Many Singaporeans, when they see this chap, will know it’s election time again.
He is Yam Ah Mee, the Returning Officer, who became an overnight sensation after the general election in May this year, for making results announcements in an expressionless way. In this picture, he was announcing, on 17 August 2011, that four candidates had successfully nominated themselves for the presidential election. Polling Day will be 27 August 2011.
This is not an essay, but just a collection of photos I took at the People’s Association headquarters on King George’s Road which had been designated as the nomination centre.
I arrived to find large marquees set up on the field in front of the building. People were steadily arriving, but most took shelter under the marquees since nothing was happening as yet.
Asking around, I was informed that all four prospective candidates had already arrived — no one had changed his mind overnight about contesting.
The one-hour window for nominations was from 11 a.m. to 12 noon, but the waiting stretched to about 12:45 p.m. before the above-mentioned Yam Ah Mee appeared. Between 11:30 and 12:30, it drizzled too. At first, people remained within the tents, with only the media and die-hard supporters parking themselves nearer the stage, where the field was not sheltered.
But as 12 noon came and passed, more and more people began to move forward into the open field, pressing against the barricade. Here are two wearing T-shirts with a candidate’s face on them.
Then Yam Ah Mee appeared and announced that there would be four candidates.
First to address the crowd was Tan Cheng Bock garlanded the old-fashioned way.
He was followed by Tan Jee Say and Tony Tan.
As Tony Tan came onto the stage, he was met with a chorus of boos and had to wait a while before he could start to speak. Even then, a section of the crowd began chanting “Patrick Tan”, the name of Tony Tan’s son — I believe he’s there in the photo at extreme left. Tony Tan has received considerable online flak for the 12-year deferment that his son enjoyed from National Service. Patrick Tan completed most of this obligation working in a lab as a scientist.
A minute later, the chants became boos again, which thankfully, didn’t last long.
Straits Times had a short report about Tony Tan’s assentors. Whereas other candidates had quite ordinary Singaporeans,
Dr [Tony] Tan’s seconder was Chua Thian Poh, chief executive of Ho Bee Investments and one of Singapore’s richest men.
Among Dr Tan’s assentors were Mr Gopinath Pillai, ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ms Olivia Lum, founder and CEO of water solutions firm Hyflux; Dr Stanley Lai, senior counsel at Allen and Gledhill; and heart surgeon Dr Joseph Sheares, son of Singapore’s second President Benjamin Sheares.
— Straits Times Breaking News, 17 August 2011, Notable figures among key supporters for 4 presidential candidates
Why I wonder, did Tony Tan choose such people? What message is he trying to send? Then again, maybe he only mixes around in such stratospheric company and these are the only kind of people he knows.
Then it was Tan Kin Lian’s turn to speak:
He was the only one who said something in each of the four official languages. I don’t know if what he said in Tamil was understood by real Tamil speakers, but I’m sure they’ll give him full marks for trying.
During the speeches, the crowd began to unfurl their flags and banners. Tony Tan’s supporters had more than the others, but what was notable was that many banners bore the name of some union or other.
In fact, I had noticed about 8 to 10 excursion buses parked outside, and I wondered if there was a connection between these buses and the organised groups from the unions.
Tan Kin Lian’s campaign has a nice logo:
Next up are the supporters of Tan Jee Say and Tan Cheng Bock:
After the short speeches, the candidates came out to greet their supporters,
. . . pose for pictures
. . . and give media interviews.
By about 1:30 p.m., it was all over, but the hard part of campaigning had only just begun.