, 62, who will contest in Potong Pasir under the Singapore People's Party
(SPP), recognises this.
Her husband, five-term Member of Parliament (MP) Chiam See Tong, 76, has
expressed interest in contesting in the Bishan-Toa Payoh group representation
"It does help that you're Chiam See Tong's wife," she admits in an interview with
Yahoo! Singapore. "But in the end, you still have to prove yourself, your brand of
Chiam, who is the SPP's second vice-chairwoman, tries to do house visits up to four
times each week: "(The) walkabout is important for me, because I need to let them
see my face and who I am."
Contesting in Potong Pasir is not an act of "nepotism", she stresses. "I'm willing to
serve, take care of the residents. It's not because of money or power or prestige."
She cites a multi-story carpark, fitness centres for seniors, a polyclinic and children's
library as some amenities she will lobby for as an MP.
Chiam's brand of politics
To Chiam, "Politics is serving people, the interest of the country — economically,
socially. I'm in opposition politics and I want to ensure (there is) democracy. It's very
important and it must survive."
"I'm a woman so my working style might be more gentle, more motherly, more
understanding," said the former nurse, comparing her working style to that of her
Yet she also describes herself as a "very forthright" and "very strong-willed" person.
Drawing from her nursing experience, Chiam said,"Even my husband, when I'm
taking care of him when he's sick, I have to be very strict with him, if not, they are
being mollycoddled. They don't get well."
Addressing the news reports of disputes between the SPP and Singapore
Democratic Alliance, Chiam reflected, "It's just one part of political life."
"It's just like a family, you have quarrels then you get back. We learn to be forgiving
and compassionate and have graciousness."
However, she declined to comment on the relationship between the Chiams and Mr
Chiam's former protegee Desmond Lim, who recently quit the party after a much
publicised disagreement with the couple.
"I want to focus on the elections now and how to win the hearts and minds of my
residents. I think that is past already," she said. "I believe all of us are able to have
our own objectives and agenda, and move forward from there."
Why not retire?
In moving forward, some residents and observers have wondered if Mr Chiam
should retire as the long-reigning MP for Potong Pasir, rather than contest in a GRC
and possibly lose.
"If Singapore, by chance, had a lot of opposition members, I think my husband
would have retired. As it is, he is already not that well," responded Chiam,
referring to the mild stroke Mr Chiam suffered in 2008.
"But as you can see there is still two. ... So somebody has to take the sacrifice, who
better to do (it) than my husband, who is a veteran," she said, adding that he is
"mentally prepared" for the challenge.
She knows this will be "one of the toughest" elections the couple will face, since both
are contesting, but she believes their years of election experience will help.
"Whether we win or not, we don't know," she said. But the risk is "worth it".
"At least my husband can say 'I've tried'.'"