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Ex-opposition MP Chiam See Tong launches sports foundation

Singapore

CHIAM See Tong, the veteran opposition politician who helmed the Potong Pasir single seat for 27 years, doesn't make that many public appearances these days.

On Thursday night, however, Mr Chiam and his wife Lina were at the Chamber of the Old Parliament House - the same venue where Mr Chiam took his oath after his historic win at the 1984 general election - to launch a new sports foundation that bears his name.

It was an early birthday present of sorts for Mr Chiam, who will turn 82 on Sunday. He is now the patron of the Chiam See Tong Sports Foundation, a registered society that aims to help disadvantaged children in Singapore achieve their sporting dreams.

Mrs Chiam is the co-patron, while the couple's daughter, Camilla, is a director of the foundation's 10-member board. The board is chaired by former swimming champion Ang Peng Siong and includes the likes of ex-national footballer R Sasikumar and Singapore's fastest 100-metre sprinter UK Shyam.

Those already in the foundation have set up a starting seed fund of about S$70,000 and the target is to reach out to at least 100 children in the first year.

Fifteen boys from low-income families were present at the event and they each received a new pair of football boots from Mr Chiam. There are plans to hold a fund-raising dinner soon, as well as a possible 24-hour swim-a-thon event.

Mr Chiam, a former lawyer and current secretary-general of the Singapore People's Party, described sports as a "unifying tool" for nation-building and in building strong community bonds.

"Our children are our future, and we must provide them with as many opportunities as possible, so that they will find many paths towards being successful, patriotic Singaporeans," he said in a statement.

"We must continue to find ways to work together as a community, and to continue having faith in our children, and in believing in them."

In a speech at the event, Mrs Chiam - a former non-constituency MP - recalled how her husband was an active sportsman in his youth.

He represented his alma-mater, Anglo-Chinese School, in swimming and trained under Mr Ang's father, the late Ang Teck Bee. Mr Chiam also took up karate and played badminton.

During his six terms in Parliament, he spoke frequently about the need to support Singapore's sporting talents and raise the country's sports profile to international standards.

Mrs Chiam said: "As we move forward with this meaningful cause, our aim is to help see today's youth become our future champions, whether in life as successful individuals or great athletes bringing home medals of glory for Singapore."

The foundation, which is a registered society, will look to build relationships between athletes, corporates and the community to increase sports opportunities for children and youths.

It also hopes to develop programmes and services to supplement and complement national initiatives for children and youth sports development.

Mr Ang said the foundation will be undergoing the necessary due processes to be registered as a charity with Institution of Public Character (IPC) status.

IPCs are exempt or registered charities that are able to issue tax deductible receipts for qualifying donations to donors, allowing these donors to claim tax relief from their assessable income based on the amount donated, at the prevailing deduction rate.