Translated by Donaldson Tan
This is a non-verbatim translation of Zaobao report 《詹时中妻子被索尼娅感动 要代夫出征守波东巴西》 dated 23 March 2011.
(2011-03-23) ● 游润恬 报道
Mrs Chiam: I am inspired by Sonia Gandhi
Being inspired by Sonia Gandhi’s courage, Madam Luo Wenli decided to take the plunge and contest for Potong Pasir SMC in place of her husband Opposition leader and Member for Potong Pasir Chiam See Tong.
Sonia Gandhi is the President of the Congress Party in India and the famous widow of former India Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. In 1991, her husband was assassinated and it led to the loss of a Prime Minister and weakening of the Congress Party. Sonia Gandhi gave up her low-key private life and used her Nehru-Gandhi legacy to revive the the Congress Party. From 1998 to 2004, Sonia Gandhi held office as the Leader of the Opposition.
Someone once remarked to 62-year-old Madam Luo, “Why don’t you retire since you have reached retirement age? Why dabble with politics at your age?”
Unfazed by the remark, Madam Luo pointed out that both Sonia Gandhi and Myanmar Opposition leader Aung San Su Kyi are also not young. She added that she joined politics to fight side by side with her husband.
She told Zaobao in an exclusive interview: “There is no point for me to retire and travel round the world while my poor husband battles on. We must be together, so that we can meet people and still do the same thing together.”
76 years-old Chiam See Tong intends to lead a GRC team to contest Bishan-Toapayoh GRC. However, his health has been in decline after he was hit by stroke twice in 2008.
According to Mr Chiam , the best person to replace him as a GE candidate for Potong Pasir SMC would be his loyal comrade who has demontrated unwaivering support for the past 35 years – his wife Madam Luo Wenli.
Some people have voiced up concerns whether Mr Chiam would be able to take on the physical toil of contesting a large-area constituency such as a GRC. Madam Luo clarified that Mr Chiam’s bad posture is due to his stroke and in fact he is stronger than he appears to be, although not as energetic prior to the stroke. He swims regularly and undergoes 2 training sessions a week with a physical trainer.
Madam Luo also stressed that Mr Chiam would not retire from politics.
“When a person loves politics, loves serving the people, you cannot stop him, even to the end of his life. Let them what he wants to do.”
“If you ask Prince Charles or Prince Williams to give up their status as British Royalty and be a commoner, they would not do it because they have already grew accustomed to Royal life.”
“Actually, it is good thing for him to continue in politics. What else can he do at home? Visiting the constituency and talking to constituents would not only improve his physical fitness, but also keep illness at bay,” Madam Luo said.
However, Madam Luo was not fully supportive of her husband’s political career at the beginning. She admitted being reluctant to join her husband at house-to-house visits during her husband’s first GE campaign in 1976. At that time, they just got married with an eight-month old baby and she was worried that her husband’s politics would have an impact on their family’s livelihood.
Madam Luo’s attitude towards her husband’s political career gradually warmed up as her husband’s popularity begun to grow over years. Today, she is 100% supportive of him.
She said for now, all she can do for her husband is to give her best in supporting and taking care of her him. For example, she has been driving him around to fetch him to Parliament and Meet-the-People Session.
Does she need to remind Mr Chiam to eat his medicine regularly? Madam Luo said, “Of course not. I have already instructed the maid to be more fierce.”
Although Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has been in politics for so many years, the only electoral ward he has contested for the past 50 years is Tanjong Pagar. Now Mr Chiam wants to contest outside his base at Pontong Pasir, it seems this is a near impossible task.
“This is what he want do. If it makes him happy, let him be. Even if he fails, it is okay,” said Madam Luo on her husband Chiam See Tong.