Outgoing President, S R Nathan recently said Singapore cannot have a “Presidency on the streets”(see HERE). He articulated that people would not want the office to be so transparent that the value and prestige of the position is lost.
In the face of the current political climate, it is a strange remark to make. In the wake of General and Presidential Elections, the unified cry of Singaporeans has been a demand for more accountability. Mr Nathan’s observation that Singaporeans do not want a transparent office therefore flies in the face of logic.
Gone are the days when controversial issues can simply be swept under the carpet. Now, with not just a littlel help from world-wide web, information is readily available at a tap of a finger. It therefore beggars belief that Mr Nathan seems to value ambiguity over clarity. Opaque plans and hidden agendas only breed suspicion which will, more often than not, lead to the circulation of hearsay on the internet.
With each turn of the rumour mill, the stories get more salacious and sensational. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recognised this in his National Day Rally speech and stated that it is not easy for the government to engage the internet because “itis anonymous, it is chaotic, it is unfiltered, unmoderated and so the medium lends itself to many negative views and ridiculous untruths, any number of them” (see HERE).
With a mindset like our former-President Nathan’s, is it any wonder that PM Lee feels as such? If people do not believe that they are getting the truth from their public servants, conspiracy theories are bound to be rife!
There is a simple solution to the problem of half truths and rumour mongering on the internet. The government cansimply seek to be more direct and open. It should not hide behind an impenetrableveil of murkiness. Not only should it seek to be frank in its dealings,it should also be seen to be honest. If there had been more straight talkingto begin with, the whole PA saga could have been avoided!
We are not living in medieval times where the citizens actually believe that its rulers are demigods, shrouded in mystery and wonder! With the internet, we are only too aware of their human frailties and for them to pretend otherwise would be hypocritical. It would also breed further distrust and ill will. An air of mystery surrounding the office of the President would not add any prestige to the office. In fact, it would seek to further alienate the people. Mr Nathan’s statements are therefore out of date and at best, plain ignorant.
Notwithstanding all of Mr Nathan’s past charitable works which could arguably have enhanced the prestige of the Presidency, this statement only serves to highlight the glaring need for reform of the office of the President, and to a larger extent, the entire government.
Not only are these words by Mr Nathan unreasonable, they are also damaging to our current President Dr Tony Tan. As it is, Dr Tan faces an uphill battle to prove his sincerity to a jaded electorate who are crying for blood. Rightly or wrongly, Dr Tan and Mr Nathan are seen as “buddiesfrom the same camp”. It would therefore not be difficult for a disgruntled electorate to simply assume that Mr Nathan’s remarks mirrors that of Dr Tan’s.
By uttering these last words, Mr Nathan is not doing any favours for the office of the President but only adds further fuel to a fire already burning with antagonistic doubt.
As the dust settles after the double elections in 2011, a blindingly conspicuous observation can be made. Singaporeans want more distinct answers! No more smokes and mirrors. No more perceived “wayangness”.
All public offices need to be transparent, open, responsible and accountable. To imply otherwise would be a contradiction in terms. As a first step in office, Dr Tan should publicly distance himself from Mr Nathan’s comments and seek to be as candid and as guileless as possible.