In the 80s people really thought Lee Kuan Yew would be Spore's first Elected President

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In the 1980s when the Government released its first White Paper on Elected Presidency, the people really thought that Lee Kuan Yew would become Singapore’s first Elected President. Dr Tan Cheng Bock who was then the chief of Government’s feedback channel confirmed this in Parliament during the debate of the Bill.

“They see Mr Lee Kuan Yew as the next President and Mr Goh Chok Tong as the next Prime Minister and ask, is not everything the same except in name?” – Dr Tan Cheng Bock in Parliament

Now, a former Senior Political Correspondent at Straits Times, Ismail Kassim, in a Facebook note has suggested that Dr Tan’s feedback was accurate. “At that time (late 1980s), the hot topic was succession.,” he wrote.

Adding: “It seemed then to many people that Singapore was going to adopt the Taiwan model where for a number of years the elder Chiang was president and the younger Chiang was the prime minister – a father and son combination.”

The respected senior newspaperman thinks that Singapore’s founding prime minister changed his mind on being the Republic’s first Elected President because of the adverse feedback he got – and decided instead to be Singapore’s first Senior Minister.

Just in case you can’t see his post, this is what he said.


A backgrounder:
Inspiration behind
the EP system

In his prime, the late LKY said many sensible things. Once of which was: don’t start tinkering with something that works well, because once you start, you will never stop.

Imagine the disappointment of many of us when in the late 80s he mooted the idea of amending the Constitution to pave the way for an elected presidency.

The reactions on the ground were not favourable. In the newsrooms, coffee shops and bus stands, the talk then was that he wanted to change the system to suit his needs and interests.

At that time, the hot topic was succession.

It seemed then to many people that Singapore was going to adopt the Taiwan model where for a number of years the elder Chiang was president and the younger Chiang was the prime minister – a father and son combination.

Subsequently, I think because of adverse feedback, he chose to be SM.

Now, we have inherited a system that looks good only on paper, but is not likely to work well in real life.

I think it is fundamentally flawed on two counts. Aside from being undemocratic, it also displays a naïve understanding of the dynamics of the political process.

I cannot imagine an elected President or any of his advisers having enough guts to oppose a popularly elected government that has just won power with a massive mandate.

No matter how high his qualifications, it will take a brave soul, indeed, to oppose the will of the people. Guts and qualifications have no correlation.

The proposed changes to the EP to make it even more elitist by excluding practically the entire population except for a handful, and to enable a representative from a minority to get into the Istana by the backdoor, will magnify the defects.

If the amendments are rammed through Parliament despite the considerable objections, the next generation will have an even bigger headache on their hands.