Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

Singapore’s upcoming presidential election is keenly contested, with four candidates vying for the position of the head of state of the Republic of Singapore. The presidential elections, hot on the heels of this year’s parliamentary elections, has generated much interest in the role of the president.

The role of Singapore’s president is largely ceremonial, although the president has some powers in terms blocking the drawing of Singapore’s reserves by the executive, as well as the ability to block appointments of key civil service positions by the executive (for a fuller list of the powers of the president, see this Wikipedia entry). While the president is not as powerful as the prime minister, the discretionary powers afforded to the president necessitate a prudent choice by the electorate.

A president who gets along too well with the executive led by the People’s Action Party raises the important question of whether the president will be partial to the executive, while a president who constantly tries to obstruct the executive can hamper the effective making of important decisions. The president Singaporeans need is one who is neither a lap dog nor an obstructionist.

As such, presidential candidate Tony Tan, who has served in many different PAP-led executives and held several ministerial positions for a large part of his life, is not an ideal candidate to be Singapore’s president. While some may argue Tony Tan’s experience in various PAP-led executives throughout the years means that he has a better understanding of how the executive works and thinks, resulting in a more effective presidency, his overly close past ties with the executive raises too many concerns about his ability to be impartial.

The issue of impartiality plagues candidate Tan Jee Say as well. The former senior civil servant turned private investor contested the recently concluded parliamentary elections under the banner of the Singapore Democratic Party, and his fiery anti-PAP speeches still lingers in memory. If candidate Tony Tan has had an overly cosy relationship with the PAP, then Tan Jee Say has the completely opposite problem, which naturally rules him out as a good president.

The two other candidates left are Tan Cheng Bock and Tan Kin Lian, the former being a medical doctor and ex-PAP member of parliament, and the latter, the ex-chief executive of the largest insurance cooperative in Singapore, who was also once a rank and file PAP member. Despite a history of affiliation with the PAP, both Tan Cheng Bock and Tan Kin Lian are not close to the core of the PAP leadership, which is largely comprised of the PAP members in the executive. In addition, both of them have histories of being critical of the PAP when they disagree with their party. Hence, both of them are much less objectionable than Tony Tan.

Between the two, Tan Cheng Bock is the better choice. Both Tan Cheng Bock and Tan Kin Lian have won the hearts of the common folk, and many Singaporeans would certainly prefer a “People’s President”. Tan Cheng Bock had a long career of providing medical services to the less well-off, while Tan Kin Lian has been at the forefront of championing the rights of small investors in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The difference between the two is, however, not in their ability to be independent and impartial.

The head of the state of the Republic of Singapore, other than being independent and impartial, is also the representative of the republic to the world. The president has to be some who can carry himself well on the international stage and be the representative of Singapore whom Singaporeans can be proud of.

Tan Cheng Bock is the clear winner on this count. He should be the next president of Singapore.


Singapore’s General Elections 2011 has ended, and all Singaporeans should respect the results of the democratic election process.

Chiam See Tong, stalwart of the Singapore People’s Party, has lost his place in Parliament after 27 years of service to the country. His wife, who was given the task of defending the seat of Potong Pasir that Chiam has held for the past 27 years, lost by merely 114 votes. Chiam’s upset supporters tried to organize a petition, which ultimately landed them into trouble with Singapore’s highly restrictive illegal assembly laws.

The People’s Action Party has lost the group representative constituency of Aljunied, losing Singapore’s foreign minister George Yeo, a much beloved politician in Singapore, as a result. The subject of much social media heckling, Tin Pei Ling, who has been criticised as immature, incapable and riding on the coattails of Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in Marine Parade GRC, has been elected into Parliament. Many has called for Tin’s resignation on Facebook and for Yeo to replace Tin instead.

Such actions are highly regrettable outcomes of a free, fair and democratic process. The nature of a democratic process is such that when a person loses by even one vote, that person has lost. When a person has been elected, he or she has lawfully become a representative of the people who chose to elect this person, no matter how revolting this person might be to others.

Emotions run high during elections, but Singaporeans should respect the democratic process and accept the results of the elections with grace.

The Straits Times committed a major factual error in a front page headline on its morning print edition published on April 28.

The headline read, “PAP challenged for 82 seats.”

This is factually incorrect. There are a total of 87 seats up for contest, of which 82 are being contested by various political parties, with the five seats in the Tanjong Pagar Group Representative Contituency uncontested. Of the 82 seats being contested, the parliamentary seats of Single Member Constitencies of Hougang and Potong Pasir are currently held by the Workers’ Party and the Singapore People’s Party respectively.

This means that out of the 82 seats being contested, the People’s Action Party is challenging the Workers’ Party and the Singapore People’s Party for two seats, while the other political parties are challenging the PAP for the remaining 80 seats. Therefore, the front page headline is factually wrong. The PAP is NOT being challenged in all 82 contested seats.

For a story to appear on the front page, it must have been approved by a number of senior editors. It is extremely disappointing that the Straits Times, which described itself as “one of the region’s oldest English-language daily newspapers” and “the flagship publication of the publicly-listed Singapore Press Holdings group” failed in checking their facts about, of all things, a front page news story.

The credibility of journalism is almost completely dependent on the ability of news organizations to get the facts straight.┬áThis blog urges the Straits Times to clarify this factual error on the front page of tomorrow’s print edition of the paper.