Presidential farce

Presidential farce
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The Reserved Election is “quite unpopular with a large proportion of the population because it goes against the principle of meritocracy”.

So said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong at a dialogue session to mark the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy’s (LKYSPP) 13th anniversary.

ESM Goh was the one who had helmed the task force which looked into the introduction of the Elected President scheme in the 1980s when he was deputy Prime Minister. So, the fact that he finds it necessary for him to now defend the scheme is no surprise.

But what one would have liked to see him do is to address a more pertinent and important question: what does he think of the Government considering Wee Kim Wee as Singapore’s first Elected President, and not Ong Teng Cheong?

Mr Goh, after all, was the Prime Minister who wrote a condolence letter to the children of Mr Ong in 2002, in which he lauded Mr Ong as Singapore’s “first elected President”.

PM Goh’s condolence letter to President Ong’s son

The Government’s decision to discount Mr Ong as the first Elected President is vital to why Singaporeans are now voting in a Reserved Election – one where only Malays are allowed to contest.

This, as many have observed, meant Dr Tan Cheng Bock is disqualified from contesting. Dr Tan, a former PAP stalwart, had lost the last elections by the skin of his teeth.

Whatever the arguments or disagreements or unhappiness over the Reserved Election, it is now a done deal, and we will see a new president shortly.

But he or she will forever be tainted with the suspicion that he/she is no more than a pawn in a wider political manoeuvre, a game which the PAP plays whenever things are perceived to be not going their way.

For this, read Sudhir Vadaketh’s excellent and blunt article.

If you believe that the PAP has noble intentions in instituting this Reserved Election, and that there is nothing nefarious about it, then perhaps you should consider things in the wider context.

Consider the following:

After JB Jeyaretnam won Anson in 1981’s by-election, they introduced the Non-constituency MP (NCMP) scheme in 1984.

After both JB Jeyaretnam and Chiam See Tong won seats in 1984, they introduced the GRC system in 1988.

After Low Thia Khiang won Hougang in 1991 and the SDP won 3 constituencies, they increased the size of GRCs from 3-4 to 5-6 in the 1997 GE.

After the WP won Aljunied in 2011, they announced changes to the Town Council Act.

After President Ong Teng Cheong became president in 1993 and questioned them about the reserves, they went back and changed the Constitutional powers of the Elected President in 1994, which allowed the govt to bypass the president’s scrutiny when statutory boards and Government companies transfer their reserves to the Government.

And now, after Tan Cheng Bock almost won the last presidential election, they have – once again – gone back to change the Constitution, to introduce the “Reserved Election” which allows them to bar all Chinese from such an election, including someone like Dr Tan.

And finally, while the Elected President is said to be a check on the (PAP) Government of the day, all 4 Elected Presidents so far are either ex-PAP ministers (Ong Teng Cheong, Tony Tan, Halimah Yacob, presuming she wins in September), or from the Government’s ranks (SR Nathan).

Coincidence? Or #OwnselfCheckOwnself taken to its shameless extreme?

The integrity of our electoral systems themselves are in danger of being destroyed, by a ruling party which is so bent on preserving its overwhelming power, through its farcical constitutional amendments which, invariably, result in the PAP winning all seats, including the presidential one, each time every time.

To quote Sudhir:

“We have been sold on meritocracy and fairness our whole lives. And now, to fulfil a political agenda, those two core values have been eroded.”

When it comes to retaining its political power, the PAP does not give a hoot about meritocracy, or racial representation. Both are just political tools to be used to retain power.

Again, Sudhir:

“Look at the candidates slated to be our next prime minister. All six original choices are: Chinese. Male. Former government scholars. How’s that for diversity?”


“To undermine the party’s argument even further, there is a possible minority candidate whom the majority of Singapore would probably prefer: Tharman. He checks all three boxes: merit, popularity and diversity quotient.”

Yet, the PAP (not Singaporeans) claim Singaporeans are not ready for a non-Chinese PM, even as Tharman and his team in Jurong scored the highest marks in the last GE. And a recent poll put him miles ahead of all the six so-called 4th generation minister-candidates slated to become the next PM.

Again, Sudhir echoes the unresolved contradiction:

“If we are to take the PAP at face value, voters are supposed to believe that Singapore cannot have a minority Prime Minister, because of race, but must have a minority President, because of race.”

In other words, heads I win, tails I also win.

With such a perverted and illogical system, we will end up with a less qualified President and a less qualified next Prime Minister because of race, at a time when a changing, disruptive world requires us to have our best people at the very top of government.

It seems we have a political leadership which has lost its way.