Dr Tan Cheng Bock hopes the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) will become the government of Singapore in future, and he is recruiting people for that purpose.

Dr Tan, the founding Secretary-General of this opposition party, said he is preparing a team, and “that team will take over the running of the country I hope one day.”

He did not explicitly say when he envisages the PSP taking over the government from the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has governed Singapore since 1959.

“The whole political climate is also changing, so I need good, strong people to come on board to help me to set up a very strong team,” Dr Tan said during a press conference at the official launch of the PSP headquarters in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre on January 27.

The headquarters “signifies we are a very serious player. We are not just coming here just to fight one general election,” said Dr Tan, a former PAP member of parliament.

Although the PSP is less than one year old, it already has over 1,000 members, making it the biggest opposition party in Singapore.

“I worry that some of them may be still thinking the party belongs to Tan Cheng Bock. It is not my interest or even Singapore’s interest to only concentrate on me,” Dr Tan said.

A political party is an institution, and good people are needed to form the institution, he added. “I can be the mentor which is exactly what I am doing.”

In particular, he expressed the hope that more young people will join the PSP. Some commentators have remarked that a significant number of this party’s members are elderly like Dr Tan, who turns 80 on April 26, giving it the image of an “old person’s party”.

“I find that so many of the young chaps are still not ready to come forward. I hope they will come,” Dr Tan observed.

“I hope to encourage younger Singaporeans not to be so fearful. We don’t want people to say, ‘You all are kiasu people’. I think all these words, kiasu, kiasi, let’s forget about it, don’t use these words,” Dr Tan said.

Kiasu and Kiasi are Singapore slang for excessive caution.

Many young Singaporeans are reluctant to talk about politics, Dr Tan noted. He wants more young people to have a greater understanding of politics, because politics affects their everyday lives. If a young Singaporean is not interested in politics until he or she starts working and realises it is difficult to cover expenses with his or her pay packet, “it is a bit late,” Dr Tan pointed out.

“Singapore is actually basically a good place. We want to tweak it and make it better for everybody. Political parties must be more compassionate, must be more human,” Dr Tan said.

Dr Tan prefers a form of opposition politics that is not aggressively confrontational.

“I will like to move away from that angle (if you are not with me, you are against me). We may have difference in opinions but never mind,” he said, adding that debates can produce the best outcome.

There is no reason why the PSP shouldn’t cooperate with other opposition parties, Dr Tan added.