ELECTION OF PRESIDENT NATHANThere she goes again! Trying to mislead her readers. President Nathan WASN'T elected. There WAS no election. Oh dear, what other horrors can we expect, if this writer can't even come up with a factually accurate title? Let's see:
What I find surprising and disquieting is the noise, before and after the event, about the lack of contest for the post. Some even raised questions about the institution and the legitimacy of future presidents. And this is by people who, while acknowledging that Mr Nathan is the best candidate, nevertheless wished for his credentials to be tried at the polls
Why are some Singaporeans so obsessed with the idea of a contest? Why do they assert that the elected presidency isn't the same without one? To me, that is putting the wrong emphasis on the wrong considerations.
What I find surprising and disquieting is that Sai Siong seems to think that non-contests and walkovers are a natural, expected part of any democracy. No, no, they're not.
Recall the year when Ong Teng Cheong ran for President. At first no other candidate was willing to come forward. Sai Siong probably would have thought that this was a la-di-la-so-what-lah situation. But of course, the Singapore government, being much wiser than Sai Siong, did not agree.
Even though Ong Teng Cheong, a former Deputy Prime Minister, was a 100% establishment figure, the government was very worried about the legitimacy issues arising from a non-contest. In fact, the government was so worried that it practically arm-twisted the hapless Chua Kim Yeow, retired auditor-general, to come forward and run against Ong. The case of the Very Unwilling Candidate was far from ideal, but the Singapore government knew that it would still be much better than having no election at all.
In 2005, the same kinds of legitimacy problems relating to non-contests have arisen again. That's why people are unhappy. But of course we cannot seriously expect Sai Siong to understand that, can we? After all, she consistently shows that she does not really understand the issues. See what she says here:
What should have exercised minds, especially those who call themselves academia, was the quality of potential candidates.I think that Sai Siong must be the first person I've ever come across who suggests that Singapore's constitutional pre-requisite conditions for presidency are not "stringent". It seems to me that either Sai Siong is a brilliant trailblazer in political thought, or she is simply a rather ill-informed commentator. You make up your own mind and decide for yourself, okay?
Although the criteria for presidency are generally described as 'stringent', the question is: Are they, if even a failed CFO of a statutory board had thought himself eligible?
People like Tan Sai Siong will run around everywhere!"
Yet even the stringency or otherwise of the presidential pre-requisites is, well, simply not the point. Suppose Andrew Kuan had never existed. Then further suppose that no other candidate had tried to run against SR Nathan. We would still have the legitimacy problem. The Elected President would still be a misnomer, for he would never have been elected. "Selected President" would be a more accurate term.
But we cannot seriously expect Sai Siong to understand that, can we? After all, there are so many things she does not understand. Take a look at her next sentence:
In my view, those who really revere the elected presidency must first be obsessed with the quality of the candidates ...Here she misses the obvious point. There must be candidates, before we talk about the quality of candidates. If candidates do not exist, then there is no point being obsessed about their quality. One might as well be obsessed with the quality of Santa Claus or the Loch Ness Monster.
I do not consider SR Nathan to have been a candidate. Where a role, like the Presidency, is one which MUST be filled, a "candidate", practically by definition, cannot exist unless there are other candidates. There is completely no point talking about SR Nathan's quality as a president, if he is the only one permitted to run. For example, imagine that SR Nathan was seriously ill with AIDS, epilepsy, diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic gastric ulcers today, but still wanted to be President. Nothing would stop him. Except death. As long as he manages to stay alive, he would become President. That's because there are no other candidates. Why bother to talk about candidates' qualities then?
What other silly comments does the inimitable Sai Siong have to foist upon us?
... when the first election for the president was held, the People's Action Party did engineer a contest by persuading Mr Chua Kim Yeow, retired auditor-general, to stand against the late Mr Ong Teng Cheong.Ridiculous, isn't it? I have my views on why I should vote for this person or that person. You have your own views on why you should vote for this person or that person. Our views may differ. That's why democracy says that we all cast one vote each, and COUNT the votes. The majority wins.
However, the votes garnered by Mr Chua with just one speech underlined that some Singaporeans had seized the occasion not to vote for a president but as an opportunity to send a message to the Government, thus confusing the purpose of the exercise.
And now, Sai Siong seems to be saying - "Gee, I just DON'T like the way some Singaporeans vote. They don't think like me, and in my opinion, they're confusing the purpose of the exercise. Therefore it's better NOT to have elections at all!"
Be your own judge. Am I misrepresenting Sai Siong's position? Or just making it crystal clear for everyone to see?