ST Forum Aug 10, 2005: CONTEST FOR THE PRESIDENCY


THE emergence of Mr Andrew Kuan as a presidential aspirant pitting himself against government-endorsed incumbent S R Nathan has caused a stir since he made public his intentions. He has been termed ‘Mr Surprise’.

The presidency is an elected office. In most other democracies where the President is elected, it is taken for granted that there will be intense competition for the top post.

After all, the presidency is an important office to safeguard our Constitution and our reserves, and we deserve the best candidate for the job.

The last contest here was in 1993, by a seemingly reluctant Chua Kim Yeow, a retired accountant-general.

I do not know Mr Kuan personally but I read with some degree of annoyance remarks by members of the Establishment that are apparently aimed at taking apart the challenge against an endorsed candidate.

When Mr Chua stood for election but refused to campaign, I wrote to ST Forum to urge him to give more credibility to the office by letting the electorate know more about him so they could make a more informed choice.

Others followed suit in the Forum page and he eventually gave a good last-minute campaign and managed to get a credible 41.7 per cent of the votes. Sadly, since then it has been taken for granted that there will be no elections.

Second National Development Minister Lim Swee Say said that we should not hope for a contest just for the sake of a contest, because any of the candidates may win (‘What matters more is a good president, not contest: Swee Say’; The Sunday Times, Aug 7). That should be the idea of a contest.

I am a proud Singaporean, born in the year of Independence, educated entirely in Singapore and am now an entrepreneur running a Singapore-founded company. I, too, do not want to have unqualified people running our country.

We should trust Singaporeans to be mature enough to make decisions. A contest should not be there to merely endorse a pre-selected candidate.

Mr Kuan is reported to have made plans since 1999 and worked hard towards his goal. This should be applauded, whatever the outcome of the Presidential Election.

It shows his determination to get the post and to equip himself for it. It is not a sign of being conceited, as some have suggested.

There’s nothing wrong with having big ambitions. The office is there for qualified Singaporeans to run for, whether government-endorsed or not.

In countries such as the United States, it takes big ambition, years of planning and acquiring the right experience and resources before one can become the President.

One may be a peanut farmer, a B-grade actor or a cowboy, and still be the President of the United States. But it takes a lot of preparation. The process weeds out the unprepared and the ill-equipped.

In the years to come, I hope there will be more like Mr Kuan. As a responsible Singaporean, I will study his credentials vis-a-vis what I already know about President Nathan.

This is the type of competition I had hoped for when I urged Mr Chua to put up a more serious fight 12 years ago. I am happy to see it happening.

If Mr Nathan wins, I will support his term in office. If Mr Kuan wins, I will support his office too. Let the competition begin.

Yee Jenn Jong

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