Tan Jee Say : Why I want to be President

The following is a press statement from Tan Jee Say:

In summary

Why I want to be President – To be the Conscience of the Nation

“I am stepping forward because many Singaporeans want a non-PAP President whose independence of the PAP is clear, obvious and cannot be in doubt. Only such a person can have the moral authority to fulfill the mission of Elected President which is to provide checks and balances on the PAP Government.

I am aware of the constitutional limitations of the office of President. But the office of President is what the President makes it out to be. He can be as quiet and inactive as he chooses to be. Or he can be active. I want to be an active President, engaging the nation on issues of conscience and promoting worthy causes. The PAP Government has lost its moral compass. A President directly elected by the people will have the moral authority to remind them of their lapses. He shall be the conscience of the nation. Only a person with moral courage and conviction can step up to this role.

As President, I will be the conscience of the nation and I will speak up, speak out and speak for Singapore – speak up internally with the Government most of the time, speak out externally in public some of the time and speak for the people all the time.”

– Tan Jee Say

15 July 2011

Election for the office of President 2011


1. I am applying for a certificate of eligibility to contest the election of the President of Singapore under the special clause that allows a person to do so if “he has held a position of seniority and responsibility in an organisation or a department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector which, in the opinion of the Presidential Elections Committee, has given him such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable him to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President”.

2. The specific position I held that satisfies the condition in the above-mentioned clause, is that of chief executive officer with the title of regional managing director of John Govett (Asia) Private Limited and its successor company AIB Govett (Asia) Private Limited (hereafter to be called “the Company”). I held the position from 1 February 1997 to 6 March 2001, a period of 4 years 1 month. The Company was a Singapore company incorporated under the Companies Act. It was as asset management company and operated under an Investment Adviser’s licence granted by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). As the most senior officer in the Company, I was the AIB Govett Group’s representative to MAS. The Company’s head office AIB Govett Ltd was based in London. The Company was the Group’s regional head office for Asia Pacific. It managed the investment of funds in the Asia Pacific region on behalf of the Group’s investment trusts and companies, client company’s funds such as those of GIC (Government of Singapore Investment Corporation) and unit trusts including two unit trusts launched in Singapore and offered to Singapore public investors. Although the Company did not have a paid-up capital of $100 million, as it was not required to do so by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, it managed total assets in excess of $100 million which would make it equivalent to a company with a paid-up capital of $100 million to manage. It was not just a booking office for assets but had a full investment management operation to enable it to actively manage the assets in the Singapore office. It had an investment team of 5 fund managers and a dealer, operations and funds administration staff, company secretary cum compliance manager, finance team headed by a financial controller, and a marketing team. The whole operation was supervised and managed by me. Hence in terms of asset size and complexity of organisation, I earnestly believe that the position I held at AIB Govett Asia Pte Ltd had given me “such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable me to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President”. I sincerely hope that the Presidential Elections Committee will agree with me on this point, and accordingly issue me the Certificate of Eligibility to enable me to contest the coming Presidential Election.

Why I am contesting the Presidential Election (PE)

3. I am stepping forward to offer myself as a candidate for the PE as many Singaporeans want to have the choice to elect a distinctly non-PAP candidate whose independence of the PAP Government is clear, obvious and cannot be in doubt. Only such a person can have the moral authority to fulfill the mission of Elected President (EP) which is to provide checks and balances on the Government in specified areas of national reserves, key appointments, ISA detentions, CPIB investigations and Restraining Orders in connection with the maintenance of religious harmony.

4. To do his job effectively, the President must not be influenced or hampered by past affiliation with the ruling party; a long and strong association will be a severe mental and emotional block particularly one that stretched right up to very recent times, in addition, it will breed cynicism about how non-partisan such a President could be and this will hinder rather than help the healing of a nation. The recent General Elections when large sections of the population expressed anger over Government policies, have shown how divided the nation has become. This deep division must be healed soon, otherwise society will rupture which will cause enormous damage to our people. By apologising for past mistakes and promising to review all hurtful policies, the Prime Minister has given us hope. But hope has to be turned into reality if it is to mean anything at all to the people. It remains to be seen how far the PM will go to redress the hurt and restore the trust of Singaporeans in the Government.

5. How serious or sincere is the PAP Government in wanting to listen to and accommodate the wishes of the people particularly those who voted for the Opposition in the recent GE? It has a comfortable electoral majority, with 60% of the popular vote and 93% of parliamentary seats. Its power over Parliament is virtually absolute. We know what absolute power can do – haven’t we heard that “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely”? It can easily legislate any policy or even change the Constitution if it wants to without consideration for any opposing view and without having to worry about losing power in the next five years. It can impose the most unpopular, the most unreasonable, the most outrageous and the most self-serving policy measures it desires, and the people can do nothing about it. The only thing that can hold back the PAP Government from doing so is conscience. Does the PAP have the conscience? Has its past behaviour given Singaporeans confidence that it will not descend into an abuse of power?

6. Let’s examine some of the more recent major policies :-

i) Ministerial salaries – Singapore’s Government Ministers are the highest paid in the whole world, far exceeding the salaries of elected officials in other countries by several multiples e.g. the PM earns more than 5 times the President of the United States of America, a much bigger and more complex country to govern. Yet we did not get the most talented and the most competent Ministers that we were promised – remember the escape of Mas Selamat, repeated flooding in Orchard Road and other parts of Singapore, massive over-spending of YOG budget, over-crowding in buses and trains, and escalating housing prices? Also other corrupt-free countries such as Denmark and New Zealand, do not need to pay their Ministers astronomical salaries to keep them clean. Despite being proven wrong on these two reasons, PAP Ministers continue to pay themselves million-dollar salaries every year.

ii) Cost of living – Singaporeans are the unhappiest workers in the world (according to a recent survey of 14 countries). Why are Singaporeans so stressed? The main culprit is the high cost of living. They pay high prices for HDB flats , cars, ERP charges, GST, and other goods and services. Young couples have to take up 30-year mortgages for their homes and 7- year loans for cars. Singaporeans have to slog so hard and for so long periods to pay for these loans, much harder and much longer than citizens in many other countries. Why burden our people with such high costs? Yet the Government sits on huge surpluses year after year. These surpluses were the result of Government revenue far exceeding Government spending on the services provided to the people. It means that Singaporeans have been severely over-taxed. Why is there a need to tax Singaporeans so much? If there are surpluses, shouldn’t they first be used to lower the high costs of healthcare, education and transport so as to help our people, rather than have them invested by GIC and Temasek Holdings without assurance of a return?

iii) Foreign workers – the liberal Government policy that allowed a huge influx of foreign workers has boosted GDP growth and profitability of companies, resulting in high pay and huge bonuses for senior managers and CEO’s. This has two effects on Ministerial salary – the higher pay of CEO’s raised the benchmark salary for Ministers and the higher GDP growth rate of above 10% resulted in bonuses of eight months’ salary for officials. The PAP Ministers happily enjoyed their huge rewards even though their liberal foreign worker policy which gave them these huge rewards, depressed the wages of ordinary Singaporeans particularly the low earning ones. Don’t the PAP Ministers have a heart for ordinary Singaporeans who are the victims of their liberal policy on foreign workers?

iv) Integrated resorts/casinos – the PAP Government went ahead to build the two casinos against the objections of large sections of the population. It showed their obsession with high GDP growth even if it means enormous social costs for the people. Do we really have to stoop so low to earn a living? Don’t we want to walk tall with our heads high? Do we not want to teach our young the correct values in life?

Conscience of the Nation

7. In all the above cases (and many others not mentioned), has the Government been pricked by conscience? The true answer is that the Government has lost its moral compass. It is time we prick their conscience even if it means reminding them again and again. A President directly elected by the people will have the moral authority to remind them of their lapses. The President shall be the conscience of the nation. Only a person with moral courage and conviction can step up to this role. The nation is going through trying times as the recent GE showed. Society has become more complex. More than ever, the President has a more demanding role to play. He must speak for all Singaporeans because everyone has a story to tell however small or insignificant he or she is. He must treat every citizen with respect because every Singaporean is important, every Singaporean counts. To hear all, to reach all and to heal all, the Government needs a helping hand across the political divide. That helping hand must come from a non-partisan President without a previous affiliation with the ruling party, as only such a President can help the Government bridge the gap and regain the confidence and trust of the people. I believe I can perform this role. I have never been a member of the PAP and as the recent GE showed, I have the moral courage and conviction to take the Government to task over key policy matters.

8. I am aware of the constitutional limitations of the office of President. I believe however that the office of President is what the President makes it out to be. He can be as quiet and inactive as he chooses to be. But I want to be an active President, engaging the nation on issues of conscience and promoting and participating in worthy causes alongside Singaporeans. As President, I will be the conscience of the nation and I will speak up, speak out and speak for Singapore – speak up internally with the Government most of the time, speak out externally in public some of the time and speak for the people all the time.

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