Bye bye, Tan Kin Lian?

Posted on 05 July 2011

Why Singapore presidential hopeful Tan Kin Lian isn’t an automatic shoo-in.

By Belmont Lay

NTUC not company meh?

TAN Kin Lian might, after all, not be eligible to be president of Singapore based on a technicality.

Here’s why: Tan was the CEO of NTUC Income, a “co-operative insurance society” registered under the Co-operative Societies Act, which although strives for “commercial leadership” in its “business“, is actually structured differently from a company registered under the Companies Act.

So, in English, this means that Tan was NOT AND NEVER WAS the CEO of a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act.

And if you check out the Singapore Elections Department list of Qualifications for Candidates seeking to become president, it is stated in no uncertain terms that one of the essential criteria for presidential aspirants is that they must have served as CEO (or as chairman of the board of directors) of a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act.

Still not convinced? Here’s more.

When you google “Tan Kin Lian”, you will most likely find displayed among the top three results, his Wikipedia entry.

In his entry, it is stated that Tan is the “former CEO of NTUC Income”.

Next, follow the NTUC Income link at the footnote and you’ll arrive at its official website and click on its About Us page where it is stated in black and white that “NTUC Income, a co-operative insurance society formed in 1970″, was initiated by Goh Keng Swee (bless his soul).

So are we really splitting hairs when we try to make heads or tails of a co-operative and a company?

Sure as hell!

Therefore, to dig further, simply google “co-operative vs company singapore” because you want to find out what’s the difference between them and you will most likely find your query answered by the Singapore National Co-operative Federation’s FAQ page, which should be displayed as one of the top three results.

In it, transmitted through the ones-and-noughts of the supreme Internet, are three ways a co-operative is different from a company.

Primo: Voting in a co-operative is determined by one-member-one-vote policy but voting in a company is determined by type and number of shares held. (Think Singapore Press Holdings where there exists ordinary shares for mortals and not-so-ordinary-200-times-voting-power management shares if you’re part of the potentate.)

Secundo: A co-operative is an association of members while a company is an association of capital (an association I actually find damn sexy).

Tertio: The objective of a co-operative is to serve members’ needs while a company is to maximise profits for its shareholders. (Think SPH again!)

And to bludgeon the nail and seal the lid on the coffin, do spend four seconds to read the PDF document stating the by-laws of NTUC Income.

It states in page one that NTUC Income is registered under the Co-operative Societies Act.

So here’s the point of today’s missive: I stated before that Tan Cheng Bock must be bonkers if he honestly (or rather naively) thinks that his take on the 1987 so-called Marxist conspiracy can be buried and hidden from public scrutiny.

Sure, Tan Kin Lian might have been CEO for 30 years with a business that manages capital of $20 billion and beyond, but I just hope he will not join the club for the bonkers if he thinks that the Presidential Elections Committee will lay the red carpet out for him.

Because I hate false hope. Likewise for the multitudes out there who are counting on him.

Editor’s note:

This article was edited on July 5, at 5.25pm after it was first published for the following reason:

While Tan Kin Lian isn’t the CEO of a company, he may still qualify on the basis that he is “in any other similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any other organization or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector which, in the opinion of the Presidential Elections Committee, has given him such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable him to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President.”

We thank Wong Chun Han for pointing this out.

What this means is that whether Tan Kin Lian contests is still the decision of the Presidential Elections Committee. It’s no longer obvious that he will stand for elections.

This post was written by:

- who has written 231 posts on New Nation.

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  • Yoda

    Thanks to Wong Chun Han who commented on The Online Citizens FB page regarding this article :

    “erm,according to Singapore constitution, part V, cap 1, 19 (g) (iv):

    [has for a period of not less than 3 years held office] in any other similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any other organisation or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector which, in the opinion of the Presidential Elections Committee, has given him such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable him to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President.

    this is apart from 19 (g) (iii), which is the clause that specifies the role of chairman or CEO of a company registered under the Companies Act.

    i.e. the New Nation article is wrong.”

    • Belmont Lay

      Thank you for bringing this up. But I will only concede at this point that I used the word “effectively” too prematurely and it was too overbearing a word.

      The interpretation of whether or not Tan Kin Lian qualifies is still up in the air because the PEC has final say.

      And here’s something that’s besides the point: I am more keen than ever to see a three-cornered fight.

  • Michael

    If TPL can get away with not shutting her trap (albeit) on Facebook during Cooling Off day and still become a MP, miracles can happen!

  • Valerie Kwek

    Hmm, let’s put 2 and 2 together, shall we?

    Ravi Philemon started to bash Tan Kin Lian with his biased postings on OnlineCitizen Facebook page.

    Ravi Philemon is also registrant of domain,

    Now start to bash Tan Kin Lian as well.

    Hmm… very credible!

    • sh

      Thanks for pointing that out Valerie. I’ll bring that up with our hosting company. Ravi was only helping us out for a month or so last year and has cut all ties with us.

  • sgcynic

    I would agree with the writer if I view the president as NOT one whose objective is to serve our nation’s needs but one who is out to maximise profits for the country.

  • Terence Lee


    ehhh ravi no longer with us liao. and he’s not exactly, how so we say, approving of our approach. anyway, article has been edited to reflect the facts. cheers!

  • Ryan Joseph

    (copied from FB comment)

    What’s the big deal if Ravi Philemon helped set up New Nation – and that he/New Nation have been carrying articles that do not support Mr. Tan Kin Lian’s presidency.

    Some people will plainly have different views .. and be willing to meet and fraternize with other people with similar views .. and perhaps share those views with others hoping to convince others etc. Not everything is a big conspiracy IMHO

    (I have nothing against Mr. Tan Kin Lian btw!)

    • Belmont Lay

      My god! that’s the smartest comment i’ve read in a while!

  • Valerie Kwek

    Terence, sh, thank you for clarifying this and adding disclaimer.

    • Belmont Lay

      you’re welcome!

  • uosocando

    The qualification of the current Pressident is also subjective, so this a presumption and board decision are 2 different matters

    • Belmont Lay

      but you notice how easy it is to catch someone out based on a technicality?

      which is why i’m supportive of a three-cornered fight because it just means we, Singapore as whole, can look past that kind of nitpicking…

  • shornlock

    Suggest everyone in our civil society learns to use since that is a great help to those of us wondering what the rules -really- are. Actually, people who don’t do due diligence or adequate research should not be forgiven so easily these days, because so much is out there on the internet. Or at least, that’s what I tell my students. Keep up the good work, though, and use all the resources you can when setting up your articles! :)

    • Belmont Lay

      thank you shornlock! i am an advocate of internet openness and research and obsessive hyperlinking. learning about the statutes in university changed my life. because i realised a lot of it is dependent on interpretation and the powers vested in the hands of relevant Ministers is something that should be looked into inside and outside institutions of learning.

      • sh

        I dare u to read that last sentence in one breath.

  • Doubly Double Standards


    TPL is TPL. TKL is TKL.
    TPL can get away with lotsathings!

  • lee

    The whole qualification criteria for the PE is a sham,
    In the last GE, being a CFO of JTC, everybody could see Andrew Kuan was head and shoulder above SR Nathan, a civil servant all his life, on financial knowledge.
    But it was the former who was disqualied and the latter given the post on a golden platter.
    This is post 2011 GE and the political mood of the people has changed. Would they do an enactment of PE 2005 by disqualifying TKL or TCB, and face another waterloo like the one in Aljunied?

  • Alan Wong

    If based on the special clause, TKL would have more than satisfy their requirement. The onus now will be whether PAP or rather whether our PM wants to play dirty.

    Should the PEC disqualify TKL, the Board of Directors for Temasek should also disqualify HC on the basis of conflict of interests by appointing the wife of our Prime Minister as its CEO, agree ?

    Their decision will also reflect whether our PM’s apology was an honest one, to begin with ?

  • george

    Hi All,

    This may seem unconnected, but I wonder how many of you gave it even a passing thought about the habit of the PAP govt of pushing out OLD MEN whenever it faces issues that may be fairly described as ‘crisis of confidence’ in its ability.

    Case in point, I am referring to JYM Pillay being push right to the forefront of a developing “Tiger’ crisis in Australia. Back here is our current developing EP ‘crisis’ we see the govt pushing Tony Tan forward – he having to resign from three high profile appointments in the SPH and the GIC0 in order to stand for nomination. Tony, the ever obliging ERRAND BOY, don’t forget, took over the SPH post when another OLD MAN, Lim Kim San, died in the harness as SPH chairman!

    There are other old men (and old ladies?) still available in the wings, such as Danabalan, Lim Chee On, even Goh Chok Tong all of whom could yet find favour with the aging founding father and his moribund son, when a fitting need comes along.

    Then there are also ‘youngsters’ like ex-general ‘KeeChew’ who are good for another type of roles namely, SEAT WARMING roles, while the Lee family nurses and nurtures its own young, out of sight of the Singapore public, waiting for the most auspicious ‘right’ time to break cover and concealment, to carry on the family’s tradition of monopolizing the political domination of this little red dot.

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