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Letter to the Editor | What makes a good President for Singapore

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"It is especially critical at this juncture of global turbulence and economic uncertainty." — Teo Kueh Liang, Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

I refer to The Independent Singapore‘s Feature News, “PE2023: Have a real contest or simply make it an Endorsed Presidency”(May 28).

Although the president of Singapore represents Singapore in official diplomatic functions and possesses some executive powers over the government of Singapore, including control of the national reserves and the ability to veto and revoke public service appointments, the president also holds the prerogative to grant pardons.

But, due to our political system’s structure, power constraints will always remain for the elected president.

In the last decade, the ruling party has made some stringent and upward amendments to further tighten the qualifying criteria for the presidency. In due course, it seems to be no ending cap on it. And, it is obviously or ultimately in the hands of the ruling party.

Nonetheless, the past track record has clearly shown that the “apple” of the ruling party’s eyes is always picked and deemed the most suitable candidate for the presidency.

However, the general perspective and sentiment from the man in the street regarding a candidate for a good presidency are that:

a) He must be upright, capable, caring and approachable. Therefore, the candidate must deeply understand and empathise with people’s hardships. In short, he is close to the people’s hearts; and must be able to bond with people from all walks of life.

b) The candidate should not have a string of political baggage or be closely linked to the ruling party. Thus, it underlines the critical importance of the candidate’s independence, mobility and decisiveness.

c) The president should not merely be a national symbolic figure that only appears at most national events. In reverse, he should voluntarily appear/present at any emergency, meaningful and unexpected events.

d) The candidate mustn’t be the official spokesperson or a remote proxy for the ruling party’s policies. Otherwise, it will defeat the meanings, significance and entrusted mission, objectives, obligations and authority of the presidency.

e) How to identify, persuade or demonstrate to all the people of Singapore that he is the unifying national figure of a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious society like Singapore should be another key, expectable and watchable criterion for the presidential hopeful. It is especially critical at this juncture of global turbulence and economic uncertainty.

Teo Kueh Liang

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of The Independent Singapore.

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