Tag Archive | "presidential election"

S’poreans feel racist asking woman of Indian descent to be Malay just to be president

S’poreans feel racist asking woman of Indian descent to be Malay just to be president

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That’s terrible.


Singaporeans from all walks of life, who know what is microaggression and misappropriation, are feeling queasy.

This after they feel racist asking a woman of Indian descent to be more Malay just so she can become the next president of Singapore.

One Singaporean, Ma Lai Ren, said: “If I had to become less of my own race just to fulfil someone else’s dream, I’d rather die.”

“In this case, I would rather Singapore not have a president.”

“We need to embrace Singaporeans for who they are, not make them somebody they are not.”

However, other locals said making race a fluid concept by allowing people of one racial group to transcend to another racial group would be beneficial.

Another local, Tng Lang, said: “This will really open up doors if Singaporeans achieve a more fluid racial identity.”

“It will allow us to identify better with one another as these false barriers are removed and Singaporeans can truly become one heterogeneous mix.”

“And it will also aid Tan Cheng Bock to become the next president as he will be more Malay by virtue of feeling he is so.”

“What a great concept.”



Chee Soon Juan must run for Presidential Election

Chee Soon Juan must run for Presidential Election

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He can then check the PAP.


Singaporeans from all walks of life, who are looking for fireworks, are anticipating a fight of a lifetime.

This after they want Chee Soon Juan to run for Singapore’s Presidential Election to be held in September 2017.

One Singaporean, Bei Hiao Bai, said: “No way in hell Chee Soon Juan is going to let any election go by without running in it.”

“He needs to make up for lost time.”

Other locals said Chee running in the presidential election will only add to the credibility of any candidate who emerges victorious afterwards.

Another local, Tou Piao, said: “Running and beating Chee Soon Juan in an election will give you street cred.”

“You would be taking on the most seasoned opponent in the field of elections.”

“Regardless you are Chinese, Malay, Indian or Others, you beat Chee Soon Juan you will be respected.”



Scientists discover Tan Cheng Bock has traces of Peranakan blood

Scientists discover Tan Cheng Bock has traces of Peranakan blood

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This throws presidential race wide open.


Singaporeans from all walks of life, from all races and religions, who like it when there are twists and turns in the script, are applauding loudly.

This after scientists in Singapore have discovered that Tan Cheng Bock might have minority heritage as he has traces of Peranakan blood.

This effectively throws wide open the race to the next Elected Presidency in Singapore.

One Singaporean, Xiao Niang Re, said: “As the next Elected Presidency due this year is reserved for a Malay candidate, this turn of events has thrown up a viable candidate at long last.”

“Race is indeed a fluid concept.”

“If we dig far back enough, all modern humans emerged from Africa.”

Other locals said finding traces of Peranakan blood is only the start.

Another local, Chou Xue, said: “If we go so far as to do a DNA analysis, we will find that all human genome consists of a mixture of ancestry derived from multiple populations scattered all across the globe.”

“This will render all Singapore government policies on the matter of race in presidential election as backward, null and narrow-minded.”







Singapore Dream is within reach

Singapore Dream is within reach

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Even failed presidential candidates prove Singapore’s meritocratic system is alive and well, says Koo Tsai Kee. This commentary is a 60-second reduction of the original published in The Straits Times on Sept. 6.

Koo Tsai Kee was the former minister of state for defence.

One recurring theme for me, as a result of this presidential election, was about opportunity and social mobility.

Here’s why:

The three candidates who failed in their bid for presidency – Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Jee Say and Tan Kin Lian – came from humble and deprived economic backgrounds.

They might not have become presidents, but their triumphs and tribulations speak of the Singapore Dream.

This year’s presidential race should reinforce our belief that the Singapore system of meritocracy is working well, and needs to continue to evolve to be relevant.

Because ultimately, the poor can still dream big.

This is evident when you consider the three failed candidates: All went to Raffles Institution and rose to their respective careers.

Jee Say, a washerwoman’s son, went to RI and then to Oxford on a government scholarship.

His path to the Istana is a vindication of the meritocratic system.

Cheng Bock lost his father as a teenager but he went to RI and later graduated from medical school to become a general practioner.

Although he laments that the system robbed him of the chance to become a specialist, history will remember him for his contribution to society.

Kin Lian was so poor that he didn’t complete his A Levels, he still managed to acquire professional actuarial qualifications and led NTUC Income as the CEO of a working man’s cooperative.

These three Tans are evidence of the success of social mobility, which is what gives hope to people.

With the aspiration these three Tans showed in wanting to become president, they have showed hope – a virtue that keeps society afloat and will raise it to a higher plane.

Moreover, social mobility is even greater these days as more students go to polytechnic and university, more scholarships are on offer and better paying jobs are available.

RI still has the lowest number of students wih graduate parents among the top schools.

But if there are fewer poor students in RI today, it is because there are fewer poor people in Singapore overall.

Social mobility must be alive today because that is also what explains the success of today’s immigrant children.

Their parents came to Singapore with old clothes and little money but the determination to succeed. And they succeeded because social mobility is alive and thriving.

And also because Singapore’s meritocratic system is blind to economic background and country of origin.

With the presidential election over, let us celebrate the Singapore Dream.

The writer is a former minister of state for defence.

Politics compromises dignity of presidency, allows furthering of political agenda

Politics compromises dignity of presidency, allows furthering of political agenda

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The solution is to let electoral college throw up eligible presidential hopefuls, says Janadas Devan and Ho Kwon Ping. This commentary is a 60-second reduction of the original published in The Straits Times on Sept. 3.

Janadas Devan (left) and Ho Kwon Ping (right).

If the desired end is an apolitical presidency, then the means employed in choosing the president must also be apolitical too.

However, this year’s presidential elections was a divisive and highly politicised affair. It was also confused and unfortunate.

Why was it confused? Because the victor is accepted by the majority of Singaporeans as qualified to hold office, but he does not have a clear mandate.

And there was the suggestion that he would not have won if Tan Jee Say or Tan Kin Lian had not contested. Then Tan Cheng Bock would have been the winner.

Moreover, at least a quarter of voters saw this presidential elections as a rehash of the general election. They voted for Tan Jee Say who felt that the president need not be “restricted” by the constitution, and should act as a “check and balance” on the government and parliament.

Plus, a sizeable number voted out of frustration with the first-past-the-post system, and they saw this presidential election as a correction of an anomaly in the general election where the opposition won 40 percent of votes but only received 7 percent of parliamentary seats.

This presidential election is also unfortunate as it ended up diminishing Tan Cheng Bock and Tony Tan. The victory of one Dr Tan has been diminished by the tiniest of margin, while the near-victory of the other Dr Tan has been overshadowed by his failure to achieve his long-held dream.

It is also unfortunate that the only winner is Tan Jee Say. Jee Say recognised that the apolitical office for president can be politicised and an opportunity to extend the campaign he launched during the general election in May.

He has now made himself into a household name, more well-known than Low Thia Khiang, who is considered the de facto leader of the opposition. This presidential election has produced one winner in the form of Tan Jee Say, who now has the wherewithal to form his own political party if he so wishes and to further his political ambition in the next general election.

This fact will not be lost on other politically ambitious persons among those currently eligible to run for president. In this class of individuals, Jee Say would be included.

So what can Singaporeans expect from future presidential elections?

1. The presidential election will be a prelude to the general election or else a continuation of one. And when the apolitical presidency becomes the pursuit of politics, parliament will no longer be the primary arena of political debate. The dignity of the presidency will be tarnished.

2. Few or no minority candidates will be able to win a presidential race. With the presidential election as a giant single-seat competition, and with this presidential election a single-race affair, SR Nathan might well be our last minority president.

3. No candidate with the required calibre, with a reputation for personal integrity or fiscal prudence will want to run for presidency given the intense politicking that transpired from this recent contest.

4. Few or no candidates without prior political party affiliation will want to contest for the presidency so it will be politicians for now on.

Therefore, how can the system be reformed?

– We might need to return to parliament the right to elect the president. Plenty of Commonwealth countries are doing so. Before 1993, Singapore did that too.

However, this would be problematic as the government is choosing a person whose chief role is to act as a check on it, in particular, the use of past reserves and crucial public sector appointments.

– This is our favoured approach: Establish an electoral college to nominate the presidential candidates and elect one from among them.

The college must be large to be representative. Consisting of 50 to 100 persons, it will comprise of representatives from major stakeholder groups in society: Unions, combined university student groups, civil society organisations, political parties with parliamentary seats and so on.

From among those who offer themselves for presidency, the college can nominate three or four of them. This will be the first sieve that will produce a pool of candidates.

The eligibility criteria can either be liberalised or tightened further. We are currently agnostic on this topic of eligibility criteria.

As an additional safeguard, the Supreme Court or Public Service Commission can give the final approval to ensure only persons of integrity can run for presidency.

Shortlisted candidates cannot hold rallies. They can go on walkabouts and be interviewed by the media.

Electors should monitor what is being said in the media and social media about these candidates.

The electoral college can then exercise secret voting after in-depth interviews with the candidates. Three rounds of voting might be needed to weed out the weakest candidates, till only the winner being the candidate who has more than 50 percent of votes.

We admonish, politics is vital, but it must also be productive.

The politics in this presidential election that just past was unproductive and was for politics’ sake.

The non-executive nature of the presidency meant that a lot that was promised by the candidates cannot possibly be fulfilled.

Politics should be vested in parliament. If the aim is for an apolitical and impartial president, it is not possible in politics or ethics for bad means to produce good ends.

Ho Kwon Ping is the chairman of the board of trustees of Singapore Management University and executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings.

Janadas Devan is associate editor of The Straits Times and director of the Institute of Policy Studies. His father, C.V. Devan Nair, was the third president of Singapore.

More candidates, the merrier

More candidates, the merrier

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Multiple-horse race during elections can be a good thing, says Tessa Wong in a Straits Times commentary on Sept 3. This is a 60-second reduction by New Nation.

The recent presidential elections saw Singaporeans go from “famine to feast” with a walkover in 2005 to four candidates in 2011.

But some Singaporeans argue that a multiple-horse race split the opposition vote.

A two-horse race would galvanise all the opponents of Tony Tan (who is the ruling party’s implicit choice) to support the other candidate to ensure a better chance of winning.

But these critics’ partisan views ignore the perspective that political maturation in Singapore with four candidates running for presidency has the virtue of making voters think harder about their choices.

In elections with straight two-way fights, voting became an easy choice: Either you supported the PAP or opposition. Swing voters may decide based on current level of unhappiness with the PAP government.

This presidential election forced many to choose a candidate based on other criteria.

No longer could voters make a choice based on who was independent. All four candidates expressed that they were.

Voters had to factor in the candidates’ suitability for the role and their character. More research had to be done and the candidates scrutinised harder.

Opposition leaning voters had to choose three Tans not endorsed by the government.

However, not many Singaporeans today have gone through such a thinking process as there was a gradual decline of multiple-horse race over the years.

From the 1950s to 1970s, Legislative Assembly elections and parliamentary elections saw multiple-cornered fights. (Except in 1968 election when Barisan Socialis boycotted elections.)

The 1972 General Election saw 24 multi-cornered fights in the 65 wards contested.

In 1962, there were multi-cornered fights in almost all wards except Southern Islands.

Since then, however, walkovers or two-horse races have become the norm. This was due to the creation of group representative constituencies in 1988 and insufficient opposition candidates and later due to the practice of horsetrading among the opposition before elections.

In past presidential elections, the lack of eligible people willing to run for president has also resulted in walkovers and a two-horse race.

But now, Singaporeans’ collective decision-making process will be refined further with more choices.

Therefore, multi-cornered fights may become the norm as our political landscape becomes more complex and diverse.

Singaporean author pleased with how the PE turned out

Singaporean author pleased with how the PE turned out

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Politics taking a step in the right direction, says our very own literary Ah Jie, Catherine Lim.

I am writing to thank the four Tans who stepped up to the plate to stand for the 2011 presidential election. At the end of their campaigns, I was left in no doubt about their sincerity in wanting to serve the nation. I acknowledge that they have served the nation in various capacities.

Their campaigns gave me more room to reflect on the issues in an election that has been described as “polarising”. From the start, Dr Tony Tan was a front runner for my vote and at the end of the campaign, it was Mr Tan Jee Say.

Even after I voted, during the ballot counting, I still wondered if I had voted for the right man when it came down to the wire between the two Dr Tans.

During the campaign period, there was the debacle between the Workers’ Party, the Housing Board and the People’s Action Party, and the issue of how Dr Tony Tan’s sons served their national service, for which the online community provided interesting counterpoints that could not be ignored.

In the end, I did not get the president I voted for, but I will support the man who is now my president for these reasons:

First, Dr Tan has said he will work for those who voted for him and for those who did not. The fact that he won by a hair’s breadth over the next closest contender is a constitutional issue, not a personal one.

Second, he has said the office of the president is “a work in progress”. At his media conference, Dr Tan said he looked forward to the analyses that would be forthcoming after the election and indeed, within hours, there were considered commentaries online, including how the election process can be improved.

Third, there is Dr Tan’s expressed desire to continue to work the ground and engage the online community, which, to me, reflects a man who is willing to learn.

Dr Tan has said it has been the hardest battle he has fought in the political fray.

It has been a difficult decision too for the voters, especially those with no party affiliations.

The other three contenders have said they will continue to serve the nation and I wish them all the best.

What lies ahead in the next six years for the country is what we make of it. And the political maturity demonstrated thus far is a step in the right direction.

This letter was published in The Straits Times forum on Aug. 30.

New methods of governance needed

New methods of governance needed

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After two elections in less than four months, there must be new methods of governance, says Simon Tay.

The prime minister and newly elected president have called on Singaporeans to unify to face the challenges ahead after a tightly contested presidential election.

This is a timely call as economic uncertainties abound, stemming from America and Europe.

To avoid the fractured politics that characterise these regions, new ways of governance needs to be found here, with the government taking the first step and the energised citizenry needs to adjust accordingly.

The fundamentals of politics in Singapore are changing, judging by what happened in this year’s elections, but not necessarily for the better.

But the status quo cannot remain. This presidential election has shown that there are different views about the president’s powers to act as checks on the government.

Even candidates varied in their attitude. Tan Jee Say acquired 25 percent of votes when he positioned himself as a candidate who would check on the government.

Tan Cheng Bock voiced the need for independence and judgement to use the power of office when necessary. He narrowly lost.

The conclusion is that 65 percent of voters wanted a representative who would disagree with the government.

With the Workers’ Party gaining eight seats, Singaporeans’ appetite for debate can be satiated with public discussions and alternative policies in parliament.

With regards to the new media realm where discussion will spill into, many in the government and civil service are uncertain about how to respond, partly due to some citizens going beyond the assertion of their rights to the point of undue aggression.

Therefore, much of this new compact also rests on citizens’ responsibilities. They cannot be overly aggressive, they have to argue facts with passion, wit and civility, and it would be wrong for citizens to quarrel and terrorise the government.

How the government treats the Workers’ Party will also be monitored by citizens who do not want to perceive one-sided rules against the opposition. But citizens must also be ready to speak up against opposition political parties who may be in the wrong.

As for individuals who do not belong to the ruling party in particular, they can be incorporated into the establishment. Some will be looking towards Tan Cheng Bock for a clue as to where he can fit into the new dynamics for the betterment of Singapore.

Treatment of critical but widely used blogs will also signal the government’s approach to online media. Online media should also be held to high standards of accuracy and fairness. Or else citizens will judge them as bias and unfair.

However, unity cannot mean the single rule of one man or the government.

Both government and citizens must do their part.

This commentary is a 60-second reduction of the original article published in Today, Aug. 29.

The writer is Simon Tay, former Nominated Member of Parliament, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore.

The reasons for the cliffhanger finale

The reasons for the cliffhanger finale

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Voters want a down-to-earth president and not candidates who overpromise and cannot deliver, says Chua Lee Hoong.

If voters had gone to the polls simply voting for who had the best credentials, the brain power to solve economic problems and made a good ambassador overseas, they would have voted Tony Tan.

However, they didn’t.

They voted for the candidate that was more like them in a way, articulated concerns affecting locals and spoke more from the heart.

The young and the old, the affluent and the heartlanders wanted someone they can identify with.

Which is why Tan Cheng Bock came so close.

And Tan Cheng Bock’s supporters are a group to watch. They are the so-called “new PAP” constituency, a group of people who are also likely to vote Workers’ Party, as they demand stability and progress, as well as accountability and transparency.

Tan Cheng Bock managed to win a share of Tony Tan’s votes thanks to former civil servant and ex-SDP candidate Tan Jee Say who entered the game late.

The stridency of Jee Say’s campaign rhetoric, asserting that the Government has lost its moral compass, prompted Cheng Bock to move more to the centre and into Tony Tan’s turf.

In this respect, some of the remarks and promises by Jee Say, as well as Tan Kin Lian during campaigning have compromised the dignity of the presidential office.

Even after the Government sought to remind voters and candidates the role of the elected president, Jee Say and Kin Lian continued making promises they were unlikely to fulfil when elected.

Singapore might not be sure of the type of president it will get if the next presidential election shares this year’s cliffhanger finale.

The only consolation is that voters are discerning enough to not vote for the patently unsuitable.

This commentary is a 60-second reduction of the original article published in The Sunday Times, Aug. 28.

The writer is Chua Lee Hoong, political editor at The Straits Times.

Keep parliamentary politics out of presidential election

Keep parliamentary politics out of presidential election

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Substitute the process of direct elections for the president with something less politically heated, says Ho Kwon Ping.

I have previously feared and forewarned that this could happen: Regardless of the constitutional definition of the president’s powers, the process of direct elections for Singapore’s president produces similar vibes as electoral politics.

It is filled with heated debates and overtly political issues that belong to parliamentary politics.

People have in fact talked about a “by-election effect” to this current presidential election.

How? If indeed the president’s role is largely custodial and ceremonial, there is no harm to using one’s vote to send a signal to the ruling party.

The presidential election will then threaten to become a referendum on the PAP’s governance, rather than a vote for the best person for the job.

Do Singaporeans want this election to make people more divided, a phenomenon that has occurred since the general election?

We need to remember that the battle for the minds of the electorate belongs to the realm of parliamentary elections.

If it spills over, it will demean Parliament’s role as the proper arena for political debate.

What is of greater importance now is the need to review the process of direct elections for the president, and to substitute it with a less politically heated but equally representative process.

We should start reviewing the alternatives, immediately after this election or else the political realm will only be more divided in the future.

Even when we need to make a rational decision during Cooling Off Day, the irony is that this term only serves to imply the cut and thrust of parliamentary elections.

This commentary is a 60-second reduction of the original article published in The Straits Times, Aug. 26.

The writer is Ho Kwon Ping, chairman of the board of trustees of Singapore Management University. He is also the executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings.

4 overlooked issues this presidential election

4 overlooked issues this presidential election

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It all starts by considering making voting voluntary. Hopefully, the rest will follow.

By Belmont Lay

This presidential election, there has been a lot of reasoning, defining, extrapolating and refutations about what the president can be, should be and would be and what the electorate wants and deserves.

And when we think about all these issues, there’s more.

So here goes:

1. Why not make voting voluntary?

Singapore is a First World country (supposedly). Singapore has a free economy. Singapore is where you are ensured running water and electricity.

Singaporeans are literate (although I doubt their numeracy, considering the number of people who got scammed by structured products).

The average lifespan is 75 years long.

Since we have covered all these bases, why can’t we progress and make voting in elections voluntary?

Isn’t that the way a truly mature, democratic state operates?

People shouldn’t be obliged to show up to vote. No one should be compelled by the threat of soft or hard sanctions to mark an ‘X’ even when they don’t feel like casting their ballot.

Sure, people can spoil their votes, but that’s functionally different from not showing up in the first place.

Because if voting is not compulsory, it allows people who care about the election to go ahead and decide.

And then allow people who don’t care get a state-sanctioned holiday and reason enough to go to JB for cheap seafood or Batam to raise a second family or stay home and make love or sleep.

True demcracy, I hasten to add, provides you the god-given right to choose.

Yes, it also encapsulates the right to choose not to choose and the right to not give a rat’s ass.

If you don’t care, you forfeit your right to have a say. How much fairer you want it?

And true democracy also gives you the right to campaign in an organised fashion against anyone you don’t like.

Like against Tony Tan, for example.

On this count, we’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.

2. Non-compulsory voting provides the president a clearer mandate.

In a related point about voluntary voting, wouldn’t the total voter turn-out provide a much more defined picture of how strong is the elected president’s mandate?

With a system of valid and spoilt votes now, it is not exactly ideal.

With things as they are, people with half an opinion, people who are clueless, people who find it hard to hazard a guess and people who just don’t care are given the same obligation to mark an ‘X’ on polling day as the next informed voter.

So if misguided, error-prone, coerced votes are mixed in a big pot, they might cancel each other out, right?

Ideally, that should be the case.

But sadly, errors do compound.

Regardless, here’s a little thought experiment: Assuming voluntary voting rules are in place this presidential election, wouldn’t it be interesting to know how many people were indeed for the winning candidate?

If he receives, say, 5,000 votes in a country of 2.3 million eligible voters and still wins, it says a lot about our new president, doesn’t it? And it says a lot about us too, right?

Are we scared of being honest about who we truly are?

3. What mandate, SR Nathan?

If voting for a president is to discharge an important democratic duty since it provides the elected head-of-state the mandate to preside, what about SR Nathan?

Nathan has two free passes to the Istana. Elected unopposed twice, what mandate of the people are we talking about here?

Why are we banging on about the “people’s mandate” only now?

4. The eerie silence of SR Nathan

It’s all so quiet… Shhhhhhhhhhhh…

Nathan has resolutely refused to comment publicly about the current slate of candidates.

As the only guy alive (since all the ex-presidents are indeed dead), he has refused to talk about what he does in an official and unofficial capacity. Except that the office of president has constitutional obligations.

For $4.2 million a year, he could be more verbose and not simply be the highest paid wallflower around.

He could, if he so choose, in one fell swoop lay to waste all the needless speculation way before polling day come Aug. 27 about what he does as a president and the sort of precedence that has been set so far.

But no, he is waiting until September to publish his tell-all memoir. Even then…


So, back to the original question: Why not voluntary voting?

I thought about this for a long time – 15 minutes to be exact – and I can only come to the conclusion that making voting voluntary would require a country to have a lot of balls to pull off.

With voluntary voting, there is the assumption that the citizenry cannot be insecure, are concerned enough to want to fight about things, to negotiate, to find a way and invest precious time and money just to get a debate started and ended, only to start another again.

At this point, I gather that Singapore is just too paranoid to feel secure about herself. About what exactly, I’m still trying to fathom.

The free and open economy, the provision of basic needs and the level of prosperity and education are necessary but insufficient conditions for politically-active citizenry.

We need to grow some passion.

We might be putting the cart before the horse if we think we can get more people involved just by making voting voluntary.

Then again, it could just work.

Singapore doesn’t need an elected President

Singapore doesn’t need an elected President

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It’s telling how ill-conceived this office is when Presidential candidates are still debating about their job scope.

By Terence Lee

"Why am I here?" - the question that all Singapore presidents, past, present and future have been unable to answer. Photo: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM / Creative Commons

I’m starting to think that the Presidential elections is stupid.

At best, it’s an entertaining diversion; at worst, it’s a waste of taxpayer’s money and time that can be better diverted to governing the country and keeping our vibrant economy humming along.

Something is very wrong when at this stage of the proceedings, what is dominating discussion is the scope of the President’s powers. Cue the recent Institute of Policy Studies forum where law minister K. Shanmugam and law academic Thio Li-ann discussed what the President can or cannot say in public.

Shanmugam seems to think the President is the public sock puppet of the government. Both the law minister and Thio Li-ann also have the gumption to blame citizens for being unclear about the president’s powers. Read the full story

I’m sorry, Dr Tony Tan, but you’re too smarmy

I’m sorry, Dr Tony Tan, but you’re too smarmy

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 I would rather swallow my ballot paper than vote for you. 

By Belmont Lay

Recently, some Singaporeans became professionally angry again.

They found out that Patrick Tan, who is presidential aspirant Tony Tan‘s son, did not exactly serve a normal National Service stint.

Patrick wasn’t out digging trenches or leopard crawling in mud as much as other proud sons of this glorious Republic did or have to do under normal circumstances.

And it just so happened that his NS stint, which was deferred long enough for one cycle of zodiac signs to elapse, coincided with his Daddy’s vocation as Minister of Defence. Oh well.

In other words, Patrick became a non-flashy version of Tony Stark during that time when he should have been running around feeling vomity from the heat and pain of regular training and the awareness of youth lost and doing things generally abhorred by servicemen. Read the full story