You are probably wondering why I am writing about having lunch with Dr Tan Cheng Bock. Well the answer is very simple. Firstly, his wife, Cecilia Tan happens to be the Chairman of MHCAsia, the patron of our School Building Projects in Sandakan, Sabah. In fact, I travelled with her on my first trip to Sandakan and, like everyone else, she was walking through the mud and the rain to get to the various villages to see the work done by Goducate. You have read her own story of why she is so passionate about supporting the kids here.
Secondly, I feel a sense of camaraderie with Dr Tan even though I haven’t met him before. Like myself, he is a General Practitioner who is still running his own clinic in Jurong. We GPs are pretty much in touch with the community and the joy that I derive most in my practice is to see the kids growing up. I have only been running my clinic for five years so I have some kids whom I have seen when mom first discovered she was pregnant in the clinic. Now the kids are already running into the clinic and jumping on my sofa! I imagine that Dr Tan might be already seeing the kids of the kids that have already grown up and gotten married!
Dr Tan tells me that he had started his clinic back in 1970 at Ama Keng, a remote part of Singapore near Lim Chu Kang. In those days, Ama Keng was pretty much as Ulu as Ulu gets. Even now, that area is still one of the last places in Singapore that you can call Ulu. But back in those days, the nearest hospital was miles away, so it takes a doctor with a real sense of mission to want to work there. He recalled that his clinic was merely a zinc-roofed structure, and one had to cross planks to get it. Of course, being a rural GP, he had to do everything from surgical procedures to delivering babies!
As you know, I have a “President’s Picks” label where I blog about what our President likes to eat. But it is difficult to get hold of the President when he is already the President, so I have to hedge my bets and try to get Dr Tan’s picks now in case he really becomes the President! After that I think there would be too much red tape to meet him in a hawker centre as you would have to contend with muscular blokes wearing sunglasses and black suits.
Dr Tan was having lunch at Bukit Timah Food Centre that day and I must say that the chicken rice he picked was pretty good! The rice was fragrant and the grains were nice and plump with a good toothy bite. Although the white chicken was pretty competent 4.25/5, it was the roast chicken that I would definitely come back for. The seasoning mix was excellent and the flesh was succulent and tender. 4.5/5. If you are looking for chicken rice around the upper Bukit Timah area, this is one stall that will definitely be able to satisfy the craving, although it’s not one for which you would travel across the island to eat.
Our facebook page readers had several questions for Dr Tan. So I have summarized the following Q&As for you.
Questions for Dr Tan Cheng Bock from readers of our Facebook Page.
Q: Are you a PAP-endorsed candidate?
Dr Tan: Absolutely not. I have always spoken my mind when it came to government policies. In fact, when I first joined politics, I was blasted in my maiden speech by 1st DPM Goh Keng Swee because I spoke out against the streaming of school students as I felt it would create class divisions. I am merely a backbencher and not a minister so I am entering this Presidential race on my own.
Q: What is your comfort food and why?
Dr Tan: I worked for 15 years in the farmlands of Ama Keng, so I enjoy simple food because that’s what I ate everyday. Some of my patients paid me with their produce instead of cash! Some also brought me dishes they made. So I am very much still an Ama Keng person at heart.
Q: What is your take on Minister’s pay?
Dr Tan: The salaries of the ministers and top civil servants need to be revised. The President’s pay included. For too many years it was pegged to GDP growth, but when it got too high, no one relooked at the mechanics of the pay scales, so it got out of hand.
Q: Many Singaporeans are wary that being a former PAP member, you may not be as independent as most of us would like our President to be. What do you say to this?
Dr Tan: I have been in the PAP for many years, so that is one thing I cannot shake off. Even as a PAP member, I have opposed many government policies. You can read about the policies I stood against in my blog: http://www.tanchengbock.org. I have always let conscience be my guide. I do believe very strongly that the President should be a person who can unite all Singaporeans.
Q: If you become President, what will you do for Singaporeans?
Dr Tan: The President serves to represent all Singaporeans. It is the government who determines policies so although the President can voice his views, there is little he can do except to weld veto powers when it comes to the national reserves and appointment of key civil servants. I feel strongly that the President must be in touch with the people on the ground. He must be the unifying figure of the people. The first thing I will do is to appoint two independent advisors who have no links to the government to advise me. I have already been supporting a few charities for many years, and being the President would open up a lot more opportunities to increase the scope of the work.
If you have other questions, you can post it on Dr Tan’s wall at: http://www.facebook.com/tanchengbock
So have you given thought about what our President should be? Who do you think is the best President we have had so far? What do you think are the qualities you would like to see in the President and what is his role. Most importantly, do you think that just because he is the President, he should be able to recommend good hawker food? (Don’t take the last one too seriously)