Osman Sulaiman: Nothing to be thankful about Singapore’s “Malay” president

Khan Osman Sulaiman, a businessman and former Reform Party candidate in the General Election 2015, took to his Facebook yesterday (19 June) to unveil his intense conversation that he had with his friend when the latter told him that the Malays should be ‘grateful’ that the country has a Malay president.

His friend pointed out that the Government actually considered the minority’s (Malays) as they were given the chance to hold high office, or else the Malays will “never have the chance to assume that position”.

Upon hearing his friend’s comment, Mr Osman quickly lashed out him noting that there is nothing to be thankful about.

“Firstly the president of Singapore holds no meaningful authority. It is a ceremonial position. The latest tweak to the presidential’s system renders the president practically useless,” he said.

The 2017 presidential election was opened only to Malay candidate, and this is the first time the country has reserved an election for a particular race.

According to the Government, this is done to make sure that minority presidents are elected from time to time.

Following amendments to the constitution, the contest for President is to be reserved for a particular race if no one from that race has been selected for five consecutive terms. The government decided to implement the new rules to the 2017 presidential election by deciding that Wee Kim Wee is the first elected president instead of Ong Teng Cheong.

Since September 2017, the city-state’s president is Mdm Halimah Yacob, and she was given the position via a walkover in the Presidential Election, as no other presidential candidates were issued the Certificate of Eligibility due to the increased criteria for candidates in the private sector.

The other two candidates in the running were businessmen Salleh Marican and Farid Khan. Unfortunately, both these gentlemen were declared not eligible by a government-appointed committee as their companies didn’t have at least S$500 million in shareholders’ equity, a rule introduced via an amendment to the constitution by the government.

Although Mdm Halimah didn’t qualify as well if she was to contest under this category, but she contested as a candidate in the public sector because she used to be the Parliament Speaker, and anyone who’ve held certain public office positions can qualify for the presidency.

In Mr Osman’s post, he also noted that with the presence of Council of Presidential Advisors (CPA), the president will have talk about “fiscal matter and key public sector appointments” with the council first, and if they come to any disagreements, then the matter has to be brought up to the Parliament.

“If President acts against CPA’s advice, Parliament can then reject president’s veto power with a majority. Where is the discretionary power of the president then?” he asked.

In addition to that, Mr Osman also said that by allowing only Malay candidates to stand for the presidential election shows that it is a “cunning political play”, and not the sincere care that the Government has claims to have towards the Malay community.

“Those who follow politics closely will know that the decision to reserve the presidential election only for Malay candidates was actually a ruse. The real intention was to bar Dr Tan Cheng Bock from contesting,” he noted.

As such, Mr Osman said that he is not at all thankful that Singapore has a Malay president “at the expense of being made a political pawn”.

“With limited presidential powers to make a meaningful change to the community, what should I be happy about or even grateful for? Should I be happy that the government made use of my community to entrench its grip on power? Or should I be grateful that we are fed with crumbs from the table?” he questioned.

Upon reading his post, People’s Voice politician Mohd Nassir Ismail agreed with Mr Osman’s point and shared it on his Facebook.

He wrote that some people have the mindset that they cannot live in Singapore without People’s Action Party (PAP), and this group are the one who are “being brainwashed and accepted any facts and candies without thinking the future of our citizens”.

He added that when he decided to join politics, a relative of his sarcastically told him that he did not appreciate whatever the Government has given the Malay community.

“But I rebuttal with asking where are we Malay/Muslims of today in university, jobs ie SAF, Police, CEO in big MNC, or stateboard, in politics as tong sampah ministers? Where are we? They just mumb with thousand words and a great silent,” he wrote.

Agreeing with Mr Osman’s post, many other netizens also bashed his friend for his thought, pointing out that he has a lot of guts to share his views openly on such a sensitive matter, especially in a social setting. Some felt that it was wrong for Mr Osman’s friend to have such “mentality” and he was brainwashed by PAP to feel that they’ve done a lot for the Malay community.

A bunch of them also said that President Halimah Yacob is not even Malay as her father is Indian. As such, they questioned why should the Malay community appreciate the Government’s effort in selecting a Malay president since she is not even one. Just to note, Mrs Halimah is born to a Malay mother but with an Indian Muslim father. Therefore, she is officially classified as an Indian Muslim due to her father’s ethnicity.

Mustaqim Ahmad added that a reserved presidential election was an insult to the Malays as it seemed like “Malay can only be president when the other races are not contesting”.

Others said that Mrs Halimah is deemed as a “puppet president” and is being used by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to prevent Dr Tan Cheng Bock from being elected as President. Besides that, they also said that she is just there to take home a big, fat paycheck every month.