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
ARTICLE 19 OF THE CONSTITUTION
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.