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Saturday, August 13, 2005 

No Contest for Singapore's Presidential Poll, Only SR Nathan Eligible

SINGAPORE : Singapore won't get a contest for the Elected Presidency, after the Presidential Elections Committee issued only one Certificate of Eligibility to contest the poll -- to incumbent President SR Nathan. Three other applications for the certificate were rejected.

Mr Nathan received a walkover on Nomination Day, 18 August 1999, for his first Presidential Election. It is a scene that will be replayed this Wednesday, when Mr Nathan returns to the same nomination centre as the only one to receive a Certificate of Eligibility to contest the polls. In issuing the certificate, the Presidential Elections Committee said Mr Nathan has all the credentials for the office. Not only is Mr Nathan well regarded and respected for his public service, he is also a man of integrity, good character and reputation.

The Committee also gave its reasons for rejecting the other three applications for the same certificate. One of them, Mr Ooi Boon Ewe had claimed to be the sole proprietor of a realty business. But his business licence had expired when he applied for the certificate. Another, Mr Ramachandran Govindasamy Naidu, had retired from the Commonwealth Forces as a senior storekeeper in 1987.

The Committee said both of these candidates' career histories clearly showed they did not hold any similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any organisation of equivalent size or complexity, as spelt out in the Constitution.

The third applicant, Mr Andrew Kuan, also failed to get a Certificate of Eligibility on these grounds. Mr Kuan has been under the microscope lately for his employment record at JTC. The Committee says Mr Kuan's seniority and responsibility as JTC's Group Chief Financial Officer were not comparable to those required under the Constitution either.

A presidential candidate is required to have experience as chairman or chief executive officer of a statutory board or a company with a paid-up capital of at least S$100 million. All three unsuccessful applicants have been informed of the Committee's decision. Responding to Channel NewsAsia's queries, Mr Kuan said he was surprised at the Presidential Elections Committee's decision, and would like to appeal.

He said JTC Corp is a statutory board with S$11 billion in assets and its Chief Financial Officer is mentioned in the JTC Act as being responsible for financial administration of the corporation. Under the Presidential Elections Act, the decision of the Presidential Elections Committee in awarding the Certificate of Eligibility is final, and is not subject to an appeal or review in court. - CNA /ct

Now, why are we not surprised over this walkover. Anyway, as election and voting are quite foreign to Singaporeans in recent decades. Even when Andrew Kuan submitted the form and prior to all his employment scrutiny, many people and myself thought that he wouldn’t have been eligible anyway. The Presidential Elections Committee’s task is to apply the constitution and not bend the rules to allow more candidates in for the sake of contest. Unfortunately for Andrew Kuan, he fell slightly short of the “CEO”, Director” or “Head of” mark, as he was only the CFO. The constitution clearly states that


19. (1) No person shall be elected as President unless he is qualified for election in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

(2) A person shall be qualified to be elected as President if he —
(a) is a citizen of Singapore;
(b) is not less than 45 years of age;
(c) possesses the qualifications specified in Article 44 (2) (c) and (d);
(d) is not subject to any of the disqualifications specified in Article 45;
(e) satisfies the Presidential Elections Committee that he is a person of integrity, good character and reputation;
(f) is not a member of any political party on the date of his nomination for election; and

(g) has for a period of not less than 3 years held office —
(i) as Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker, Attorney-General, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Auditor-General, Accountant-General or Permanent Secretary;
(ii) as chairman or chief executive officer of a statutory board to which Article 22A
(iii) as chairman of the board of directors or chief executive officer of a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act (Cap. 50) with a paid-up capital of at least $100 million or its equivalent in foreign currency; or
(iv) in any other similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any other organisation or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector which, in the opinion of the Presidential Elections Committee, has given him such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable him to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President.

So I think he failed based on the technicalities of the constitution and stringent criteria. As I said in the earlier articles, not many would be qualified to run as President anyway. But what was interesting is that, I heard news that NTUC have asked their core volunteers to get ready to take the passes to enable them to campaign for President Nathan. NTUC was not the only organization. According to my sources, some branches of the PAP have been asked to send their members to campaign on behalf of Nathan. But of course, these campaigners would not be wearing the “hats” of NTUC nor PAP but as “so-called individuals”.

Are the Scandals of Andrew Kuan True?
To be honest, this is not something which I can comment on and will be develop into a libel suit if I’m not careful with my words. President Nathan was the Director of the Internal Security Department many years back. For him to get information on anyone and everyone is as easy as it gets. So for our “National” newspaper, The Straits Times to dig dirt on him is really not surprising. But again, from what I heard, journalists from Straits Times was not asked to dig dirt from Andrew Kuan but rather, the young journalists wanted sensational news of their newest “talk of the town”, Andrew Kuan. A scandal on the Presidential hopeful will get them notice fast and strong, so quite a few eager journalists clamored for his employment history.

But PAP is taking quite a political risk with President Nathan. He is 81 years old and there is a chance that he may land up dying in office like President Benjamin Sheares. If he dies during the term, elections will have to be called and then, PAP may lose control over the choice of candidates. (Critics may also suggest that PAP never loses control over the candidates but what if the opposition party could manage to snap up a permanent secretary or director of a $100 Million company? Technically, there are at least 200 Singaporeans qualified under these criteria. Very few but PAP are too kiasu to let any probability of more than 1% of unknown get out of their hands) But notably, the constitution does not allow ex-member of parliaments from taking part in the Presidential Elections which is the most obvious way of inviting opposition members to challenge the PAP authorities.

It is no surprise again that the Presidential Elections (PE) is scheduled before the General Elections (GE). To PAP, the PE is like a dress rehearsal for the GE. So when is the GE? I’ve asked couple of MPs, but they have no idea and different predictions on the dates. One clue that I can provide is that, just observe the movements and stock take of the PAP General Branch in Bedok. As yet, they have not order the necessary election inventories which may signal that it is not so soon. Maybe June 2006 or December 2006? No body knows except PM Lee Hsien Loong…and his dad.


By: Simon R. Nigel
South East Asia Correspondent,
Asia Press Service

SINGAPORE, Aug 13 (APS) - A mass rally is being planned on August 17, nomination day for Singapore's presidential election, to protest against the government's refusal to allow potential candidate Andrew Kuan to run for the post of president.

The organisers plan to hold the protest at the People's Association headquarters at around 11 am, when the incumbent, Mr SR Nathan, arrives to file his nomination for re-election.

On Saturday, the island's Presidential Elections Committee granted Mr Nathan a "Certificate of Eligibility" to contest the election and rejected the bids by three other applicants.

This means that come Nomination Day on August 17, the 81 year-old former internal security chief will be returned unopposed for a second six-year term.

In a statement, the committee said that Mr Nathan has "all the credentials for the office of the President and is well regarded and respected for his public service".

It also announced its reasons for rejecting the other three applications.

It said two of them, Mr Ooi Boon Ewe, a former tutor, and Mr Ramachandran Govindasamy Naidu, a retired senior store keeper, were rejected due to their lack of qualifications.

"The career history of these two men obviously showed that they did not hold any similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any other organisation or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector, which is necessary for the office of the Presidency," said the statement.

As for Mr Andrew Kuan, the former Group Chief Financial Officer of JTC, the committee argued that "the seniority and responsibility of that position was not comparable to those needed for the office either".

Singaporeans by and large were shocked at the announcement and newspaper offices were flooded with calls from irate readers calling on the government to explain the rationale for rejecting Mr Kuan's application.

Meanwhile, online newsgroups and blogs saw tons of angry postings calling for the government to allow Mr Kuan to stand for the election.

A posting on the soc.culture.singapore newsgroup said: "it's pretty obvious the MW ("men in white", here referring to the ruling PAP government) is NOT READY for the TEST".

As the public outcry triggered by a huge scandal at the government-backed NKF (National Kidney Foundation) is still fresh on many people's minds, the reader said the government was afraid that Mr Nathan could be defeated at the polls.

Speaking to reporters, the organisers of the protest rally said they hoped Singaporeans would turn out in force to pressure the government to review their decision to reject Mr Kuan's bid.

"The PAP government obviously owes the people of Singapore an explanation," said the spokesman, who refused to be named.

Meanwhile, an online petition calling on Singaporeans to support Mr Andrew Kuan for the presidency (http://www.petitiononline.com/sg050817/ ) has been gathering steam since it was launched by a mass organisation calling itself The Singapore Patriotic Front (SPF) here on Sunday.

The SPF said Mr Kuan's "distinguished record in public service, strong professional financial training and experience" would allow him to do well as a "People's President", provide "a watchful eye over the Singapore's national assets and foreign reserves", as well as push for "greater transparency and accountability in the Government-Linked Companies".

The petition also slammed the incumbent, Mr Nathan, for failing to discharge the responsibilities of his office "despite having received close to $10 million in salary over the last five years".

It added: "this could be attributed to his lack of financial training and his being appointed by the Singapore Government instead of being elected by the Singapore citizens".

Expressing shock at the government's rejection of Mr Kuan's bid, the SPF argued that "if the incumbent, despite his poor performance and his
alleged connections with the Japanese Kempeitai during World War II, is allowed to run for the Presidential Election, there is no reason for a more qualified candidate like Mr Kuan to be denied the 'Certificate of Eligibility'".

"Unless the Singapore Government is trying to manipulate the outcome of the election to suit its nepotic and despotic needs," it added.

The SPF also took the state-controlled media to task for launching a smear campaign against Mr Kuan.

"We demand that the Singapore Government stop treating Singaporeans as fools and manipulating the media to cast the incumbent in the best of light while conducting smear campaigns against all those who are running against the incumbent. This is childish and unconstitutional," said the SPF.

Mr Nathan's office could not be reached for comment Sunday. - APS

Copyright: Asia Press Service

Thats interesting...but we know how all protests landed up...arrested...

But I think maybe SPF is opposing based on principles not on the crux of the issue. As for Andrew Kuan, he was just the convenient target board for the press...rightly or wrongly, no one knows...

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