President must act independently: Dr Tony Tan

Singapore's president has to be above politics, needs to work with all government parties and must also act independently, said presidential hopeful Dr Tony Tan.

Dr Tan, 71, was addressing questions on his affiliation with the People's Action Party (PAP) and whether it would help or hurt his chances in the upcoming Presidential Election, which will be held before August 31.

Earlier today, former civil servant and opposition politician Tan Jee Say showed his interest in running for President and said in a press statement that he believed many Singaporeans wanted "a non-PAP President whose independence of the PAP is clear, obvious and cannot be in doubt".

Dr Tan, who was a member of PAP since 1979 before retiring from politics in 2006, reiterated that "whoever he is, (the President) has a distinct role as set out in the Constitution".

"I think we have to be quite clear about this. He is not a separate power centre in Singapore; there can only be one - the government," said Dr Tan to reporters while speaking at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series held at Ritz Carlton Hotel today.

He continued to explain that the President has very limited executive authority, but has an important role in representing Singapore overseas, as "people judge the country by the calibre of the President".

"You need somebody in the Presidency who is steady, experienced, who knows the issues and limits of what the President can do and most importantly, he has to be fair and neutral.

"He 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," reiterated the former chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, or GIC.

Dr Tan concluded that the President must act independently, make up his own mind and exercise authority accordingly.

Recent GE a 'win-win-win result'

Dr Tan also gave his personal opinion on the recent General Election that was held in May, and described it as giving rise to a 'win-win-win result'.

He gave three reasons as to why he called it a triple win situation.

First, it was a strong mandate for the PAP to frame policies and continue Singapore's progress and improve the life of Singaporeans.

Second, the oppposition now has a base to build on, further their credibility and  possibly gain more votes in the next election, and finally, it demonstrated another stage of the country's political development.

Dr Tan explained: "The situation where you have one overwhelming party which has almost all the seats, with little effective opposition - and I stress this is my personal view - is a matter of the past.

"There could be a new normal in Singapore politics now, which is a strong party in government that frames policies and implements them, and is matched by an effective opposition in Parliament, which will debate these policies, with different perspectives and views, and suggest alternatives.

"Through the process of debate, discussion and challege, we will end up with better results and progress for Singapore," said Dr Tan.

klim@sph.com.sg


COMMENTS