Monday, June 20, 2011

Presidential Election - a dignified campaign

Dear Mr. Tan

I am from The Straits Times. DPM Teo made some comments on the elected presidency at an event today and we are running a story about some things he said. Getting reactions from the ground and from the candidates, hope you can help answer some questions.

Here's a transcript of what he said:
"Well I will make three points about the presidential elections. First of all, I think we should be clear on what the role of the president is. So that when we are clear what the role of the president is, we will be able to more likely elect the correct person. 
"Secondly, we should conduct any presidential election campaign in a dignified way because this is after all the highest office in the land. I am glad to see that thus far the various candidates have done so in this way. So I think we should maintain that type of tone and make sure that the election is conducted in a dignified way. It's not exactly like the general elections. 
"Thirdly, the point I'd like to make is that this is not the general elections. I think electing an MP is different from electing a president. When we are electing a Member of Parliament, we want somebody who is active and on the ground and working with the residents. The president, I think, has a different role to play - he needs to be measured and considered and at the same time, also be a unifying factor at a higher level for all Singaporeans. So third of all, we need to understand the different roles the president plays from a Member of Parliament, and then have a good dignified election, select the right person to be the president, it is very important for us. 
Some questions on what he said:

1. Overall, what do you make of DPM's comments? Where do you agree and/or disagree with him? Do you think people are clear about what exactly a president does?

Reply: In general, I agree with the views expressed by DPM Teo Chee Hian. The role and the key duties of the President are spelled out clearly in the constitution. There are various ways in which the President can carry out the duties and I will seek the way that will be best for the country and the people. My views are expressed in this statement:

Statement by Tan Kin Lian – role of the Elected President
Recently, some present and previous senior members of government sought to clarify the role of the Elected President as defined in the Constitution of Singapore.
I welcome these clarifications and in principle agree with and respect the prerogative and responsibility of the Government to govern. I accept that the President's office is NOT a separate political centre and does not have any executive power. My own published statements as well as those in my blog have made the very same points.
The gist of the comments has been that the Elected President has only "custodial powers" and not "executive powers". I agree with these comment and in doing so, I would like to point out that we should not suggest that these custodial powers are unimportant or ineffectual. By definition, custodial responsibility entails the provision of protective supervision and guardianship. The Elected President does not govern but is responsible for ensuring that the defined areas under his "custody" are properly and satisfactorily governed. Much can be achieved in a climate of co-operation and mutual respect. This will inevitably lead to national harmony and progress.
I believe that one does not need to be armed with strong executive powers to make an impact. A well qualified and properly elected President will make his impact through the power to persuade, to influence, to counsel, to convey feedback and if necessary, to articulate informed positions on specific issues.
The founding fathers of the Elected President's office would have wanted it to perform more than ceremonial duties. To quote Law Minister Mr K Shanmugan, "the President's veto powers are an important check against a profligate government squandering the nation's reserves, or undermining the integrity of the public service". These powers and responsibilities cannot operate in a vacuum and the Elected President should be given all needed support by the Government and the Civil Service to discharge these.
If I were elected as the President, I like to be able to work in full co-operation with the Government within the roles defined in the Constitution of Singapore. I will not have any political affiliation and will be guided by my five values of Honesty, Fairness, Positive Approach, Courage and Public Service. I will at all times also be guided by the views of the people, which I will actively seek.
It is my hope that in his desire to ensure enlightened transformation, the Prime Minister and his Government will respect, support and facilitate a credible role for the Elected President, for the overall good of the People of Singapore
2. What do you think DPM Teo means when he says a president has to be "measured and considered" and a "unifying factor at a higher level for all Singaporeans"? Do you think you meet these criteria?

Reply: I can only suppose that the words "measured and considered" expressed by DPM Teo suggest that that the campaign should be carried out in a dignified manner. I agree with that view.

I also agree that the President should be a unifying factor for all Singaporeans. This statement was first made by Dr. Tan Cheng Bock and I am happy to share the same sentiment. 
I believe that Singaporeans can be unified by sharing similar values. I want to encourage them to embrace the values of values of honesty, fairness, positive attitude, courage and public service. Many people have told me that they like these values and are happy to support them. 

My actions will be guided by these values. For example, I want to be honest and positive in expressing the concerns expressed by many Singaporeans about safeguarding their CPF savings and the reserves of Singapore. I want to help to address their concerns can be addressed in a constructive way. One way is for the President's Office to issue an annual report that the citizens can understand. This will help in the communication and educating the citizens.

I also shared my views about public service - to address the concerns expressed by many Singaporeans about the high salaries earned by the top leaders, including the President. I want them to know that I am not contesting this office for the high remuneration and will be willing to donate a significant part of the President's salary towards charity, if I am elected. (I hope that my personal views on this issue does not cause any discomfort to other government leaders - as I recognise that they have financial needs and priorities that are different from me). 

I respect and support the timely action taken by the Prime Minister to set up a review committee to review the salaries of the top leaders and hope that it will, to a large degree, address this concern of the people. I will do my best to get the people to understand and accept the positive actions that are being taken now.

I believe that the people of Singapore will feel engaged, committed and proud to be Singaporeans, if they feel that they have a voice and that it is being heard. I hope that the office of the President can play a part to provide this channel - although I recognise that other channels are also being developed. To support this initiative, I have suggested the concept of the President's personal council - which I will be giving more thought to in the weeks ahead. 

3. DPM Teo said the elections should be carried out in a "dignified way". Have you made plans for your campaign yet? How will you ensure it is carried out in the "dignified" manner that he has mentioned?

 I also like to conduct my campaign in a dignified manner. I will follow my values of honesty, fairness, positive attitude, courage and public service and will ask my supporters to do the same. I do not wish to cast any candidate in a negative light or to engage in any activity that may smear or belittle their reputation or character. Instead, I have high regards for the positive qualities of all the candidates who have expressed their interest to contest the presidential campaign.

Many citizens have asked for my personal views on several issues of concern to them. I shared these views so that they can understand what are my values and beliefs. I will also emphasize to them that these are personal views for them to judge me as a person and should not be misunderstood  to be the policy agenda that I would promote, if elected into the President's Office (as I have no such intention).


zhummmeng said...

I am sure you would conduct your campaign in an honorable manner, ie how electing you as president will benefit the everyone, including the ruling party. Your role is to ensure that the reserve is properly used and any dip into the till has to be justified and will lead to beneficial consequences for the nation.
Similarly in other areas as circumscribed by the constitution you will also ensure that the 'executions' will be not hastily decided.
In foreign affairs you shall carry out your role to foster good relation.

Soodo said...

Dear Mr Tan
I respectfully think you are too generous in your reply.

The role and the key duties of the President are defined in the constitution.
Not by a newspaper article on the views expressed by a politician.

Personally, I would not dignify the rest of the article with any response. Gamesmanship.

koh chun heng said...

As the saying goes:-
"Real gold fears not the fire".
Repeated comments by MPs and Ministers is an admission of another impending defeat for them.
Go ahead and be the president you wanted to be and not let them cow you into submission.The whole nation wants an honest and transparent president and the people are behind you.Please Mr Tan Kin Lian,ensure the spirit of Mr Ong Teng Cheong lives on.

Its ME said...

The significant problems, if any, we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which the past and present government created them. I honestly value dignity and highest respect to the President of Republic Singapore. Having said that, it is only fair and just when all President hopeful state cleary why the citizens should vote for him and 'sell/promote' themselves as what values each believe to be strength of character in order to carry out the heavy duty as the President of Republic of Singapore in today world political context.

Blog Archive