SINGAPORE — Amidst the buzz surrounding the upcoming Singapore presidential election, former GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song spoke candidly about his decision to challenge Tharman Shanmugaratnam, shedding light on remarks that may have been misconstrued.
On Jul 26, The Straits Times published an interview with Ng, in which they asked the 75-year-old why he decided to enter the presidential race against former Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. Ng explained that Tharman is a well-known figure in Singapore, unlike himself, who has never been involved in politics, choosing instead to dedicate his professional career at GIC.
It is the following reply that caught the eyes of the public. It needed Ng to untangle what he meant when he said, “Mr. Tharman is a very good friend of mine. We worked together for many years. I respect him and I’m running for president because he wants it!”
You may have seen a screenshot of a @The Straits Times article quoting me as saying I’m running for president because Mr Tharman “wants it”. Let me explain what I meant. I am standing for election so Singaporeans have a chance to choose their president. I am hoping to be certified eligible so that we have a good contest. This is what we all want for the presidency, including Mr Tharman, who said he would welcome the competition. #ngkoksong2023 #unitedforourfuture
During a media doorstop last weekend at Geylang Serai Market and Food Centre, Ng took the opportunity to clear the air. Ng mentioned that Tharman welcomed a contest when he announced his intention to stand for the presidential election.
“So that when he is elected, he’s elected with a good mandate from the people. So I have come forward so that there will be an election. So that Singaporeans have a chance to choose the president,” said Ng.
“I’ve come forward so that there’s a good contest if I’m certified eligible. So that’s what I mean when I say I’m saying standing for election because Tharman wishes to have an election.”
The former GIC chief investment officer also explained that breaking away from one’s past would be challenging. Although Tharman has resigned from the People’s Action Party, he will still be remembered for his service as a Jurong GRC Member of Parliament and his various roles in the Cabinet.
“Independence of mind, that’s a sophisticated point. I think we are who we are. Our present is related to our past. We cannot easily separate our present from our past. My father used to advise me. When drinking water, do not forget the source. In other words, we should not forget our past. We should not forget our origin,” shared Ng, who dedicated 45 years of his life to public service.
Ng embarked on his career in public service at the Ministry of Finance in 1970 before moving to the Monetary Authority of Singapore the following year. He then joined Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC in 1986 and was appointed as its first chief investment officer in 2007, a position he held until his retirement in 2013. Following his retirement, he co-founded Avanda Investment Management with two of his former colleagues from GIC in 2015, where he currently serves as the executive chairman.