President hopeful struggles to speak Malay, but who cares?

62-year-old, Mr Mohamed Salleh Marican, the founder and chief executive officer of Second Chance Properties had earlier collected his application form on Monday (5 June) for the upcoming Presidential Election in September to assess his qualification prior to the nomination day, signifying that the citizens may not be expecting a walkover for the September election after all.

However, under changes to the Constitution approved last November, candidates from the private sector must have been the chief executive of a company with at least $500 million in shareholders’ equity, on average, for the most recent three years.

According to Straits Times’ earlier report, Second Chance Properties’ shareholder equity was between $254.3 million and $263.25 million in the past three financial years. This would mean Mr Mohamed Salleh does not qualify under the criteria. However, the Presidential Elections Committee has the discretion to certify that a candidate who does not automatically meet the criteria.

Despite not being able to be automatically qualified as a candidate for the upcoming election, Mr Mohamed Salleh expresses optimism that he can convince the Presidential Elections Committee he is deserving.

“When it comes to a $2 million or $20 million shop, my thinking process and how I evaluate the purchase is the same. It does not mean I must have 10 times the ability (to buy the $20 million shop),” he said.

Also for this year’s Presidential Election, the candiancy is reserved for a candidate from the Malay community which Mr Mohamed Salleh is likely to qualify.

However, some have made fun of Mr Mohamed Salleh’s apparent difficulty in putting up a proper sentence in Malay (as seen in the video below) as he is standing as a Malay candidate. In defence of the independent applicant, many have highlighted the inability of the current President, Mr Tony Tan to speak in fluent Chinese.

Issue of language addressed in Parliament

During the debate on the amendments to the Presidential Election earlier this year, Member of Parliament, Mr Pritam Singh of Aljunied GRC raised the question of language to the Minister at Prime Minister Office, Mr Chan Chun Sing.

Mr Singh said, “…The second question: I would like to press the Minister on this issue of language in the case of a reserve election. For example, if a Presidential election has been reserved for the Malay community, would it not be difficult for the Government to agree that Malay as a language would be an expectation of any candidate who would stand for that election, up to the level expected of students in schools in the education system.”

In response, Mr Chan Chun Sing said,

“On the issue of language, I would say that the community committee and the respective sub-committees will need to assess the person holistically. Yes, language will be one of the criteria. But we are also keenly aware that all of us, regardless of our race, language or religion, may practise our religions slightly differently, may live our lifestyles differently. But the key is this: do the respective sub-committees consider the person belonging to their community, as the package, holistically? That is the key point.

As to how Committees work, I would not want to prescribe their role and it will be not my remit to comment on how they should go about doing their function. But the philosophy has never changed. The philosophy is that, as a package, do you believe that this person belongs to your community. And I believe that the people in the committees are wise enough to know how to make the judgement call, considering all the factors that you have mentioned.”