by Ismail Kassim

To President-elect Puan Halimah Yacob, fraternal greetings from the people of Sinkapoor.

Tahniah! Vaazhthukkazh! Gongxi gongxi! Congratulations!

We must rally around our new President-elect for the sake of National Unity, just as we have to continue to express our indignation against the Puppet Master and his cronies for tinkering with the political system to prolong their grip on power.

I urge all Singaporeans to look upon her as the equivalent of a Nominated President (Not as EP Reserved for Malays) and to give her a fresh chance to start anew.

Let her past as a loyal, dependable and obedient PAP cadre float away.

From now on, let us judge her on what she does or will do in office, and more important, on what she fails to do, by omission or otherwise.

I do not expect her to be another Ong Teng Cheong. It is, perhaps, too much to ask of someone with her background, and it certainly isn’t fair. OTC is a class by himself.

But I do expect her to aspire to walk in the footpaths of Wee Kim Wee and SR Nathan. To me, both former presidents had the wisdom to know exactly what they could do and what they could not, and to have the courage and strength of character, to act decisively within their powers whenever the occasion arose.

Let me cite just one example of what SR did during his presidency. At a regional football tournament, some members of our junior football squad practically rioted after they had lost a game.

There were calls for them to be whacked as hard as possible for disgracing the Singapore flag. I too felt that the culprits should be severely punished.

SR thought otherwise. He phoned the then FAS president, a PAP MP, and urged that punishment should be tempered with compassion, and with rehabilitation in mind, as the offenders were still young and should be given a second chance.

SR intervention was timely and effective and as a result, the culprits had the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves. Some of them subsequently made good in the national squad.

To Puan Halimah, I say if you have to err when acting within your powers, err always on the side of justice, fair-play and compassion.

To err on the side of fear – real or imaginary – and to be cautious to the point of timidity, will be the fastest way to lose the respect of all of us.

I wish you good luck and best wishes in your role as President for the next six years.

This post was first published at Mr Ismail Kassim’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission. Mr Kassim was formerly a journalist at the Singapore Press Holdings.

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