Thursday, 25 August 2011

Tan Jee Say Presidential Rally: Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss Rally Speech

Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss Rally Speech

Much heat, though not enough light, has so far been generated in the recent public debates on the role of the Elected President.

On the one hand, we have Law Minister Shanmugam saying at a forum held on 6 Aug 2011  that:  Our   Presidency  is   created  by   the Constitution. This means that the Constitution alone can be the source of his powers.”

On the other hand, Law Professor Thio Li Ann has said that the constitutional text is not exhaustive as presidential powers may be found in two further sources.  First, constitutional conventions derived from long practice.  For example, we are all familiar with the President’s role in promoting charitable causes and in fostering community bonding, but you cannot find mention of these roles in our Constitution.  Second, apart from the Constitution there are also written guidelines or rules of engagements which have been agreed between the Government and the President in the interest of a harmonious working relationship.   These written arrangements, which are outside of the Constitution, may shape the exercises of presidential powers.

These two legal eagles seem to have opposite views.  So people are still unsure about the extent and limits of role and functions of the Elected President.

But what everyone agrees and what is clear to me, is that the President is the Representor and Guardian of the People’s interests.   He symbolises and represents the whole country.   He must be the unifier of all the various sectors of society in Singapore.   He must be above politics.

Unfortunately, of the other candidates apart from Jee Say, all of them were active members of the PAP for a decade or more and 2 of them were politicians holding political office for long periods of time.

TAN KIN LIAN was a member of the PAP for
30 years, before he resigned in 2008.   For 10 years, he was an active PAP member for the Marine Parade constituency.   He was the PAP’s branch secretary at Marine Parade for 3 years. ngapore/Story/STIStory_305814.html

TAN CHENG BOCK was MP for Ayer Rajah SMC for 26 years (1980-2006).   He was also the first non cabinet minister elected into the PAP’s Central Executive Committee, which is the highest ruling committee within the PAP, where he served from 1987 to 1996.  Representing PAP, TCB has fought no less than six(6)
contested General Elections: 1980, 1984, 1988, 1991, 1997 and 2001.  I think I am not wrong to say, that TCB is a veteran politician and an active, long-standing member of the PAP.

TONY TAN KENG YAM  has been a PAP member since 1979 till June 2011, more than 30 years.    Representing the PAP, he became a MP in 1979 and has been an MP for the next 27 years until 2006.
From 1980 to 1991, TT in the Cabinet where he served as Minister for Education (1980–81 &
1985–91), Minister for Trade & Industry (1981–86), Minister for Finance (1983–85), and
Minister for Health (1985–86).

From 1995 to 2005, he re-joined the Cabinet, where he served as Deputy Prime Minister
(1995–2005) and Minister for Defence (1995-2003). TT resigned from the PAP in June 2011.
Apart from being a PAP old guard, TT was until 1 July 2011, Executive Director and Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings Limited (SPH).

According to TT, the EP "... has to be above politics and needs to work with the government of the day and all political parties, including the opposition, civic and social organisations, and he cannot take a partisan view."

According to TT, he is equal to this role, despite his 33 year membership in the PAP, despite having been an MP for 27 years, despite being a Cabinet Minister for two periods of 10 years each, and despite having been at the helm of the GIC and SPH up until last month.  TT has assured voters that if elected, he would be act independently.

TAN JEE SAY Much has been made of the fact he contested on the opposition ticket in the last GE 2011.  But let us put things in context. Jee Say’s stint as a politician lasted less than 4 months from early April this year till end of July.   Previous to joining SDP in April this year, Jee Say had spoken up to share his views in his personal capacity and representing only himself, at forums and other events. But by no means can he be described as having any kind of political career, apart from those 3.5 months with SDP.   Is Jee Say “partisan”?  He was a member of SDP for only 3.5 months.  The other 3 candidates have been PAP members for decades.  Well, I think it fair to say, that of the 4, Jee Say is by comparison the least partisan, and hence the most likely to be independent- minded.

Coming back to TT’s words, that the President has to be able to work with the Govt of the day.   On this score, it is to be noted that Jee Say was a member of the civil service for 11 years, including six years in the Ministry of Trade and Industry from 1979 to 1985.[2] He rose to become Deputy Director for Economic and Manpower Planning.[1] During that period, he served concurrently as secretary to Albert Winsemius, the government's economic adviser.[1] He  went on to serve as then-Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's principal private secretary from 1985 to 1990.  I am sure that in the many years that Jee Say spent in the civil service, he would have made a lot of friends and acquaintances, not to mention a deep understanding of how the civil service is organised and run.

He left the civil service in 1990 and entered the private sector.   In the private sector, he worked in the finance industry for a decade.   So Jee Say has experienced how it is like to work in the public sector as well as the private sector.

Again, coming back to TT’s words that the President must be able to work with all political parties, including the opposition, civil and social organisation…. Let not forget, that the 40% of the votes went to the opposition, so significant proportion of Singaporeans are opposition supporters.  But all are Singaporeans. Here, Tan Jee Say’s short stint as a opposition politician puts him in a unique position.  He is someone who has spent long years in the civil service including 5 years working with GCT, and yet he has also spent time with members of the opposition and personal friends with many civil and social activists.   In him, I feel can be found the best hope of being the Unifier of all Singaporeans.

Today in Singapore, we have the privilege and the dilemma of having to choose between four qualified and worthy candidates for the top post of President.  To me, Jee Say offers the best hope for truly independent, non-partisan, unifying President. As if this is not enough, Jee Say has also shown me that he has the passion to serve Singapore. So, without skipping a heartbeat, my vote is for TJS.

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