A critic turned supporter of President Nathan

Jason Lee/

For almost 12 years, I have never been a fan of outgoing President S R Nathan.

In view of the legacy left by the late President Ong Teng Cheong, is inevitable that comparisons between Mr Ong and his successor(s) would be made.

In this regard, Mr Nathan’s actions, or “inactions”, over the years further alienated me from him.

I often ask: What exactly did he do apart from making overseas state visits and gracing events in Singapore?

And when I read in January 2009 that the Finance Minister had submitted a formal proposal to the President for permission to dip into the reserves in the midst of the financial crisis just two days before Budget Day, my disappointment grew further.

Was the Government so certain that the President would agree to their request, I asked? If that was the case, was it because the President had been perceived as a Government-friendly custodian of the reserves, I had wondered?

Since then, I had been looking forward to the next Presidential Election in August 2011. I was optimistic that the next President of Singapore would be someone I know we can depend on to “safeguard” our interests; someone who would put national interests above self-interest or that of the ruling party of the day.

Almost 30 months on, my sentiments have changed and how I wish Mr Nathan would continue for a third term.

For one, I am now convinced that this is a President who cares for his fellow Singaporeans. It is not something new but it took me almost 12 years to “realise” that this is a President who loves to mingle with fellow Singaporeans whether in public or at private events. This is a President who, despite his age, still relishes the opportunities to meet-and-greet ordinary folks. How many of our current Ministers feel the same way?

More importantly, my “desire” to see Mr Nathan serve a third term stems from my personal belief that none of the six presidential hopefuls would perform the role any better.

One presidential hopeful has been saying that his experience and expertise would add value to the nation if he is elected as President, especially since he now sees “dark clouds on the horizon”. If that is the case, shouldn’t he be serving in Cabinet? Wouldn’t that add more value to the nation as it seeks to ride out the tough times ahead? Moreover, what exactly did Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong say to this presidential hopeful when he told the former of his intention to run in the Presidential Election in early June? Did PM Lee endorse his bid, whether explicitly or implicitly?

Another presidential hopeful has been highlighting past cases/events to illustrate his independence from the Government. Most Singaporeans who are eligible to cast their vote on August 27 would already have known of his independent streak, and hence, would it not be better for this hopeful to spell out his exact plans going forward if elected as President? (Of course, he might argue that there is no reason to do so since he has yet to be certified fit to run in the election.) Moreover, this hopeful was quoted as saying that he decided to run in the Presidential Election after sensing much anger during the rallies in the lead up to May 7 General Elections. Personally, I would think that it should not require someone with the grassroots experience and contacts to realise the sense of ground resentment only after attending the political rallies.

A third high-profile potential candidate has been championing himself as the “Voice of the People”. Having represented many ordinary folks during the mini-bonds saga, that might indeed be the case. Surprisingly though, this candidate actually wrote on his blog a few weeks ago: “Many people are writing to me for assistance on their insurance and other personal problems, more so than previously. I am not able to find the time to assist them now, as I have many things to attend to for the Presidential Election. I hope that they can approach me after the election, when I can find more time.” Hmm, I just wonder whether he will be able to spare the time to respond to these online requests for assistance/advice after the election if he should be elected?

Another possible candidate “graciously” backed out of the recent General Elections so as to avoid a three-cornered fight. One cannot help but wonder whether he would similarly do so should the PEC grant three or more hopefuls the Certificate of Eligibility next week?

Come August 27, I want to vote for a man whom I believe would always place the nation’s interests above all else; someone who is pro-people at all times, and would never demonstrate deference or blind loyalty to any individual or party except to the people of Singapore.

True, we may have more choices this time round, but that certainly does not make my “job” as a voter any easier. If only the incumbent President had decided to seek another term, I would not be in such a dilemma.

Today, I am convinced that President Nathan has served Singapore to the best of his abilities, and I sincerely thank him for his contributions to this nation.

I just hope and pray that Singapore’s next President will continue the legacies of the late President Ong and President Nathan. Whoever that may be, I know it’s unlikely I’ll be among those who will vote for him on August 27. It’s more likely that I’ll spoil the vote. What a shame – especially since I genuinely believe in the significance of the EP scheme.

Jason is a former journalist with a mainstream media.