Thursday, 25 August 2011
Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss Rally Speech
Much heat, though not enough light, has so far been generated in the recent public debates on the role of the Elected President.
On the one hand, we have Law Minister Shanmugam saying at a forum held on 6 Aug 2011 http://www.spp.nus.edu.sg/ips/IPS_news.aspx that: Our Presidency is created by the Constitution. This means that the Constitution alone can be the source of his powers.” http://www.spp.nus.edu.sg/ips/docs/media/yr2011/Elected%20Presidency/ST_President
On the other hand, Law Professor Thio Li Ann has said that the constitutional text is not exhaustive as presidential powers may be found in two further sources. First, constitutional conventions derived from long practice. For example, we are all familiar with the President’s role in promoting charitable causes and in fostering community bonding, but you cannot find mention of these roles in our Constitution. Second, apart from the Constitution there are also written guidelines or rules of engagements which have been agreed between the Government and the President in the interest of a harmonious working relationship. These written arrangements, which are outside of the Constitution, may shape the exercises of presidential powers.
These two legal eagles seem to have opposite views. So people are still unsure about the extent and limits of role and functions of the Elected President.
But what everyone agrees and what is clear to me, is that the President is the Representor and Guardian of the People’s interests. He symbolises and represents the whole country. He must be the unifier of all the various sectors of society in Singapore. He must be above politics. http://www.spp.nus.edu.sg/ips/docs/media/yr2011/Elected%20Presidency/BT_The
Unfortunately, of the other candidates apart from Jee Say, all of them were active members of the PAP for a decade or more and 2 of them were politicians holding political office for long periods of time.
TAN KIN LIAN http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tan_Kin_Lian was a member of the PAP for
30 years, before he resigned in 2008. For 10 years, he was an active PAP member for the Marine Parade constituency. He was the PAP’s branch secretary at Marine Parade for 3 years.
TAN CHENG BOCK http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tan_Cheng_Bock was MP for Ayer Rajah SMC for 26 years (1980-2006). He was also the first non cabinet minister elected into the PAP’s Central Executive Committee, which is the highest ruling committee within the PAP, where he served from 1987 to 1996. Representing PAP, TCB has fought no less than six(6)
contested General Elections: 1980, 1984, 1988, 1991, 1997 and 2001. I think I am not wrong to say, that TCB is a veteran politician and an active, long-standing member of the PAP.
TONY TAN KENG YAM http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Tan_Keng_Yam has been a PAP member since 1979 till June 2011, more than 30 years. Representing the PAP, he became a MP in 1979 and has been an MP for the next 27 years until 2006.
From 1980 to 1991, TT in the Cabinet where he served as Minister for Education (1980–81 &
1985–91), Minister for Trade & Industry (1981–86), Minister for Finance (1983–85), and
Minister for Health (1985–86).
From 1995 to 2005, he re-joined the Cabinet, where he served as Deputy Prime Minister
(1995–2005) and Minister for Defence (1995-2003). TT resigned from the PAP in June 2011.
Apart from being a PAP old guard, TT was until 1 July 2011, Executive Director and Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings Limited (SPH).
According to TT, the EP "... has to be above politics and needs to work with the government of the day and all political parties, including the opposition, civic and social organisations, and he cannot take a partisan view."
According to TT, he is equal to this role, despite his 33 year membership in the PAP, despite having been an MP for 27 years, despite being a Cabinet Minister for two periods of 10 years each, and despite having been at the helm of the GIC and SPH up until last month. TT has assured voters that if elected, he would be act independently.
TAN JEE SAY Much has been made of the fact he contested on the opposition ticket in the last GE 2011. But let us put things in context. Jee Say’s stint as a politician lasted less than 4 months from early April this year till end of July. Previous to joining SDP in April this year, Jee Say had spoken up to share his views in his personal capacity and representing only himself, at forums and other events. But by no means can he be described as having any kind of political career, apart from those 3.5 months with SDP. Is Jee Say “partisan”? He was a member of SDP for only 3.5 months. The other 3 candidates have been PAP members for decades. Well, I think it fair to say, that of the 4, Jee Say is by comparison the least partisan, and hence the most likely to be independent- minded.
Coming back to TT’s words, that the President has to be able to work with the Govt of the day. On this score, it is to be noted that Jee Say was a member of the civil service for 11 years, including six years in the Ministry of Trade and Industry from 1979 to 1985. He rose to become Deputy Director for Economic and Manpower Planning. During that period, he served concurrently as secretary to Albert Winsemius, the government's economic adviser. He went on to serve as then-Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's principal private secretary from 1985 to 1990. I am sure that in the many years that Jee Say spent in the civil service, he would have made a lot of friends and acquaintances, not to mention a deep understanding of how the civil service is organised and run.
He left the civil service in 1990 and entered the private sector. In the private sector, he worked in the finance industry for a decade. So Jee Say has experienced how it is like to work in the public sector as well as the private sector.
Again, coming back to TT’s words that the President must be able to work with all political parties, including the opposition, civil and social organisation…. Let not forget, that the 40% of the votes went to the opposition, so significant proportion of Singaporeans are opposition supporters. But all are Singaporeans. Here, Tan Jee Say’s short stint as a opposition politician puts him in a unique position. He is someone who has spent long years in the civil service including 5 years working with GCT, and yet he has also spent time with members of the opposition and personal friends with many civil and social activists. In him, I feel can be found the best hope of being the Unifier of all Singaporeans.
Today in Singapore, we have the privilege and the dilemma of having to choose between four qualified and worthy candidates for the top post of President. To me, Jee Say offers the best hope for truly independent, non-partisan, unifying President. As if this is not enough, Jee Say has also shown me that he has the passion to serve Singapore. So, without skipping a heartbeat, my vote is for TJS.
Thursday, 18 August 2011
My Fellow Singaporeans,
This Presidential Election is a historic opportunity for all our citizens to fulfil the mission of the Office of President.
In the past, the President was appointed by the Prime Minister. But about 20 years ago, the Constitution was changed to enable the people to elect the President directly. This was a fundamental change.
The purpose of direct election is to give moral authority to the President to provide checks and balances on the Government.
Remember the key words "provide checks and balances on the Government".
This is the over-riding objective of having an elected President.
It is a very important and timely objective in the light of the recent General Elections. Most of us can still remember that only 3 months ago, Singaporeans from all walks of life openly expressed their unhappiness with Government policies.
A substantial 40% did not vote for this Government. Yet the PAP Government still has 81 out of a total of 87 Members of Parliament. With their overwhelming majority in Parliament, the Government can implement whatever policies they want or even change the Constitution.
Do you want this to happen? Can you prevent it? Yes you can. But only if you elect a President who has the moral courage to stand up for you and to speak up whenever the Government crosses the line.
You have before you a choice of 4 candidates. All of us want your vote. You have to decide who among us can best perform the duty of providing checks and balances on the PAP Government.
The importance of independence
To do the job effectively, the President must be independent of the ruling party. This independence must be clear, obvious and cannot be in doubt. Only such an independent person can have the moral authority to check on the Government. He must not be influenced or hampered by past ties with the ruling party. If his ties with the ruling party had been long and strong, it will be difficult for the person to shake off the emotional ties he has with the party.
My three opponents are honourable men but they were members of PAP for 20 to 30 years until they resigned from the party with two of them having quit only very recently. During this period, they ate, slept, walked and breathed PAP. Do you now expect them to have a
breath of fresh air? Mentally and emotionally, it will be very difficult for them to think differently from the ruling party and challenge their former colleagues and friends.
Unlike them, I do not have the same emotional baggage that they carry because I have never been a member of the PAP. Because of this, I can provide checks and balances on the Government without restraint. I can and will remind them of their lapses without feeling embarrassed. I shall be their conscience, as well as yours.
The economy faces an uncertain future with a difficult global environment. The President will likely be called upon to help meet the economic challenges. This will require the President to stay on top of the economy.
I am equal to the task. I studied economics in university and worked in the Ministry of Trade and Industry where I headed economic and manpower planning. In addition, I had worked in international banks and investment houses, so I understand global finance.
The coming global financial crisis will put domestic economic issues into greater focus. The open expression of widespread anger during the recent General Elections has shown how divided the nation has become. Job losses and the widening income gap will become more pronounced as the global economy worsens. They will divide society further and deeper. To prevent such deep division, bold measures are needed.
The Prime Minister has acknowledged that there is great unhappiness among the people. But the recent measures he announced during the National Day Rally Speech do not address the people's concerns adequately. They represent the same piece-meal approach of recent years.
A new and more comprehensive approach is needed to address the issues that trouble Singaporeans such as influx of foreign workers, over-crowding and high cost of living. We should not just be obsessed with high GDP growth with little regard for the resultant adverse consequences on society and Singaporeans.
The benefits of economic growth have not been shared by all, rather some have benefitted greatly at the expense of others and this has divided the nation. To play a unifying role, the President need to engage the Government in coming up with an economic philosophy that puts the happiness of all Singaporeans at the heart of its policies.
My Promise as President
This is what I promise to Singaporeans if I am elected President.
I will encourage the Government not to pursue high GDP growth at the expense of ordinary Singaporeans.
I will not hold back resources including the national reserves from the Government
........if they need to use them to achieve stable economic growth with a fair distribution of benefits for all Singaporeans,
........and to pursue measures that will ensure that Singaporeans are competing on an equal footing with foreigners,
.......that adequate resources are put aside to meet the educational and career aspirations of young Singaporeans,
.......that families are helped to cope with rising costs in all areas,
.......that enough is done for the healthcare needs of all particularly the elderly,
.......that generous assistance is given to families to bring up their children particularly those with special needs, and
........last but not least, that your CPF savings are well-protected so that you have enough to live a happy retirement.
The Heart of the Nation
These matters should rightly be left to the Government to deal with but the input of a caring President will help the Government come out with more compassionate solutions. We have reached a point where the President needs to help heal the social division and unify the nation.
If elected President, I will step in with good intention and a good heart. I will work with the Government to achieve a better society for all.
My fellow Singaporeans, this is my mission. But I can only do it with your help.
Let us set our hearts to do it. Together we can. I shall be your voice and the heart of the nation.