Channel News Asia (CNA) published an article today (5 September) about the comments of Communications and Information Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, who stated that any candidate aspiring to Singapore’s Elected Presidency must be a unifying figure who reflects the values and ethos of a Singaporean nation on Monday.

Responding to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s remarks on the proposed changes to the Elected Presidency that such representation is “not tokenism”. Mr Yacoob said, “He or she must reflect the values that are reflective of our society, a multi-cultural society, a figure that is unifying to bring all of Singaporeans together. I would want that person to be of such a character, to be such a position because then he is respected and accepted by all Singaporeans, not just by the minority community. Then we truly have a President for all Singaporeans.”

The article further noted that the minority groups in Singapore said it was important to have minority representation, although they noted that these changes could have adverse side effects.

When asked about her opinion, women’s rights group AWARE’s head of advocacy and research, Jolene Tan said, “We question whether reducing the amount of say that the electorate has, over who gets voted in a particular time will strengthen that person’s mandate. That’s why we proposed broadening what we thought were some arbitrarily narrow criteria in order to allow a wider pool of candidates to stand, but the decision would still be very much seen as that of the electorate.”

A total of 19 groups and individuals were selected to present their proposals to the Constitutional Commission on the Elected Presidency.

CNA reported that one group of students from the above group, backtracked on their original stance that there was no need for provisions to ensure that minority candidates can become President after hearing what PM Lee said on Sunday.

CNA quoted one student from the group saying, “As much as we hope for a colour-blind Singapore, I think it’s quite inevitable to acknowledge that there will always be people who will vote along racial lines. If the reality is really that people still vote along racial lines, then I can see the need for such a system.”

CNA further noted that interviewees have commented that minority candidates from the private sector would need to do more to win the hearts and minds of voters, compared to public sector candidates.

Most except for one clearly were not convinced by the statements by the MCI minister and the other comments featured in the article:

  • John Han wrote, “SR Nathan work all his way up to be the president of Spore. Frankly speaking, we need a president like SR Nathan… The new elected president must not be a PAP MP or another ministerial minister..”
  • Kelvin Lai wrote, “If government always believed in meritocracy, why worry about races in the elected president?”
  • Meminion wrote, “How does the Malay community feel always been made the bogeyman for politics? That the community is incapable of succeeding without assistance from the government?
    Last I know those that mark O levels A levels papers look at each candidates as digits and not race. So what are the “barriers” or touted “racism” that PAP is selling to us that a particular race cannot succeed unless legislated so?
    Just look at PAP themselves. Tharman is a once in a century talent yet are the PAP members and cadres voting him to be the next Sec-gen? So where does this “racism” start from?”
  • Tan Ben Jornee wrote, “Look … why do we need race ? We are Singaporeans. This government should remove this racial identifications as we have more interracial marriages including Angmos.”
  • Hong Seah wrote, “The old government working hard to make all races as Singaporeans – regardless of races. All races are equal. Then this race brought out? What is this?”
  • Daniel Boone wrote, “The elites in the government are racist and not the common people. I don’t have issues with the people from different race and religions.”
  • Lim Meng Lee wrote, “If people REALLY vote along the RACIAL line, no system will adequately change their mindset. It’s like saying having a system that can make Singaporeans vote for something other than PAP.”
  • Klytin Lim wrote, “I think by the time Singaporean vote along Racial line. It’s also doomsday for Singapore.”
  • Francesca Dorse wrote, “They will put in a ‘race’ president.”
  • Huang Guoshan wrote, “Minority representation is already represented by MPs. If it is not enough the next Prime minister could be changed. Having the President to represent minority is like removing one’s pants before farting. Because the President represents the whole Singapore and he is not a party chief of anyone.
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