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George Goh needs to understand what building trust truly means

by Tan Tee Seng

George Goh’s statement was such a disappointment.

He said, “You can’t check on the government”, and continued to prattle on about “heart”, “brain” and “trust in the government”, exactly to the tune of Ho Ching’s asinine Facebook post.

I guess rich men need friends in power. It is such a shame to kill the momentum he could’ve built for himself. Now, how is he going to compete with someone who had worked in the government for at least 22 years?

Trust in government is not surrendering or prostrating to the powers that be. It is the belief in the reliability and ability of the structure of governance for the good of the citizens.

Trust in the government must be earned by the governor. A mandate of five years does not mean anything goes for five years.

Trust is conditional upon acting in the interest of the governed. Ultimately, a functioning democracy is the basis of this trust.

The application of the principles of checks and balances aim to achieve this end. It follows that if the president is unable to “check the government”, then the presidency is dysfunctional.

Under the constitution, the president must be non-partisan and elected by popular vote. This is a kind of two-factor authentication of independency. Non-partisan so that it can check on the government of the day. Elected by popular vote so that it has the moral authority to stand up to the elected representatives.

And just in case, if he still lacks the confidence talking to high salaried people, he is paid a salary bigger than the chief executive with tax payers’ money!

It is so bizarre to hear this narrative of the President not being political or not to “check the government”.

It is clear that what they mean by “working together” is synonymous with “do not challenge the status quo”, “just follow what they say no matter what or you will disrupt the country”.

The whole point of the Elected President holding the second key to the reserve is to ensure the government is accountable to the people.

There is a dire need to usher in more democracy in Singapore. The PAP does not commit itself to democratic principles such as accountability.

The Presidential Office has had significant changes over the years due to the way the PAP amends the constitution on their whims as if it’s their own personal diary. As of right now, this office is neutered. And even the so-called independent candidate doesn’t have the balls to stand up against the bullies in white.

Given the unfettered dominance of the PAP government and lack of genuine channels for feedback, Singapore’s Presidential Election has become a much eagerly awaited referendum of sorts for its citizens.

In the first Presidential Election in 1993, Ong Teng Cheong, a former Deputy Prime Minister and PAP’s choice, scored 58.7% against a reluctant candidate, Chua Kim Yeow, who polled 41.3%.

This followed a historical breakthrough by opposition parties in the 1991 General Election when 3 SDP members and 1 Workers Party member were elected to parliament.

There were no Presidential elections for the next two terms (1999 & 2005).

Subsequently, in 2011, another former Deputy Prime Minister, Tony Tan was elected as the fourth President of Singapore with 35.2% of the vote which followed another political breakthrough in the General Election that took place earlier in the same year.

How would a maturing electorate articulate their demands this time?

Since the Elected Presidency was instituted, the election results clearly show that the PAP’s presidential candidate is not overwhelmingly popular, if at all, because the people recognise that the President should be able to hold the PAP government accountable.

Ong Teng Cheong’s meagre winning percentage against a non-committed candidate who did not even campaign and Tony Tan’s minority win illustrated the expectation of the voters.

Whoever wins needs to hold the government accountable. If George Goh is unable to meet this standard, he should just step aside.

If he is serious about the contest, perhaps he should relook at the theme of his campaign.

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