What Singaporeans are really unhappy about is that they were deprived of the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights to elect a president, said former NCMP Yee Jenn Jong of the Worker’s Party.
Responding to a remark made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Yee took to Facebook to write a long post about minorities in positions of political authority such as the Presidency and Prime Ministership.
At the PAP65 Awards and Convention marking the People’s Action Party’s 65th anniversary, PM Lee said: “How would the minorities feel if, year after year, the President of Singapore were almost always Chinese? In the long term, such a scenario will foment deep unhappiness and erode the founding values of our nation.”
The PM was referring to the 2017 presidential election (PE) which saw current president Madam Halimah Yacob win unopposed following amendments to the country’s constitution which meant that the election would be reserved for a particular racial group.
Laying out his response, Mr Yee argued that a minority candidate running for president has never lost before.
He asked, “Have we ever put a minority candidate for the presidency and the candidate lost? No! Then why does PAP think that Madam Halimah Yacob would have lost in an open election?”
And even if Madam Halimah did lose, Mr Yee contends that it would have been what Singaporeans voted for.
“Are we not trusted with our ability to discern?”
Citing more examples of minority candidates winning in general and by-elections from both sides of the aisle, Mr Yee said Madam Halimah would have been a “very strong candidate” in an open contest given her credentials.
He elaborated, “The crux of Singaporeans’ unhappiness is not with Madam Halimah as a person but with the whole process that deprived Singaporeans of a once-in-6-years opportunity to be able to exercise their democratic rights to elect a president.”
“The constitution was changed and rushed out in time to force the last PE into a contest reserved for Malays only and with a much disputed view that the PE term actually started with the late President Wee and not with the late President Ong as Singaporeans knew it to be.”
He added, “Furthermore, the bar was raised for those from the private sector such that two very successful and willing Malay candidates with rags-to-riches stories who could have qualified under the old rules were also not able to stand for election.”
Mr Yee then made a second point by turning PM Lee’s statement around to talk about the Prime Ministership, noting that the country has never had a non-Chinese Prime Minister but have had four presidents of minority races before Madam Halimah including late President Nathan who was elected twice.
Using PM Lee’s own words, Mr Yee asks: “Should we be concerned about how minorities would feel that year and after since independence Singapore has always had a Chinese PM? Are we ready for a non-Chinese PM? Why not? I am ready.”
He continued, “By constantly saying that Singapore is not ready for a non-Chinese PM, in the long term, would we foment deep unhappiness and erode the founding values of our nation?”
While acknowledging that the PM is selected by the majority party that wins a general election and that it is their choice who they wish to lead the party and country, Mr Yee wondered if the country needs to be constantly reminded that it is not ready for a minority PM.