Tag Archive | "ong teng cheong"

I don’t know what the elected president does

I don’t know what the elected president does

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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.

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Presidential hopefuls can learn from Worker’s Party

Presidential hopefuls can learn from Worker’s Party

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White is out these days. Which is why pro-establishment figures won’t stand a chance in the coming Presidential Election.

By Terence Lee

Tan Kin Lian trying too hard to be David Copperfield.

WHEN the Worker’s Party swept into Parliament in May, it was largely because they hammered home their campaign slogan: “Towards a First World Parliament.”

Never mind that many of their policy proposals were lame: People were clamouring for more opposition voices in Parliament, and they got it.

And I hope Presidential hopefuls Tan Kin Lian, Tan Cheng Bock, and maybe even George Yeo and former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan, were watching closely.

Because therein lies the key to riches, glory, power, and fame — maybe not riches, because the Presidential salary is expected to be slashed.

But here’s the deal: Whichever candidate that comes across as the most independent-minded and sensible stands a good chance of winning.

And not just that. He must be like the Rock — the People’s Champ. He must be perceived as the People’s President; an advocate for the voice of ordinary Singaporeans.

In other words, the Presidential hopefuls must strike a balance between lame dog S.R Nathan and mad dog Chee Soon Juan (version 1.0).

Why do I say this? Two facts to chew on:

1) People have grown more comfortable with dissident voices in Government

Very likely, this Presidential Election will be contested. The last time there was a dogfight for the position was in 1993 where Ong Teng Cheong ran against a reluctant Chua Kim Yeow, henceforth called The Other Guy.

Both Elections have one parellel: They came after a surge in Opposition support in the preceding General Elections.

In 1991, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) captured three seats in Parliament, and the opposition parties secured 39 percent of the votes. The SDP was still intact in 1993.

Ong Teng Cheong from a bygone era. Photo: LEE CHIN

According to Warren Fernandez, then writing as a journalist with the Straits Times, The Other Guy won a substantial 41.31 percent of the votes largely because of his independent streak. This despite how people got angry that his campaigning efforts were largely non-existent at the beginning.

“Opposition parties, which had earlier asked voters to spoil their ballots, began urging them to vote for Mr Chua instead. As polling day approached, the front-runner’s lead narrowed,” wrote Warren.

A few things here:

Ever since the People’s Action Party had a track record, they began harping on it like annoying insurance salesmen. Teng Cheong tried it, and the Men in White did it again in the last polls. But if the results were any indication, this track record will not always play sweet music.

The gap between the General Election and Presidential Election will only be three months at most, compared with two years in 1993. Which means the Men in Blue’s victory in Aljunied GRC is still fresh on people’s minds.

This could galvanise Singaporeans. George Yeo could benefit from his defeat should he decide to contest this time around. Tan Kin Lian, who is friendly with the opposition parties, would surely welcome an endorsement from them.

2) Less is at stake at picking a dissident President

Think Chiam See Tong’s by-election strategy, Presidential Edition.

Lee Kuan Yew is famous for invoking the bogeyman of Singapore politics — the freak election. What happens if the opposition parties win by a large margin, and form the Government despite their ineptness?

Fear-mongering, for sure, but not invalid. Technically, if everyone voted because they want more alternative voices in Parliament, disaster would befall Singapore. That’s because the Worker’s Party had said that they are not quite fit to rule.

No such concern for the Presidential Election.

The Singapore President has limited powers. The Cabinet will still be around even if you pick a rabid dog to fill the post, and so will the Prime Minister. Less is at stake.

Singaporeans will be less disincentivised from picking a dissident as President.

For sure, all the potential candidates so far are ex-PAP men. But all display some semblence of independent thinking. Right off the bat, Tan Cheng Bock portrayed himself as a vocal backbencher who was not afraid to say it like it is. He has the first-mover advantage in this campaign, although his support of the arrests of the so-called Marxist conspirators will disgust left-leaning voters.

George Yeo calls himself a “minority voice” in the “broad church that is the PAP”. He’s widely respected by moderate voices, and you can count on fangirl Xiaxue to campaign on his behalf again (not sure if that’s a good thing).

Tan Kin Lian’s claim to fame was when he organised a rally for investors of the High Notes and Minibonds investment products, which saw a turnout in the thousands. He’s the candidate that the opposition parties and supporters are most likely to endorse.

Tony Tan is, well, Tony Tan. Although he opposed the Graduate Mothers Scheme, his low profile in recent years will work against him. Should he decide to run, he has a lot of media schmoozing to do, although that won’t be a problem.

———

Already, online discourse has placed Ong Teng Cheong as the President by which the upcoming contenders will be measured against. That’s no surprise, considering his vocal opposition against the government, plus the fact that he was never given a State funeral.

Ironically though, the candidate that stands the best chance to win it all would be the one that can emulate The Other Guy’s campaign message: A “credible apolitical alternative”, they called him.

But scratch that “apolitical” bit; it’s an uncool term nowadays.




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