A former professor of the Nanyang Technology University (NTU), Cherian George in speaking to an online magazine, Mackerel, has suggested that if Halimah Yacob contested the Elected Presidency, she could win it even without the Constitutional tweaks. Cherian now works at Hong Kong’s Baptist University as an Associate Professor. His decision to leave NTU sparked a controversy early last year.
Cherian said that he like many minorities in Singapore, understand the importance of having a minority president – but is disappointed in the way the government has gone about to ensure minority representation. He believes that the government’s assumption that we don’t have a minority candidate on the radar capable of winning the presidency in an open competition may be flawed.
“Halimah Yacob can win with no help or handicap,” the professor said and pointed out what was wrong with the proposed changes to EP.
“The impression I get is that it has been framed as a debate between the need for minority representation and an open system that would allow Tan Cheng Bock to possibly become President.”
Emphasising that the Speaker of Parliament is a strong candidate who is well respected by Singaporeans of all races and that she has the entire PAP machinery to campaign for her against any perceived prejudices or disadvantages, Cherian called out the PAP for having an unrealistically dim view of Singaporeans.
Cherian suggested that such a contest between candidates like Halimah and Dr Tan would have been a huge moment of opportunity for Singapore’s multiracialism. He also said that it would also have been “an opportunity to signal to the world, and ourselves, that after fifty years of nation building, we are ready to embrace a President who is not from the conventional mainstream.”
Cherian said that the PAP’s decision to give a Malay candidate a walkover will taint the presidency forever, because whoever becomes the president next year will be a token president.
“After all, how wonderful would it be for Singapore to have a female, Malay, Muslim president?”, Prof Cherian said.
And added: “I believe that if it were a straight fight between Halimah Yacob and Tan Cheng Bock, Halimah would win hands down.”