Channel New Asia posted a televised post-National Day Rally forum where Acting Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said that all races should have a chance to be elected on Monday (29 August).
Responding to a panel of guests, Mr Ong states that back in 1991 when the Elected Presidency was first introduced, there were "some outstanding individuals who were from all races; who were our Presidents and made all of us feel proud."
"I don't believe that just because there are elections, therefore we cannot find such outstanding individuals from all races. The problem, which was revealed in the CNA-IPS survey, is that when it comes to elections, whether voting becomes biased," he said.
He added, "And because everybody, human nature is like that, we are more comfortable with somebody of our own race, and because of that, we are unable to elect a minority president. I think that's really the issue."
Netizens commented on the CNA's Facebook post, with comments that are largely not aligned with Mr Ong's statements:
- "I must say, Mr.Ong explained his viewpoint very rationally and logically on the show.On the one hand, this view does make sense. On the other, it completely flips the notion of meritocracy and multiculturalism -- because what's to say that positive discrimination cannot be abused one day?This argument is a slippery slope to the introduction of racial quotas. People will one day demand such reservations to be implemented also for the post of PM, and perhaps even in more ordinary, day to day jobs.Instead of focussing on the race of the candidates, we should be focussed upon finding the best candidates! Singaporeans can judge who to vote for just fine.If not, get rid of the Elected Presidency altogether. Let's not have pre-decided 'democratic' outcomes," Zain Kazmi said.
- William Ng wrote, " To sum up, the job should only go to the best candidate regardless of race. Don't have to talk so much. Voters will know what to do when time to cast their vote.
- "I don't think any logical Singaporean will object against any race taking up the role of importance.We do however, prefer someone who is truly qualified to their task, don't give us some semi standard person to put him or her on the stage and tell us need him/her to be there just because of the need of minority race to be taking a position of power," said James Tan.
- "Huh? I thought Late PM LKY said the president was to safeguard reserve as the primary mover and reason to institutionalize the office of the president.Now eminent LKY passed away, all reasons given by then PM LKY, invalidated?Wow!If this is not roti Prata I don't know what is," wrote Meminion.
- Ronald Queh wrote, "Did the voters cast their votes for their president based on race? i personally don't feel that way. I remember the last president election is about who is more eligible to be a president when voters have many choices. In the end, it was a tussle between President Tony Tan and Mr Tan Cheng Bock. Otherwise, I would rather the government scrap the idea of elected president better."
- "Race shouldn't be an issue why is the gov bringing in the racial issue again? Didn't this gov say meritocracy is their way of running the country. Well let those who truly qualify run for election regardless of race, language or religion. Oh wait didn't someone say something about that being just an idea," said Matthew Yang.
- "As a Neighbourhood School Kid who grew up around people of different races, I really doubt I would vote for my elected officials along racial line, I am more likely to vote for the most capable man on the ticket. I'm sure many Singaporeans feel the same way too, one only need to look at the BB 2016 By-Election earlier this year where an overwhelming Chinese electorate voted in Mr. Murali Pillai of Indian descent, as opposed to his Chinese opponent CSJ.Granted, party affiliation probably played a bigger role in the voters' consideration, but that only goes to show that race is not a crippling factor that the government is now trying to portray it as.I want to believe that my perspective is the product of PAP's meritocracy indoctrination, that no matter who you are or where you come from, you will be judged based on your hard work and not your background; so I must admit that I'm a little disappointed that the government feels so dismal about the success of their meritocratic education system," wrote Song Tao.
- Darren Delong said, "So let's put a "RACE" there because we have to appease some people whether he has merits? We should have been a more progressive country now that whatever race he is, as long he is capable, he is fit to be president, we should not care whether he is green, orange, black, red or blue."
- Pacino Loh wrote, "While Tony Tan is still the president and pap already decided to play race card & deny his continuance of next election? A bit sad for the 30% Singaporeans who voted him, pap have been treating him like a puppet all these while."
- "Was races even a problem? What talking you? Our first President was a Malay, Mr Yusof Ishak, second one was a Eurasian, Mr Benjamin Shears, third one was Mr Devan Nair, an Indian, then, Mr Wee Kim Wee, Mr Ong Teng Cheong, Mr SR Nathan, Mr Tony Tan.. basically all races already covered except you saying we want FT to be our President.. what talking you, ooi? Malay, Indian, Chinese, Eurasian already got already la," wrote Ho Samuel