Before the new batch of Nominated Members of Parliament were announced last year, I had the chance to interview Mr. Eugene Tan – Associate Professor of Law at the Singapore Management University – where I quizzed him about his contributions to parliamentary debate, the attention he has paid to the tertiary institutions in Singapore, as well as reform to the electoral system. And I did ask him about the “Captain Obvious” label too.
Read “Eugene Tan: Captain Not-Obvious“, and here’s a short excerpt:
We were at the end of my hour-long interview with Associate Professor of Law Mr. Eugene Tan at the Singapore Management University (SMU), and I had one last question. “This might be a little … whimsical”, I pre-empted. He had taken time to meet a random blogger, had been frank throughout our conversation, and offending him was the last thing I wanted.
“One of your online nicknames is ‘Captain Obvious’. How would you respond to that?”
For a moment he seemed perplexed. Jialat liao. For years writers on the Internet have lampooned the former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) for having too many articles in the mainstream media, for providing too many quotes on Singapore government and politics. Since the general elections in 2006 he has been the go-to authority for political commentaries. Some figured Mr. Tan was echoing perspectives of the establishment, while others thought he was being unfair to the government. “Captain Obvious” could not please everyone.
Yet with a wry smile he quickly replied: “I get quoted fairly frequently by the international media, and if you are not able to make a useful contribution the likes of ‘Al-Jazeera’, the ‘Financial Times’, ‘The New York Times’, the ‘Voice of America’, as well as the ‘British Broadcasting Corporation’ will not come back to you”. And through these experiences he sees many parallels between his role as an academic and as an NMP. “In both cases I strive to be objective, to be independent, and to speak without fear and favour”, he said. When one takes a very pro-government line, the opinion is read as a repetition of what has been mentioned.