It isn’t about skin colour or race anymore, but the qualifying conditions that make it almost impossible for many to even qualify to contest for the head of state position.
Back in 2005, the Prime Minister’s press secretary estimated that only 700 to 800 people could potentially meet the criteria to run (not even win, but simply be eligible to be a candidate).
Let’s see how US President Barack Obama would fare.
He’s a lawyer from top law school Harvard, a civil rights lawyer and teacher, then entered politics and became a Senator (the US equivalent of an MP), and then got elected president.
The most powerful man in the world (arguably) wouldn’t pass the strict criteria here with regards to official appointments.
Take a look:
-He or she must be a citizen of Singapore
-He or she must not be less than 45 years of age
-His or her name must appear in a current register of electors
-He or she must be resident in Singapore at the date of his or her nomination for election and must have been so resident for periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than 10 years prior to that date.
-He or she must not be subject to any of the disqualifications specified in Article 45 of the Constitution, which include matters such as being of unsound mind, being an undischarged bankrupt, holding an office of profit, having a criminal record and being a citizen of a foreign country.
-He or she must satisfy the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) that he or she is a person of integrity, good character and reputation.
-He or she must not be a member of any political party on the date of his or her nomination for election.
-He or she must have been one of the following for not less than three years:
–A Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament, Attorney-General, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Auditor-General, Accountant-General or a Permanent Secretary.
–Chairman or chief executive officer of the Central Provident Fund Board, the Housing and Development Board, the Jurong Town Corporation or the Monetary Authority of Singapore;
–Chairman of the board of directors or chief executive officer of a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act with a paid-up capital of at least S$100 million or its equivalent in foreign currency;
–In any other similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any other organization or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector which, in the PEC’s opinion, has given him/her such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable him/her to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President.
Minorities are, well, minorities.
That means their odds of meeting such strict standards are even lower, simply because there’s less of them around.
Take a look at this poor chap, Andrew Kuan, who despite his illustrious career still couldn’t qualify to run as president.
He had been a grassroots leader and a PAP member, a CFO of the Jurong Town Corporation.
At the JTC, Kwan’s performance was rated “good” for 8 months and he received performance bonuses, but reports surfaced that he needed “handholding” during his time as CFO.
The PEC eventually denied Kuan a Certificate of Eligibility on the grounds that he lacked the requisite financial credentials and responsibility required by the Constitution.
If the former JTC chief of finance can’t qualify, and the most powerful man in the world can’t even get one leg in the door to run, then how many among the minority do you think can make it pass the stringent criteria?
The strict requirements have been justified on the basis that the President should be a person of integrity and moral standing, with the ability to monitor the financial affairs of the state and the management of the public service sector.
Well, that means we’re left with Halimah, Yacob, and Tharman.