SINGAPORE: An alternative apology presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian could have issued for some of his Facebook posts is gaining traction online, with some Singaporeans calling how he responded to the controversy a missed opportunity.
Mr Tan Kin Lian, the former CEO of NTUC Income, has been accused of objectifying women through some of his past Facebook posts where he said he spotted “pretty girls” on public transport.
After the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) raised concerns about his “pretty girls” views, the Presidential Elections Committee, which noted Mr Tan Kin Lian’s “integrity, good character and reputation” when it issued a Certificate of Eligibility to him, said it was unaware of the controversial social media posts before qualifying him for the race.
Although Mr Tan Kin Lian apologized to women who may have felt uncomfortable by his posts, he defended his comments as lighthearted. He asserted that he was the target of a smear campaign aimed at discrediting him.
Rejecting AWARE’s “allegations and insinuations” that he objectifies women, Mr Tan added that he has remained a faithful and loving husband and father for decades. He said: “I do not objectify women since I have many in my family. I have been happily married to my loving wife for nearly 50 years. We have been faithful to each other through the years and no tinge of infidelity or scandal has ever attached to my marriage.”
His daughter also vouched for her father and called AWARE’s statement “a bit overblown” as Mr Tan’s “lighthearted compliments given to a good-looking person” should not be equated to objectifying the person.
She added: “As a woman and mother to two beautiful daughters, I believe that women should have the confidence to reject the simplistic notion that a compliment on their looks ‘trivialises them’, ‘overlooks their myriad abilities and contributions’ and ‘reduces them solely to their appearances for personal entertainment’.”
While some Singaporeans have accepted Mr Tan’s explanations, others remain troubled – especially after Mr Tan quipped in one live video that the women offended by his posts may not be the “pretty” ones.
Some Singaporeans have asserted that Mr Tan could have handled the situation better, whether he is the target of a smear campaign or not.
In this vein, a sample of an apology Mr Tan could have used is circulating on chat groups and forums online. Lawyer and socio-political commentator Michael Han originally wrote the sample on Tuesday (22 Aug). Mr Han suggested that Mr Tan could have said:
“I sincerely apologise to those for whom I have offended. Even one is one too many. Your feelings are important to me. I admit that I’ve carried it too far. I ask that you give me a chance to prove to you that I am so much more than what you see and read about.
“My family and marriage are an enduring testament to my commitment and devotion to serving you as your Ninth President, if elected. I am only human. I am not perfect. But I am always learning, correcting, and adapting, even at my age, if not more so at my age.
“And rest assured, I shall do you proud. I will not let even one sheep under my care down. That is my presidential promise to you.”
This alternative approach, which emphasizes accountability, humility, and a sincere desire to learn and grow, has resonated with many Singaporeans who found the initial response lacking. This approach has also garnered praise for highlighting the significance of addressing controversies with sensitivity and understanding diverse perspectives.