RONALD LEE: I believe the Prime Minister (seen here in 1970 with President Yusof Ishak) when he talks about Singapore needing a president from the minority race. To say that the government is gunning for a Malay president come 2017 is an open secret. That’s not a bad thing. With the bar set even higher for the coming PE, whoever becomes president, whether Chinese, Malay, Indian or Eurasian will inevitably be someone with a good track record.
However, reserving an election for persons of one racial group goes against the very grain of an “elected presidency”. To give a food comparison, it’s limiting my choices to Mee Rebus or Mee Soto when the hawker centre also sells Chicken Rice and Indian Rojak. Yes, I have a choice, but it’s not really a choice.
Forcing through the election of a Malay president isn’t going to do much good for multi-racial fabric. In fact, it’s a nod away from the whole “meritocracy” refrain that Singapore is known to preach, and takes us closer to the Bumiputera policy practised in Malaysia though not up to that level.
The government seems to distrust the maturity of voters to elect the right person to represent them. This, despite the election of minorities into power in “free and fair” elections. Look at Mr Tharman’s showing in GE2015 – he was the top student in the whole PAP class, beating the PM himself in the popularity polls. More recently, Ah Mu beat political stalwart Dr Chee in Bukit Batok just earlier this year in Bukit Batok. Has the Singaporean public proven incapable of looking past skin colour when it comes to choosing our representatives?
I fear that making the coming PE a one-race race might even cause resentment amongst voters, simply because of the signals its sending – signals of distrust and privilege. If the government wants a Malay president, it should throw its weight behind a candidate in an election open to all and let voters decide. That way, any victory won’t be a hollow one and the president will have the assurance that the public he waves proudly to on National Day really has his back.