Mr Salleh Marican, 68, has been interviewed many times since he first declared his intention to run in the upcoming Presidential Elections that will be held, if more than two candidates qualify on Nomination Day (13 September 2017), on 23 September 2017 but most of them have skirted some issues that TOC had the chance to probe him about.
Mr Marican is the founding Chairman and CEO of Second Chance Properties Ltd. His company is also the first owned by a Malay and Muslim to be listed in Singapore. Although his company's shareholder equity was between $254.3 million and $263.25 million in the past three financial years, he remains confident that he will be able to qualify to run in the Elections.
His entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen have been expounded upon extensively in many media interviews so we cut straight to the chase during our interview by asking him questions which we thought, considering the fact that this was Mr Marican's first foray into politics, would elicit a non-answer, or perhaps even an outright refusal to answer, but we were proven wrong - gladly, if I may add - on some counts.
On Reserved Elections and the Criteria for Candidacy
When asked whether he agreed with PM Lee's assertion that a Reserved Presidential Elections would help strengthen racial harmony in Singapore, he said "Maintaining racial harmony requires great effort. The government has done and achieved much. Yes, I agree, a reserved PE would preserve and strengthen racial harmony." He added that even if the Elections had not been reserved for Malays, he would have still ran as he felt that it was a calling.
"A qualifying candidate from the private sector should be a senior executive managing a company with at least S$500 million in shareholders’ equity. Previously, such a candidate had to be a chairman or CEO of a company with at least S$100 million in paid-up capital."
He opined that the above-mentioned criterion of was too high and could bar many capable people from running from President. However, "it would be ok if the PEC does not enforce it too strictly. A Presidential hopeful can still apply and can qualify if the PEC is satisfied with the candidate’s character and capabilities."
In his own words, "The role of the President is clearly stated. On top and above his official roles, I think the President must command respect from Singaporeans and is an important symbol of unity to all in times of peace and especially in times of crisis."
On 3 things that sets him apart from Madam Halimah Yaacob and Mr Farid Khan
- I am my own man. I have never worked for anyone. What I have built today is through sheer hard work, a profitable company, the first Malay company to be listed on the stocks exchange.
- I served 3 years in National Service, 2 of which as a commissioned officer and left with the rank of Lieutenant.
- I have announced that I will donate all my salary to charity throughout my term if elected.
On accusations that he was not Malay but Indian
Mr Marican's father, Kadir Marican, was an Indian who migrated to Singapore from Pondicherry, India. This, coupled with his, what some may consider, subpar Malay oratorical skills, has led to a number of accusations online that he should not be considered a Malay for the purposes of the Reserved PE.
Addressing his critics, he stated with conviction that, "Being Malay is who I am. I am Malay and will always be Malay. The Malay community accepts me as one of them. I have been an important contributor not just to the Malay community but also to Singaporeans at large. I am running to be the President of Singapore."
He went on to say that he doesn't see how being a Malay would limit him in serving and understanding the needs of non-Malays.
"I have been interacting with all races throughout my life. 96% of my 3000 plus shareholders are non-Malays. Almost all the people I deal with in business, such as suppliers, manufacturers, business associates, bankers, lawyers etc are non-Malays. And I count many non-Malay as good friends."
On the Fear of Speaking Out
In his interactions with friends and community leaders, he found that some did express reservations about supporting him publicly.
"I have experienced reluctance even fear from some of them to voice their support for me openly even when it is clear that the PE is non-partisan. My experience is that this sense of fear is unfortunate because if we exercise our rights according to the rules, there is nothing to worry about.
On the whole I have had generous support and am especially touched by people and communities who have reached out to me since I stepped up for the Presidential bid. I have not actively campaigned or openly sought support, as the rules of campaigning are very clear in that campaigning can only be carried out in the gazetted period allowed for it. In private and on a personal basis, I have reached out to people and groups I know. I have good relations with people who are at the helm of NGO’s, charitable organisations and associations."
On LGBTs and the Tudung Issue
Mr Marican acknowledged that these were divisive issues and promised that, "If elected as President, and as a unifying figure, I will discuss these and other divisive issues with community leaders and others in closed-door sessions."
"Less than 1% of Muslims in the world are extremist and have extremist views. These groups used religion to further their own dangerous agenda. They must be stopped. I will say what is needed to be said to stop Islamophobia."
On the Death Penalty
He was aware that although clemency petitions were addressed to the President, the actual decision making power rested with the Cabinet. You can read more about how the Elected Presidents have "absolutely no discretion to grant clemency" here.
On the Possibility of Convening a CPIB Investigation on the Prime Minister
The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) operates under the Prime Minister's Office ('PMO'). However, Article 22G of our Constitution empowers the President to convene a CPIB Investigation if the Prime Minister refuses to do so.
22G. Notwithstanding that the Prime Minister has refused to give his consent to the Director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau to make any inquiries or to carry out any investigations into any information received by the Director touching upon the conduct of any person or any allegation or complaint made against any person, the Director may make such inquiries or carry out investigations into such information, allegation or complaint if the President, acting in his discretion, concurs therewith
In view of accusations flung in the direction of PM Lee from his siblings and his nephew, Li Shengwu, I asked Mr Marican if he would be willing to convene a CPIB investigation on the PM if credible allegations against the PM surfaced during his tenure.
He responded in the affirmative.
"One of the reasons I want to be President is to do my best to ensure that the zero tolerance towards corruption continues. This has contributed to the clean reputation of this country. As President, the people of Singapore can count on me to uphold and protect Singapore’s precious reputation."