From no contest in the past two presidential elections to four candidates qualifying for the upcoming PE on Aug 27! What a windfall for those Singaporeans rooting for competition, even when it is (or is it especially?) for the highest post in the land.
Tony Tan, Tan Jee Say, Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Kin Lian. All are eligible to contest!
The committee certifying the elegibility of candidates has certainly dealt voters a tricky hand. More choice needn’t end up with the right or better choice for the country or the next six years.
So let me suggest a daft — perhaps deft? — solution?
If the Constitution could somehow be tweaked, why not rotate all the four Tans? 18 months’ tenure each.
As each potential President Tan has his staunch followers, rotation means that all Singaporeans would see their fav serving as their president, even if for a shorter term than expected.
Because of the shorter term, each president would earn just $6 million (if that, if what rumours doing their rounds re what the salary review committee would do ), instead of the $24 million that everyone and his pet poodle have been barking about.
Less take home pay for the president should also take the wind out of those who jeer that the job attracts money-minded candidates, even though for some of the hopefuls, it’s not about money at all, as they already have plenty, thank you!
Another good reason for rotation is to allow the execution orders on people condemned to hang to be shared out – even if like Pontius Pilate, the president could always argue that it’s the decision of the Cabinet and the law of the land which he has to uphold.
I believe execution orders lie heavily on the minds of anyone who has to sign them. I’ve asked the son of a late presidents how his father dealt with what I consider the most unpleasant and conscience-wrecking task. His reply was that his father tried to be out of the country when he knew such papers were coming his way. I don’t know if that’s true or possible, but that’s what I was told!
In any case, at least one presidential hopeful, Tan Jee Say, (we are both members of the “Lunch Party”) is against the death penalty and in response to my query how he would respond when handed execution orders to sign, he replied:
“I will have a full debate and make sure that every MP and Minister understands fully all the arguments and have a clear conscience. As a student of moral philosophy, I am aware of all the arguments and can hold my own in an intellectual debate with anyone. Reminds me of a similar conversation I had with lawyer and ex High Court judge years ago when we were discussing this particular issue; he too had a similar stand with me and also mentioned that he was a law student in UK when the death penalty was debated at length and finally abolished. I have great intellectuals as allies.”
When I pointed out to JS that the president can’t summon Parliament to have such a debate, he retorted: “I can start a debate in public on matters of conscience if the Government refuses a debate even an internal one with me.”
Now if the four Tans serve just 18 months each, perhaps there won’t be time for such a confrontation to materialise between JS and the government.
Doubtless my idea of rotation is daft. But then, if the ultimate winner of this four-horse race should garner say 40% of the votes or even less, won’t that be equally daft? A minority president wanting to unify the nation?
So the best outcome is for there to be one clear and unambiguous winner who should have as strong a mandate as what the PAP government got. Otherwise what hope is there for the president to stand up to the government which can always say: “Eh prez, more Singaporeans voted for us than you “