Mr Tan Jee Say, a candidate from the 2011 Presidential Election who won a quarter of the votes cast, said that the sweeping changes proposed for the Elected Presidency is the same as “changing the rules to get rid of the competition.”
If the proposals by the Constitutional Commission is accepted and implemented before the next Presidential Election by Parliament, Mr Tan will not qualify for the contest this time around.
Mr Tan suggested that the Government should introduce a “grandfather clause” if it is sincere about not having ulterior motives for implementing the changes. He pointed out that there is precedent for such an exemption in the USA, where seven southern states enacted this statutory mechanism between the years 1895 and 1910. It provided that those who had enjoyed the right to vote prior to 1866 or 1867, or their lineal descendants, would be exempt from educational, property, or tax requirements for voting.
“We should be happy that we are giving the people a bigger pool to choose from, rather than restricting it further,” Mr Tan said, to question the need to tighten the eligibility criteria further.
He added: “It’s like saying that since we have too many lawyers and only those lawyers with a first-class honours degree can practice law. You’re making it very elitist, and less representative of the population of Singapore.”
Mr Tan further said that parliament approving the proposal for having a reserved election is a backward step and would be akin to the “Government admitting it has failed in bringing races together. To move from racial integration to entitlement.”
“Race was never an issue. Why bring it out now?” he asked.
Mr Tan said that despite the severe discrimination of blacks in the past, America did not need a reserved election to elect its first African-American President – Barack Obama. Any legislation which legitimises reserved election here would be see as politicising the Office of the President by introducing racial issues, he said.
“We don’t have the kind of racial riots and all the racial trouble (in the US). Yet we are doing this. Why?” -Tan Jee Say