I don’t know what the elected president does

Posted on 12 June 2011

Therefore, the method of getting the people to pick a president for Singapore is ridiculous.

By Belmont Lay

Does the President do anything more than model? Photo: CHRIS LIM / Creative Commons

LET’S  just throw up a few names here: George Yeo. Tan Kin Lian. Tan Cheng Bock. Tony Tan. SR Nathan.

And let’s assume all five of them are all going to run for president by August.

So what does this tell me? Well, the current slate of presidential hopefuls clearly represent a lack of choice.

And I’m not saying this to be a contrarian or a mischievous squirrel.

I’m saying this because even though they might be familiar faces to me one way or another, I have no idea at all what an elected president does – on a day-to-day basis.

Can he start a war? Can he dissolve parliament on a whim? Is he allowed to go to Plaza Singapura on his own? Especially when the folks from the PAP come by and he’s a tad tired of socialising?

If I don’t know what’s the job scope and what he gets up to (other than Star Awards), I can’t pick the best person for the job.

It’s like having to fit a key into a keyhole, except you’ve never seen the keyhole and putting the wrong key in might cause your house to explode, for example.

Think: So how are you then, the cleverest electorate to have found this missive, going to judge who among these valiant men can be the best at the president job?

How?

Well, you could, of course, ask SR Nathan, our current president. As the second elected president of this glorious Republic, he’s been on the job for 12 years, so I’m sure he can share an anecdote or two about how it’s like to not sign on clemency appeals and having a personal chef and chauffeur.

A reporter did ask for his thoughts but he is keeping mum, which is to be characteristically quiet and wallflowerish, because he will only let you know in September when he publishes his memoirs!

In September! When the presidential elections are already over!

So the guy who knows everything is unwilling to even release a whimper.

And since hiring a clairvoyant to interrogate Ong Teng Cheong or Wee Kim Wee about their job scope is out of the question because I believe all clairvoyants are cunning, lying bastards out to make a quick one, this leaves us with the last guy who can give us an outpouring of opinion.

So I take a cue from the uber-academic who knows what he is talking about.

At this moment, you should by now recognise the extent of the problem? You, as the electorate who is going to choose your next president, know absolutely next to nought about what your president does.

Eugene Tan, assistant professor of law from SMU, says that the president has “two key custodial functions” and he is a holder of the “second key”.

This means, in English, that the president must ensure that the reserves stay full and that public service does not go to waste.

Oh yes, the president also has the task of preventing cunning, lying bastards (read: populists and underqualified politicians, not clairvoyants) who have overtaken parliament from spending the nation’s wealth on Lamborghinis.

If all these still sounds very vague to you and me, it is. But that’s not all.

And then Tan admonishes us to “endeavour to keep the contest non-partisan and non-adversarial; the contest ultimately is about who can best do the job”.

But that’s essentially the same as Randy Jackson saying: “Yo dawg, may the best person win American Idol”.

Stating the obvious is fun to watch when picking a singer for TV entertainment. Not when choosing a president.

And then Tan also exhorts us in the same article “to get to know the aspiring candidates seeking to be their head of state”.

Now imagine that you have. You know all the candidates from head to toe. And then what?

At this moment, you should by now recognise the extent of the problem? You, as the electorate who is going to choose your next president, know absolutely next to nought about what your president does.

Nathan himself, not very strangely then, concedes: “What have I done? (I have) done nothing… It’s hard for me to quantify… It’s a very intangible thing.”

Nathan also said: “…although I’ve been quiet, I’ve been doing work”.

This reminds of what I tell my friends when they query me about what I did during National Service as a naval diver.

I would say, “I run around carrying a boat on my head, shouting”. For those who have done that before, you can attest that that happened quite a bit.

Therefore, naval divers are also evidently doing quite a bit of work, but in our case carried out in a very visible way because of the ruckus we would create.

But honestly, none of what we were doing was very CONSEQUENTIAL.

So, here’s the point of today’s missive: Dear Nathan, it is not really how much work you did not do while in office. It is how much you did that mattered.

But since I don’t know what you didn’t do because you’re not saying, I have no choice but to vote for George Yeo as the best guy for the job based on Sesame Street reasoning.

Because among all, he is the odd one out: He is not an endomorph.

Join our community on FacebookTwitter, or follow us on the S.alt app for Android.

This post was written by:

- who has written 230 posts on New Nation.


Contact the author