SINGAPORE — Whenever others tell him that something cannot be done because it is a rule or that he lacks the authority, Mr Tan Kin Lian does not back down from what he sees as an obstacle he can overcome.
‘NEVER SAY IT CANNOT BE DONE’
The topic of young people’s financial health is one that is close to his heart and indeed a key message of his campaign is that he wants to build a better future for Singapore’s youths.
“I want young people to be able to say ‘I’m confident of the future’, ‘I’m confident I can raise a family and bring up children’, and ‘I don’t have to worry about this’. I will do my best, if I’m elected, to bring about those conditions.”
He added that this involves bringing down the cost of living, making housing affordable and jobs more secure.
Mr Tan has repeatedly said that if elected, he hopes to use the “soft power” of the presidency to influence government policy in these areas, though experts have pointed out each time that this is not within the purview of the President.
For example, Dr Felix Tan, a political analyst at Nanyang Technological University, has said that while the President can make recommendations on policy, “at the end of the day, it is up to the Cabinet, the Government of the day, to decide”.
Dr Tan has also pointed out that the President cannot overturn the Constitution.
To this, Mr Tan’s feels that simply accepting such an outcome is to have a “negative attitude”. If one stops trying to find a way to get it done, it is akin to accepting defeat, he said.
Which brings us to advice #3: Keep trying to find a way. Failure is a good way to learn.
One way to create change is to first test potential solutions on a smaller scale, he said. If it works, then the solution can be expanded. If it does not, one need not worry as the failure would become a learning experience.
“I’ve gone through many times in my life where the things I want to do fail at first. But that’s no problem, because you can try again.”
Mr Tan’s unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2011 is one such example. He received the lowest vote share among the four candidates, of 4.9 per cent, and lost his deposit of S$48,000.
When TODAY asked him about the disparaging comments his family received back then and whether he fears it would happen again, he shifted his posture slightly before responding in an audibly hushed tone.
“They said harmful things, insulting things to me and also to my family. For me, I’m able to handle this. But for my family, they think that I should not take part in the contest because this problem will come back,” he said.
By submitting his nomination papers on Tuesday, he acknowledged that he has not heeded their suggestions.
But he reiterated, as he does on his daily walkabouts, that his current attempt at the presidency is borne out of a desire to give Singaporeans the option of voting for an “independent” candidate, and that he is confident he will not fail this time around.
It is with this mindset of perseverance, he said, that he plans to implement another one of his ideas if elected: To open up the Istana grounds on Saturday mornings for people to cycle in.
“Of course it’s subject to security and other practical arrangements but I believe it can be done. If it really is creating more trouble than not, we can always stop it, but we can give it a try.”
‘I’M OUT OF THE BOX’
Advice #4: Think of others, not of yourself.
Mr Tan said most people are surprised to learn that one of his core values is that he would much rather do things for others than to act purely in his own interest.
“They will give me feedback about things I should or should not do from, I would say, a selfish perspective. For themselves, it would be better to do certain things for themselves, but I do things for other people,” he said.
“I don’t need all the advantages, I don’t need. I would rather be prepared to help others.”
Before the interview with Mr Tan drew to a close, TODAY asked him if he looked up to anyone who embodies his core values. He answered without any hint of hesitation.
Mr Tan’s Chinese name is anglicised as Chen Qin Liang, he said, and his hero is also a Liang.
Zhuge Liang, who lived during the “Three Kingdoms” period of China in the third century, was an accomplished strategist and had earned a reputation as an intelligent Chinese scholar in his lifetime.
Mr Tan told the story of how Zhuge Liang helped the king of the weakest kingdom defeat a much stronger army using his advice.
“(Zhuge Liang) used his wit and his cunning, but that required him to be able to analyse and understand the situation. That’s the same quality I have,” he said.
“Any problem, I can see what are the key elements and what must you do to achieve success.
“Most people have only a certain way of thinking and they try to think the same way as everybody. I’m out of the box.”