The “PE2023” discussions have reignited memories of the blatantly “engineered” appointment in 2017 of the current President. This has most likely nullified whatever the People’s Action Party was trying to engineer in introducing the Elected Presidency into the political system. In the process, not a small number of Singaporeans have become cynical about their own head of state and the post itself.
Let’s not harp on how Dr. Tan Cheng Bock was deprived of a second attempt at contesting the EP. Enough has also been said about the sudden ridiculous decision to make the contest a Malays-only affair which in the end became just a limpid walkover.
There is much to do in clearing the cynicism and restoring the integrity of the PE election process to prevent any repeat of what took place in 2017.
First, if there is going to be any special type of PE, this has to be announced in advance and made clear. Say at least a term before a new election is going to take place. I am sure not many Singaporeans were aware of what the Government was trying to say about the Malays-only cycle. They only saw it as a tactic to prevent an unfavoured person (from their point of view) from getting into the Istana.
Second, it is not too late to restore public faith in the Elected Presidency – if it is seriously meant to be a check on financial profligacy on the part of the government of the day.
Everything that the government seems to say it wants in a second key (drawing of financial reserves) and second opinion, even if nominal (key appointments), has to be seen to be sincere.
The office of the President must be really a separate arm and NOT an adjunct of a dominant party.
To allow such a President to develop, he must occasionally be seen to exercise his power. It will not precipitate a government downfall if the President delays a request for a drawdown or actual use of the reserves. This is called the discharging of duty. As it is, we still have a symbiotic link between the PAP and the President, by design. But there must be occasions where it can be shown to the public that being symbiotic does not mean an overcast and master-lapdog relationship.
Far from it, some tension may be good to keep the government on its toe and reassure voters that the system is working.
The Elected Presidency cannot survive unscathed another pathetic walkover, unless the dominant PAP wants it that way, as a signal that it prefers an Endorsed Presidency rather than an Elected one.
So what will PE2023 be?
Even He Who Could Have Been The President seems to have given up his attempt to get into the Istana. Dr. Tan Cheng Bock just held a Progress Singapore Party press conference – not to talk about PE2023 but the General Election of 2025.
Shanti deserves louder Singapore cheer!
Where have Singaporeans been after sprinter Shanti Pereira clinched her double sprint gold medals at the Cambodia SEA Games? There has not been much local cheering or noise over her remarkable wins in the 100m and 200m races.
I know Quah Ting Wen did well and so did the water polo team.
But Shanti’s achievements in the sprints were rare ones for Singapore. Where was the hurrah? Anyway, well done, Shanti. Better late than never.
Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor ofis a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also the managing editor of a magazine publishing company