Featured News PE2023: In the race, Lim Hng Khiang? Or Khaw Boon Wan?

PE2023: In the race, Lim Hng Khiang? Or Khaw Boon Wan?

Follow us on Instagram and Telegram

Sense And Nonsense by Tan Bah Bah

With Lee Hsien Yang having left the country after saying he would consider running in this year’s Presidential Election, the guessing game now switches to other contenders. Singaporeans had a taste of their ability to exercise their power to nearly over-ride what the government wanted when they nearly voted in Dr Tan Cheng Bock as President in 2011 over the establishment-endorsed candidate. Dr Tony Tan  won by a mere margin of only 0.35 percent – 745,693 votes to Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s 738,311.

A victory for Dr Tan Cheng Bock would have been a slap on the face for the ruling People’s Action Party since Dr Tony Tan, a former Deputy PM and Finance Minister, was considered a biggie in the PAP 2G hierarchy. Said to be Lee Kuan Yew’s choice over Goh Chok Tong to succeed him as Prime Minister, he was clearly seen as the ideal  person to function as part of the two-key system – in addition to the Cabinet – to protect both the system’s integrity and growing nest-egg (past reserves). 

I quote Wikipedia: “The Elected President scheme was instituted in 1991 through a constitutional amendment which transformed the office of President into one directly elected by the people. The scheme conferred additional powers on the President that enabled him or her to act as a safeguard or ‘second key’ over Singapore’s rich financial reserves built up by the government. Additionally, the President exercises a custodial role over the integrity of the public service with the power to veto public appointments and check against abuses of power by the government.”

Then (1991) and now, the EP is still a ceremonial appointment. He or she has to act on the advice of the Council of Presidential Advisers on his or her custodial powers. “It is obligatory for the President to consult the CPA when exercising the discretionary powers related to all fiscal and appointment-related matters.

But, with all its restrictions and narrow role, the EP has a big role to play in Singapore at this stage of its history.

First, Lee Kuan Yew has been brilliantly prescient.

He did not live long enough to see another GRC fall to the Opposition. But he had always said that scenario was entirely possible, and he had aways said the fall of the PAP as government would come one day. Having a dual-key system would guard against a blatant run on the country’s reserves. 

Second, having a second key reinforces the very principle of what Singapore was and is all about, as a reminder to all Singaporeans.

It is not such a bad idea even if there is a non-PAP President acting as another check on the government.

Also, in an age of instant communication, a ceremonial but elected and articulate President can influence the public and be their moral conscience.

If you are thinking of standing this year, these may be the candidates you can anticipate as your rival:

  • Halimah Yacob, incumbent President going for another term
  • Khaw Boon Wan, 70, former Transport Minister
  • Lim Boon Heng, 75, chairman, Temasek Holdings
  • Lim Hng Kiang, 68, former Finance Minister

Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.SG, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a magazine publishing company.

Send in your scoops to news@theindependent.sg 

- Advertisement -
Follow us on Instagram and Telegram

Follow us on Instagram and Telegram

Send in your scoops to news@theindependent.sg