Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Tan Kin Lian for President
The inaugural contested presidential election is here. This Wednesday would be a milestone in Singapore's history. For too long the presidents have been selected by the PAP, even after the elected presidency was enacted in 1991. This time, still smarting from the humiliation in the GE months ago and the spirit of soul-searching still in the PAP psyche, the PAP turned away for once and let the Presidential Elections Committee do its job. Consequently, there are four individuals who would stand for elections this Wednesday. All Tans, all hoping to be president, all have their flaws, all have their strengths.
The Room for Independents
I've always thought that there is ample space for independents in politics. Not only because of the romantic appeal of the underdog especially in a PAP-dominated Singapore, but also because independents don't have the baggage of party politics and history trailing them. Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Jee Say and Tony Tan have all offficially left their respective parties but around their necks, I still see the faint signs that say - PAP, SDP and PAP respectively. That Tan trio can never truly distance themselves from their political roots. Tony Tan and Tan Cheng Bock would still be loyal to some of their former PAP comrades at least, if not to the PAP itself. And the same would be so for Tan Jee Say, who flew the SDP flag merely months ago too at the GE. If a former PAP member is elected as the president after 27 August, he would draw disdain from segments of the public. Similarly for the former SDP member as there would be those in the crowd who would prefer a PAP man over someone from the SDP camp.
Community, Ceremony and Constitution First, not Party Prejudices
The president in Singapore performs constitutional, ceremonial and community roles and should he be beholden to any political party, he cannot carry out those roles to the best of his abilities. Party prejudices would cloud the president's office and undermine the office in the eyes of the public. Furthermore, Singapore is a parliamentary system and the president's office should not be backdoor for opposition parties to sneak into parliament.
With a president who is not aligned with any party, the opportunities of gridlock brought about by party politics is significantly reduced. The PAP-dominated parliament would be more open to listen to an independent president, partly as a public relations demonstration of their growing openness to win the voters over in time for their next election. Furthermore, in the eyes of the PAP, it is best that their henchman becomes president. But in the end with the expected anti-PAP resentment still fresh after the GE, preferable that an independent they can reason with who sits at the Istana rather than a card-carrying member of the opposition intent on blocking anything because of party agenda.
The Path Ahead for an Apolitical Presidency
Hence, to apoliticise the presidency, and in the spirit of the elected presidents from Ong Teng Cheong to SR Nathan, the choice is clear to voters like me who want to see the assertion of the political independence of the president's office. From Ong Teng Cheong who was a minister and NTUC leader, to SR Natan who was a senior civil servant, the natural evolution in the apoliticisation of the elected president would leave us with Tan Kin Lian, someone from a cooperative. He is qualified with regards to his Income stewardship and has remained independent through the GE and has no political ambitions in that sense or else he would have joined the opposition. His critics spread that he is a former PAP member and thus tainted. However, he left the PAP in the early 1980s and that is a long time ago for him to retain party loyalties.
When Tan Kin Lian officially commits himself to the presidential race in a few days, he would get my vote.